Sheep farming

A GLOSSARY OF SHEEP FARMING TERMS

Do you know your gelts from your gimmers? Do you know how to dag, dock and graft? Sheep farming is an industry that’s present all over the world and has a history that spreads back thousands of years. From the old terms to the new, you can be forgiven for sometimes running into a word in the business that leaves you a little stumped. Here’s a glossary to help decipher the terms regularly found in sheep farming.

ACCELERATED LAMBING

A lambing system whereby ewes lamb more than once a year. An alternative to lambing annually.

BELLWETHER

The sheep that leads the flock, often with a bell hanging from its neck.

BREECH BIRTH

A birth in which the lamb is presented backwards, with its rear legs tucked under and only its tail presenting.

CAST

A sheep that’s fallen onto its back and can’t get up again without assistance.

Draft EWE

’Draft' ewes are older sheep that are raised on hill farms and then sold to farmers on lower ground where conditions are less challenging.

COLOSTRUM

The first milk a ewe gives after birth. This milk has a high number of antibodies and protects newborn lambs against diseases.

COMMON GRAZING

Common fells are upland areas where sheep flocks from different farms graze freely without fences or walls.

CREEP FEEDING

Providing supplemental feed to lambs.

CROSS-BRED

Sheep that are a combination of two or more different breeds. This can make them stronger for a certain environment and in some cases more disease resistant.

CRUTCHING (OR CROTCHING)

Shearing wool from around the tail and between the rear legs of a sheep.

CULL EWES

Ewes that have reached the end of their productive life on the farm.

DAG

Sheep’s wool that is clogged with dung. It’s usually formed into teardrop shapes clinging to the wool under the tail and around the anus of the sheep. Without removal, they are a risk for fly strike as maggots can infest the dags and spread to the flesh of the sheep.

DAGGING

The process of trimming away sheep dags. This can made more unpleasant the longer the dags have had time to ferment.

FLEECE

The wool from a single sheep in the shorn grease state.

GELT

An adult ewe that is not in lamb when others are. Usually she has been kept away from the ram due to problems that occurred at a previous lambing. Gelts are usually fattened and sold for meat at a time when lamb is scarce.

GIMMER

A female sheep that has been weaned but not yet sheared. Usually around 6 months to 15 months old.

GRAFT

The act of transferring a lamb to a ewe that is not its mother, also known as mothering on.

GUMMER

A sheep that has lost all of its teeth in old age.

HAND SPINNER

A person who spins wool (twists fibres into yarn) by hand.

HOGGS

Male or female sheep from weaning to first shearing.

JUG

A pen used for keeping a ewe and her newborn lambs so that they can bond.

KED

A wingless fly that is a parasite for sheep.

LACTATION

The production of milk from a ewe.

MOB

A group of sheep that has been run under exactly the same conditions for the entire growing season.

MUTTON

Meat from an older sheep.

NEMATODE

Roundworm.

OVER-WINTERING

When sheep are sent from upland areas of Britain to warmer lowland areas where feed is more easily available over the winter.

OVINE

Relating to sheep.

PELT

The skin of a sheep with the wool on.

RADDLING

Attaching a harness to a ram that contains a paint block. Each ewe the ram mates with will be marked with the paint. This lets the farmer know which ewes have not yet mated and should remain longer with the ram. Paint can also be applied directly to the ram’s chest.

RAM EFFECT

Describes the effect of stimulating non-cycling ewes to ovulate by introducing a ram or teaser ram.

RINGWOMB

Failure of a ewe’s cervix to dilate during parturition.

RIGWELTED

An overturned sheep. Usually when heavily pregnant and broad backed. She may roll over and become unable to right herself.

RISE

A yellowish line on the sheep’s wool caused by the previous winter’s greasy wool being lifted away from the skin by newer, fresh wool that’s easier to cut. The rise is a sign that the sheep are ready for shearing.

SLIME GRAFT

Rubbing the foetal fluids and membrane of a ewe's lamb onto a different lamb that you want to graft to said ewe.

SHEARLING

A young sheep between its first and second shearing. Sheep are normally sheared once a year.

TEASER

A ram that has been vasectomised to make him infertile.

TUP

A male sheep. Another word for 'ram'.