Thursday, 15 May 2014

Sheep of the month - May 2014

Suffolk ewe and lambs grazing. Image: Rancho Radiata

Breed notes
Suffolk sheep have white wool and black faces and legs. One of the largest breeds of sheep, they are kept mainly for lean meat production. Suffolk lambs grow faster than those of any other breed. The fleece is short, medium fine fibre, mostly white with some back hairs. The breed was developed in the early 19th century in East Anglia, GB. More info: www.suffolksheep.org/
 
Isotope notes
Lambs start to consume pasture plants once they are 2-3 weeks old. If left with their mothers, they will continue to suckle for about 6 months. In modern commercial farming, lambs are typically weaned (separated from their mothers, so receiving no more milk) between 1 and 3 months old.
 
Once weaned, the isotopic composition of a lamb’s tissue will increasingly resemble that of an adult sheep. The speed at which this happens will depend on how fast the lamb grows. Many modern breeds, including Suffolks, have been developed to mature (put on weight) faster than more primitive breeds. The duration of the isotope signature of milk consumption will therefore be shorter in these animals (assuming the same weaning age).