Wednesday, December 30, 2015

SHEEP TRIVIA

#1:  The most common sheep used in the U.S. to produce milk are the East Friesian.  This breed was imported from northern Germany and the Netherlands in the 1990s.  The sheep are all-white and yield from 1,100 to 1,700 pounds of milk yearly.  Sheep milk is mostly used to make cheese.  It has a higher fat content than milk from a cow or goat.

East Friesian ewe with lots of milk!
#2:  Black-faced sheep are most valued for their meat.  Suffolk and Hampshire rams are used as sires to increase muscling and rate of weight gain for most U.S. lamb production.

Suffolk sheep

#3:  The way you can tell a sheep from a goat is by the fact that a sheep has oil glands on its face and between its toes.  Four million years ago, there were only goats, but sheep gradually evolved to be a separate species.  Scientists have now mapped the entire genome of the sheep and found the genes that make sheep good producers of wool.  Also, there are genes that help sheep digest low-quality grass and plants.

Separating the sheep from the goats

#4:  Why does the Bible say that sheep are kosher for Jews to eat? Because sheep chew their cud and have cloven (two-part) hooves.  So do cattle and goats, which means their meat is also kosher.

Cloven hooves

#5:  Several centuries ago, the Navajo Indians domesticated and adapted Spanish Churro sheep so that they would do well in the arid conditions of the Southwest.  The resulting breed is called Navajo-Churro.  The ewes lamb easily and many have twins.  Rams often grow two or four horns in large spirals.  The sheep produce a coarse "carpet wool," which is used to weave the blankets Navajos are famous for.

Navajo-Churro ram
More Navajo-Churros

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