Livestock Classic Dorset Handbook History The polled Dorset originated at the North Carolina State College. The breed developed due to a mutation in the college’s purebred Horned Dorset flock. The breed was studied to make sure that they would still propagate the same traits as the Horned Dorsets. Once this was found to be true, the breed was accepted into the registry in 1956 and since then, the popularity of this breed has increased greatly. Dorsets are a dual purpose breed, meaning that they are used for both meat and wool. Their wool is good quality and a ewe yields anywhere from 50-70% of her wool. Their wool is often mixed in with alpaca fiber to produce a soft sweater or blanket. The Dorset can be used entirely for wool production, but it is mostly a meat breed. The breed was developed to produce fast growing lambs with excellent feed efficiency and excellent meat qualities. The breed is also known for its excellent mothering ability. It is very common to have multiple births in Dorsets. Twins are desired and most ewes are able to support triplets. They produce an excellent amount of milk, which has lead many sheep dairies to cross Dorset into their flocks. They are also out of season breeders, producing a crop of lambs for the fall, as well as the spring. Dorset rams can weigh anywhere from 225lbs-275lbs, and ewes can weigh 150lbs- 225lbs. They are an excellent medium sized breed to work with. They fit well into a small farm situation to a large commercial production situation. The breed is ideal for many individuals, and they have become the number one white faced sheep breed, and second overall breed in numbers. Anatomy Dorset Dictionary Ewe – A female sheep Ram – An intact male sheep Wether – A castrated male sheep Lamb – A baby sheep Miscellaneous Facts The gestation length for sheep is between 147 and 153 days, or about 5 months. The estrous cycle for sheep is about 17 days long. Normal body temperature for sheep is between 100.9 and 103ْ Many breeds are bred to have lambs in the spring. Out-of-season breeders (such as the Dorset) can be bred to have lambs in the fall. Dorsets are a white faced breed of sheep (as opposed to a black faced breed), as well as a clean faced breed (no wool on their face) Preparations for the Show Fitting Your Sheep (Taken and edited from InfoVet Sheep & Goat Manual): The word fitting means to prepare an animal for showing. Many animal owners feel that fitting starts long before the show ever begins. Fitting often involves providing the proper nutrition and water for the lamb so that it will reach its peak condition by show time. It also means teaching the lamb to lead and training the lamb so that it will perform properly in the show ring. Cutting Out: Ideally the sheep should be cut out at 8 weeks before the show, however for the Classic we cut out the sheep 4 weeks before the show. The ultimate goal is to have about 3/4-inch of wool on the animal on show day. When cutting out the sheep, we shear the body of the sheep, but leave the wool along the back, butt, legs, and poll of the head longer. It is important to do all of the electric shearing within a few days, if not all at once. This is because if done too far apart some parts of wool will grow out longer than others and your sheep will look patchy. The following list identifies the common steps to cutting out a sheep: 1. First, shear the belly of the sheep. Also shear the top part of the legs, while leaving the wool on the outside of the stifle (knee) and lower part of the leg. The wool left on the legs should be trimmed to about 1-2 inches in length. This step can be done while the sheep is in a normal shearing position (on its rump) or while on a stand. 2. While the sheep is on a stand, it is time to shear the sides of the sheep back to the hip. Be sure to leave wool on the top-line of the back at least 1 inch in length. 3. The butt wool should be trimmed leaving it long and then blended into the sides and legs. 4. Next, shear the shoulders and front end of the sheep down to the knees. The wool below the knees should be trimmed to about 1-2 inches in length. 5. The longer wooled areas of the legs, butt and top-line can be curried to help separate the wool fibers. These areas should then be trimmed with hand shears and blended into the sides and legs. 6. The wool on the butt and top-line can be carded and trimmed as needed to help the wool blend into the shorter areas. The top-line should be trimmed so that it is completely level. 7. Lastly, the wool on the poll of the head should be shaped and trimmed. Foot Trimming: Trimming the sheep’s feet should be a routine procedure done 2-3 times before the show. Hard horn is easier to trim off following a bath, as it is soft and flexible. Washing: Complete washing of the sheep should take place 4-5 days before the show. This gives the wool time to "set up" and be trimmed prior to the show. We also wash the sheep prior to shearing as it makes it easier for the shears to cut through the wool if the lanolin is washed out. The following are basic items needed to properly wash a sheep: The steps below outline how to wash a show sheep: 1. Any temperature of water can be used; however, it is often easier to use warm water to help soften the natural grease found in the wool. 2. Begin by wetting the sheep. It is often easiest to start at the neck and head area and then move down the back. Spray and rinse as much of the dirt and debris as possible off the wool before adding soap or scrubbing. 3. Before adding soap, use a curry comb, on the side of the longer teeth, to remove the worst of the hay and dirt. You may want to rinse the wool out before soaping up. 4. Once the wool is re-soaked, add some mild dishwashing soap. Work up a lather using your hands and a curry comb. Some very dirty animals may need to be washed multiple times before the wool is white and clean. Pay special attention to the legs and wool in the belly and butt regions. Don’t forget to clean the armpits! 5. Begin rinsing the animal by starting at the neck and head, and then working down the back. Be sure to rinse out all of the soap. Failure to do so can cause staining of the wool. 6. It is now time to dry the sheep with towels or an electric blower. It is saves time to use a curry comb on the short toothed side to remove excess water; currying will also help lift and break up the wool and remove any tangled and matted fibers. Be sure that during the toweling or the blow drying process, the wool fibers are not tangled. Holding the blower at an angle can help avoid this problem. 7. A great time to card the wool is before the sheep is completely dry. By carding after washing but before the blanket is put on, the wool is ‘set up’ for later trimming. The carding process is an essential technique that must be mastered. 8. After the sheep is completely dry, a blanket should be placed over the sheep. This blanket should be long enough to cover the sheep, but not so long that it is easily caught on objects or becomes cumbersome. Some blankets come with hoods that should be pinned to the top of the blanket at the shoulders. A pin specifically designed for this purpose should be used. Anything else will be too weak to hold the hood in place. Make sure that the hood is pinned so that the sheep has enough room to bend its head down to eat and drink without pulling on the blanket and hood. Carding: Carding is a technique used to pull all of the wool fibers in one direction out from the body. This helps maximize the wool length and allows for a more uniform shape when trimmed. It also helps the sheep’s wool feel more dense and less fuzzy. The card should always be held with the hand flat against the back of the card. The thumb should be placed around the handle. When looking at the teeth on the card, notice that they are angled towards the handle. This causes the wool fibers to be lifted and straightened when the card is lifted. When carding on completely dry wool, it is often helpful to moisten the wool with a spray bottle before hand. How to properly use a card: 1. Place the card flat into the wool so that the wool is "hooked." 2. The handle of the card is raised, but the tip of the card remains stationary. 3. The handle is then pulled completely up and the teeth are now all of the way out of the wool. Again, the tip of the card remains against the wool. 4. The card is moved to a new location and the process repeated. Remember that the carding process will help pull the wool in a specific direction. This means that if a goal is to have the sheep look fuller in the rear end, the wool should be carded from the center of the rump outward. This also means that if the stifle area should be the widest point of the sheep when looking from behind, then the wool in the stifle area should be carded and trimmed to enhance this trait. Hand Trimming: Hand trimming is a technique that can be used anytime during the shearing process. When done properly, less mistakes are often made when compared to using electric shears. Because of this, hand shearing is always used for the final trim on the day of the show. Start by placing the blade controlled by the thumb flat on the wool. When squeezing the blades together, keep the blade controlled by the thumb stationary on the wool. This allows for smaller cuts to be made and for more precision in the cutting process. It does take practice to master this technique, so do not have your first try at hand shearing be the day of the show. Final Wash and Trim Within Two Days of Show: Place the sheep on the blocking stand and use a curry comb to help separate the wool fibers and make it easier to card. Take a bucket of warm water with a very small amount of soap in it and very lightly wash over the sheep. Clean the dirtiest areas (belly and around the anus) last. The wool can take up to 6 hours to dry, so make sure the final washing takes place well before the show starting time. Curry the wool again to help break apart wool fibers and begin blowing the sheep dry. After drying the sheep, start carding the wool. This is one of the most essential parts of the fitting process. The next step is to trim the sheep. When trimming with electric shears, make as long of a stroke as possible. When using hand shears, hold the thumb still and pull the blades together with the fingers. The blades of the shears should be worked rapidly, but slow and steady progress should be made across the animal’s body. If a section of the wool is cut too short or a "hole" is made, simply re-card the area and blend the area to make it as even as possible. Start by trimming the belly wool as short as possible. Next, trim the back and loin areas. Again, leave about 3/4 of an inch of wool in these areas and trim so that the back looks flat and level when viewed from the side. When viewed from behind, however, the top of the back should look rounded. The butt wool and dock areas should also be well blended into the rest of the body. The legs, both front and back, should be blended into the rest of the body. Lastly, trim the wool on the head so that it is about the length of two weeks of wool growth. Showing in the Ring Arrive early! You will need time to do any last minute touch ups. After you have shown your animal, bring it back to its pen. If you won 1st or 2nd in a breed with more than one class you will need to go back into the ring to show in the Breed Championship, so re-blanket your sheep. If you win Breed Champion you will need to go back in the ring for Premier Showmanship at the end of the day. Premier Showmanship: In this round you will show your animal as well as each of the other animals. This is to judge your ability to show and handle other species. Judges may ask you questions about the animal. Make sure that you know something about all the species being shown and how to show them. Show Attire: Don’t forget! Proper show attire includes clean khaki pants and a tasteful, preferably collared, white shirt. NO OPEN TOED SHOES! Footwear should be hiking or work boots if possible. Try and make sure they are not too dirty. In the Show Ring: The setting up technique is accomplished in four easy steps: 1. First, stand on the left side of the sheep and place the left hand under the jaw. 2. Then, while bending or squatting down, place one knee in front of the sheep’s chest and neck, and place the other knee alongside the sheep’s shoulder. This helps with balance and can help keep the lamb from shifting forward. 3. Take one of the front legs and lift the sheep’s foot off of the ground and allow the sheep to place it properly. Continue this step until the leg is squarely under the sheep. Do the same procedure on the opposite limb. Some judges prefer that the sheep be set slightly past square to make the lamb appear longer. 4. Next, do the same things to the hind legs. One rule of thumb is to complete the setup process in five seconds; however, it is important to make the process look smooth and natural, and not be too rushed. Practice setting the lamb up, then walk several paces and re-set the animal. It usually does not matter if the front or the hind legs are set first; just be consistent for the sheep each time it is done. It is better to pick the animal’s leg up by the knee or hock, they tend to kick less. After the sheep is set up, it is important that the animal stay in that position. Always stay on the left side of the sheep and have the left hand under the jaw of the sheep. This leaves the right hand free to give a scratch to the belly, reset a foot, or just help in calming the sheep. You may occasionally need to change over to the right side of the sheep in order to be on the opposite side of the sheep from the judge. You never want to block the judge’s view. When holding the sheep, always brace with your knee in the chest; this gives you more control over the sheep if it acts up. Always keep the sheep between yourself and judge. When changing sides, move around the sheep’s head and change hands on the animal. You may even have to change sides while walking. Always keep an eye on the judge and listen for instructions. Keep eye contact with the judge. Always observe the sheep and know where it is standing in relation to the judge. Know basic information about the sheep, such as weight, breed, and age. Be courteous to everyone (the judge, ringmaster, and other exhibitors). When entering the ring, lead slowly and gracefully in a clockwise direction. Walk on the left side of the sheep, keeping your body even with the lamb’s head. When walking around the ring, leave about 3 feet between animals. Leave about 2-3 feet (or about one animal length) between animals when lined up head to tail or side by side. When lined up side-by-side, keep the sheep’s shoulder lined up with the shoulder of the first sheep in line. When lined up head-to-tail, line up directly behind the sheep in front and try to keep the line straight. It’s best to not place your hands on the sheep’s back. The judge may have you switch sheep to prove you can handle a sheep other than your own. You may also have to walk up to her individually and set up your animal in front of her. This may be more difficult as your sheep will not want to walk by itself. Just keep working with her and grab her behind the tail to give her a nudge along. Throughout the judging, relax, smile and enjoy what you are doing. After the results are announced, be a gracious winner or loser. Congratulate the winners and thank the judges. In all, have fun and enjoy working with your sheep!