Learned about market sheep and how to raise a sheep

Poka_Doodle

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If my friend is doing a show lamb with me do I need to get a goat for them? When you say shears, are there like a certain type you suggest?
If your friend is also raising a lamb, and you two can raise yours together, then don't worry about it.
I like the lyster (not spelled right) shears that people also use for clipping horses. I can send you the link tomorrow if you would like.
 

misfitmorgan

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We use oster shear master shears. The nice thing about them is you can buy them with the shearing head and then just buy the clipping head and swap the heads. They are not cheap and you can probly get away with just the lyster clippers if your lamb keeps a short coat.

For your first lamb yes I would get a 8 week old weaned Wether not a ram if you can find a wether. IF you can only find rams you can band him or have him cut by someone who knows what they are doing. Since your fair is in the winter heat shouldnt be to much of a factor. You can ask anything you like, everyone here is happy to help.

Well you may not break even on your first year if you plan to show sheep for consecutive years you will come out ahead eventually depending on your local auction prices. Our FFA lambs here sell on their first sale between $600-$1500 on any given year. You can also try to get a sponsor for your lambs from a local business, tons of FFA and 4-H kids here get sponsors for their market projects and the bonus is usually the owner of the business that sponsors you will come to the auction and bid on your animals or other peoples animals.

If your fair isnt to competitive you may be about to be a fairly low cost lamb and still place well. Not all lambs need to be $300-500 to win. Our lamb we sold for the 2019 fair for $150 placed 3rd in the fair in the next county over out of 22 lambs and he was up against lambs from well known show barns/lines. To be fair we do have kimm and slack in our sheep which helps but it is not the main goal for us.
 

Ridgetop

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There is a lot you need to know. I assume you either have an FFA AG instructor now or will have one. That person, hopefully, will have access to the information you will need. I always encourage my 4-H kids to learn the rules of the Fair they will be exhibiting in. Also, to know and understand the rates of weight gain for their species and to be able to determine how large an animal they need to buy to compete. I am glad to see a young person attempting to learn these things before they purchase their animal. With this oind of go ahead attitude you should do very well! Since this is your first Fair and first attempt at an auction here is some general information for you.

First, since your fair is in late February - early March, you might have a problem with obtaining lambs that are the right age. Black face sheep lamb from January on, so you may have trouble finding a lamb that is young enough. Fair auction lambs must have lamb teeth. This means they must be younger than 8-10 months old which is when the adult teeth start coming in. Adult teeth will disqualify your lamb from competition and sale. While black faced breeds mature slightly slower than white faced hair breeds your lamb can't be born any earlier than July or August. If this is the normal time of year for your Fair, club lamb breeders will be breeding for this Fair. They will use hormones and implants to bring their ewes into estrus out of season. This won’t affect the lambs, it just allows the sheep to breed at an abnormal time of year for them.

Most Fairs have rules requiring ownership for 60 days for lambs goats, and hogs; 180 days for beef, and 30-60 days for veal calves. You will need to produce your bill of sale at weigh in at the Fair, and any transport slips required for the species in your state and county.

Next, you need to know what the prime weight needs to be for the species you will be exhibiting for your Fair - also the minimum weight and maximum weight. Knowing the weight at which you need the lamb for the Fair will enable you to determine how large and old the lamb needs to be when you buy it. The majority of show lambs in fairs is preferred to be about 120-140 lbs. Check the rules. White faced or Dorper classes are starting to be popular and often those classes have a lower weight requirement since those breeds are smaller framed. The weight of all animals to be shown is determined at the "weigh in" usually held in the morning of the first day of the Fair. This is the official weight at which your lamb will be shown and the weight at which the auction price will be determined. If there are different weight classes (this often happens when there are a lot of that species entered) then you will be put in the correct weight class. If your lamb is under minimum allowable weight it will be bumped down to feeder class and restricted from being sold in the auction. You may still be eligible for Showmanship if your Fair allows underweight animals to show in feeder classes. Check the rules. If your lamb is over maximum allowable weight it is usually allowed to be shown and auctioned, but not eligible for Grand or Reserve Champion. You are usually to show in Showmanship. The problem when auctioning overweight animals is that the price is restricted to the maximum allowable weight no matter what the price is bid per lb. Putting too many groceries into an animal and having it go overweight is almost as bad as underfeeding and having it not make weight. I say almost because while both will grade as #2 or #3, the overweight one will at least carry meat along with a lot of fat. This is known on market animals as “cover” or “finish”. If the judge refers to an animal I the ring as “over finished” it is too fat.

The age at which you buy your lamb is less important that the weight. Except for the lamb teeth disqualification, you want as young a lamb as will make the correct weight. This is because you want to continually be pushing the lamb to gain weight. Experienced growers can “hold” an animal, but to do that you need to hold the animal early since if you restrict its feed intake at the end it will not look “fresh”. Animals that have been held back to avoid going overweight can be recognized by the judge. If you hear the term “stale” being applied to an animal in the rig, you know it was held back.

This is why the weight at which you buy your animal, the amount of time to Fair weigh in, and the rate of gain are so important to learn.

Every species has a different weight of gain. Hogs can gain as much as 3-5 lbs. per day. Lambs usually average ½ lb. or less per day. You have to calculate the weight you want at Fair, then how much weight it will need to gain in a week, and how much time you have to get it there. Once you know that, you are ready to buy your lamb. There are club lamb sales all over the country. Your AG instructor should be able to tell you when and where they are held. A good instructor will arrange for his students to attend the sale and (s)he will go along with the school trailer. Otherwise you will have to arrange to bring your lamb home yourself. Don’t think it will sit in your lap. The lamb you buy should weigh around 50-70 lbs. depending on how long you have to put ½ lb. of weight per day on it before Fair.

You want a wether (castrated male) or ewe lamb. DO NOT BUY A RAM LAMB! Rams are not eligible in market classes and will be disqualified. Breeders selling lambs for Fairs will castrate them routinely. You will not be buying a tiny baby lamb. You want a completely weaned lamb that has been weaned from its mother for a month and is on hay and other feed. This will avoid any lapse in weight gain as it tries to adjust to life without its mother or her milk. Buying a lamb about 3-4 months old will also allow you to judge its conformation. Learn where a lamb carries the meat and judge accordingly when choosing your animal. Conformation judging of meat animals is based on where the most expensive cuts are carried. On lambs this is the loin and the rear leg. They need a straight topline and width too. While ewe lambs are slightly smaller than wether lambs, both wethers and ewe lambs will gain weight at approximately the same rate.

Having found your sale - either a club lamb auction with multiple breeders, or a breeder of club lambs with a set price, you need to decide what size lamb you need. Most sales are held about 3 months before the Fair season. There will be different size and weight lambs in the sales since some people will be buying lambs for different Fairs, some for competition in ongoing livestock competitions without auctions. The lambs will be slick shorn before the sale making it easier for you to judge them. Go to the sale early. The lambs will be penned for you to look at. Sometimes they will be in head locks for you to go over them. Don’t be afraid to feel the lambs, and ask the breeders and others to point out what you should be looking for in a good lamb. Ask about weights so you can mark your catalog with the ones that fit your requirements. Make sure to choose several since some of them may go for more than you are willing to pay. Be sure you know what you want to pay beforehand.

Let’s say you have 3 months, or 12 weeks, before your upcoming Fair. You need to figure how much weight your lamb will probably gain. At ½ lb. per day, that will be 3.5 lbs. per week X 12 weeks or about 42 lbs. That means you cannot buy a lamb any smaller than 85 lbs. or larger than 90 lbs. in order to make weight between 125 lb. and 140 lbs. at weigh in at your Fair in 3 months. If your lamb gains at a lower rate of gain or a higher rate of gain, you will have to adjust the feeding program. If you have more or less time before Fair, you have to adjust the weight at which you will purchase your lamb. Remember that most State Rules require ownership of the lamb for at least 60 days or so. Check the rules.

Having bought your lamb and put him/her on the correct diet, you need to halter break him. This is not for showing, but for your own convenience. Next you will start learning Showmanship from your FFA Ag instructor or your 4-H leader. Lambs are shown without a halter, you lead them by the head. Since this is your first lamb, you will want to practice a lot. With so many shows on-line now, you can probably find some training videos and shows on-line as well. However, they can’t take the place of hands-on training and practice.

Next, shearing for the show. Check with your AG instructor. Usually, they will arrange for someone to come in and do all the school lambs at once. If the instructor brings in someone, make sure to book a place with the shearer. You might have to pay a fee, but it will be cheaper than buying a sheep shears and blades. Let alone learning to use them properly without nicking your lamb. The cheapest shears cost about $300.00. The shears are also fairly heavy to use. Blades cost around $25.00 each and you will need several in difference sizes. The blades will need to be sharpened each year, costing about $10.00-15.00 each to have sharpened. You will need Kool Lube to spray the blades when they get hot, and blade wash for the blades to remove hair and lanolin. Even though my children and I sheared our breeding flocks, we hired a fitter to slick shear our market lambs. My 4 children all showed hogs, rabbits, goats, veal calves, as well as their market lambs, and dairy herds and any other breeding animals they were exhibiting. That was a lot to get ready and transport to the Fair grounds. Since all those animals needed bathing, shaving, and hoof trimming, we went ahead and hired the fitter to do the lambs. All we had to do was wash them with dish detergent – dish soap cuts the grease in the wool – and give them a rinse with very diluted laundry bluing. Then they went into lamb stockings to keep them clean.

You will learn a lot more from your FFA Ag instructor. This information might help you understand what you will be doing, and when you will be doing it for a Fair.

BY THE WAY - if your Fair has "add ons" try to get family and family friends to come to the auction and put "add ons" on your animal. "Add ons" are just that, a specific amount of money added onto the price of your animal by someone during the auction. "Add ons usually range between $10.00 through $100.00. These "add ons" are an easy way for family and friends to support you without having to pay for the entire animal. They are paid to the auction and are tax deductible which you need to point out to bidders. My children often got as much in "ad ons" as they did for the animal since our auction was notoriously poor. "Add ons" can make the difference between losing money or coming out ahead. Also don't forget to send out letters to buyers and approach local businesses about bidding on your animal. If your community is supportive of the Fair and Youth Auction, you can get buyers to come just for your animal. Approach feed dealers, tractor dealers, farm supply companies, etc. Make sure you talk to the manager or owner. Lots of farm supply stores in smaller towns use buying at the Fair as advertising for their business.

You are going to have a wonderful time showing your lamb, and being at the Fair with your FFA classmates! You will meet other kids from different schools, as well as kids in 4-H clubs. Don’t be afraid to ask kids that may seem more experienced for help and tips. Most of them will be glad to help you. Being at the Fair with livestock if a fantastic experience. Our whole family used to go and camp at the Fairgrounds. We really miss it! HAVE FUN!
 

misfitmorgan

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Excellent info from Ridgetop!!

I would like to mention if you are going for "show line" suffolk be aware they gain faster then 1/2lb per day. Suffolks can quite easily gain 1/2-3/4lb per day and are on the upper end of that scale esp for a ram/wether from show lines. Hampshires also gain fast if they are from show lines so just make sure to keep an eye on the weight and know your goal. Your FFA or 4-h club/fair will have weigh-ins as few time before fair so you can know for sure the weight of your lamb and it is gaining to fast or to slow.

Our local groups have a 4 month, 5 month, 5.5 month and fair day weigh in. Heat can negatively affect gain so a winter fair in the south gives you less problems. If it is cold and your lamb isnt gaining fast enough or has fallen behind you can try keeping a sheet on them so they will convert their feed more efficiently.
 

Poka_Doodle

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Excellent info from Ridgetop!!

I would like to mention if you are going for "show line" suffolk be aware they gain faster then 1/2lb per day. Suffolks can quite easily gain 1/2-3/4lb per day and are on the upper end of that scale esp for a ram/wether from show lines. Hampshires also gain fast if they are from show lines so just make sure to keep an eye on the weight and know your goal. Your FFA or 4-h club/fair will have weigh-ins as few time before fair so you can know for sure the weight of your lamb and it is gaining to fast or to slow.

Our local groups have a 4 month, 5 month, 5.5 month and fair day weigh in. Heat can negatively affect gain so a winter fair in the south gives you less problems. If it is cold and your lamb isnt gaining fast enough or has fallen behind you can try keeping a sheet on them so they will convert their feed more efficiently.
Really good breed advice. One thing to know about, is leg hair is so important now that having more Suffolk in a lamb can be a little harder to work through because they naturally have very little hair on their legs.
 

misfitmorgan

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Really good breed advice. One thing to know about, is leg hair is so important now that having more Suffolk in a lamb can be a little harder to work through because they naturally have very little hair on their legs.

Very true, suffolk adults have little to no fleecy leg hair, though the lambs will have some and usually enough to fluff up some. The fluffly legged black face sheep are hampshires. Many use dry shampoo, texture spray or hairspray to add volume and fluff and hold the bit of leg hair suffolks lambs have but mostly suffolk are just shown bare legged so learning how to set the lamb up well and breeding or buying good stock is important. Truthfully though if you have a smaller fair like 25 lambs or less showing you dont need to be to worried as the expectations for the lambs won't be nearly as high as the huge shows with 100+ lambs. If you really do want leg hair and a black face you can go after a hamp or a suffolk/hamp cross which are pretty popular. If you want a white face sheep I believe all the whiteface meat breeds outside of polypay have leg fluff.
 

Ridgetop

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Yes, why?

Must be something recent since when my kids were showing market lambs they were completely slick sheared. We didn't like fluff anyway since it picked up stickers and hay chaff.
 

Poka_Doodle

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Why is the leg fluff important?

Yes, why?

Must be something recent since when my kids were showing market lambs they were completely slick sheared. We didn't like fluff anyway since it picked up stickers and hay chaff.
I think it has come up in the past ten or twenty years. I really do not get it, but I think it is a way for the judge to see the wool of the animal. It ends up taking up the biggest portion of our time in the summer.
 

Ridgetop

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I really don't understand why the wool would be of any interest to the judge. While there are breeds that are considered dual purpose wool and meat breeds, Suffolks and Hamps are not dual purpose. Their wool is inferior in spinning quality. They are considered as meat breeds which is why they are preferred for auction lambs.
 

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