English for Agriculture - Beginners and Intermediate


Sheep are raised for meat, for milk, and for fibers used in textiles. In all three industries, these playful, intelligent animals suffer inhumane treatment throughout their lives and are ultimately slaughtered for human consumption. Sheep are grazers. They walk slowly eating short plants close to the ground. Not all of the sheep have horns. Sheep horns are thick and curved, tending to loop around on the sides of their heads.

Sheep terminology

Sheep: Sheep are over one year of age. They have usually produced offspring. 

Lamb: Lambs are less than one year of age. They have usually not produced offspring.

Lamb is also the term for the flesh of a young domestic sheep eaten as food.

Mutton: The meat from a sheep that is older than 12 months is called mutton.

Wool: The fiber that most sheep grow is called wool

Fleece: The wool from one sheep is called fleece.

Ewes: A female sheep is called a ewe. A young female is called a ewe lamb. 

Lambing: The process of giving birth to lambs. 

Rams: A male sheep is called a ram. 

Wethers: A castrated male sheep is called a wether. Wethers are less aggressive than rams. 

Yearling: A yearling is an animal between 1 and 2 years of age that may or may not have produced offspring. In other countries, a yearling ewe is called a hogget, shearling, gimmer, theave, or teg.

Flock: A group of sheep is called a flock. 

Shepherd: A shepherd is a person who cares for sheep.

Sheepherder: A sheepherder is a herder of sheep (on open range). It is someone who keeps the sheep together in a flock. 

Sheep used for meat are typically slaughtered when they are very young, because consumers prefer lamb. A lamb is typically slaughtered when it is six to eight months old. Most sheep and lambs are “tail-docked” within a few weeks of birth to reduce the build up of fecal matter around their backside. This involves either cutting off the tail or using a tight rubber ring around the appendage until it rots and falls off.

A sheep’s wool production naturally declines with age. In the wool industry, sheep with decreased wool production are sent to slaughter. They are normally killed by throat-slashing often occurs while they are fully conscious. They have a very strong flocking instinct and become agitated when separated from their crew.

Last modified: Wednesday, 10 February 2016, 11:13 PM
Skip Navigation