A group of sheep is called a flock. Sheep have excellent vision allowing them to see anywhere from 270 to 320 degrees. With rectangular pupils they see almost everything, except directly behind them without turning their head. Yes they are watching you! Sheep are ruminates and have four stomachs. Sheep live roughly 10 to 12 years but can live longer depending on the health of their teeth. Their upper lip is divided by a groove called a philtrum. This allows them to get close to the ground and graze on only the grass and vegetation they like to eat. We supplement our sheep’s diet with oat groats even though sheep can live on grasses and other vegetation.
Sheep excrete smells from scent glands in front of their eyes and between their hooves in order to communicate with each other. Can you smell what they are saying? Sheep like other animals experience and express a wide range of emotions. Studies have even shown that some lean towards optimism and others pessimism. Flocks provides them with safety, companionship, and fun. All of the sheep on our property are hair sheep and are not sheared. They shed once the weather starts to warm each spring.
Reality of farm life outside of sanctuaries
Like the sheep at our sanctuary wild sheep do not need to be sheared. They grow wool for the purpose of staying warm in the winter and shed as the temperature rises. In the wool industry, sheep are selectively bred to grow as much wool as possible. These sheep do need to be sheared and can die of heat exhaustion if they are not. In the wool industry sheep are sheared early in the spring to mitigate the loss of profit. Some die from exposure to cold temperatures because they don’t have a protective coat to keep them warm and dry. Sheep are easily frightened and don’t like to be handled by people making shearing a terrifying process. Aside from the trauma the process can also be dangerous. The workers are not paid by the hour they are paid by the volume of wool they produce. Cuts are common and can sometimes lead to infection and death. Wool sheep must endure other painful and humiliating experiences such as tail docking, castration and cutting away of skin from a sheep’s backside. All of this is done without anesthesia. When they no longer produce quality wool they are sent for slaughter generally around 5 to 6 years of age.
Most sheep meat comes from lamb slaughtered between 6 to 8 months of age which is only a fraction of their natural lifespan. Sheep raised specifically for meat are not selected for wool production. Australia and New Zealand produce most of the world’s lamb and wool. Often sheep are transported for up to three weeks by truck and by sea to be slaughtered. Many succumb to heat stroke, dehydration, and starvation on the trip. Roughly 70,000 sheep will be packed onto one ship and of that about 1,400 will not survive.