Sheep Anatomy

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					                        Livestock Classic
                        Dorset Handbook
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.

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

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

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
   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
   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!

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