Explanation of the life cycle of sheep.

Sheep are very quiet and gentle animals who often live in a flock. Very much like us, sheep have a specific life cycle. If you'd like to learn more, read this lesson about the life cycle of a sheep.

A Sheep's Life

Sheep have been kept as farm animals far back in history, nearly 15,000 years ago. That's a long way back! Sheep that live on farms are domesticated, meaning they no longer live in the wild and are raised for meat, milk, and their fleece (wool). Like all other animals, sheep have a life cycle, which are changes they go through over the course of their lives. Let's take a look at the life cycle of a sheep.


A domesticated flock of sheep


Stages of a Sheep's Life Cycle

The life expectancy of a domesticated sheep is about 10 to 12 years, though the oldest sheep recorded was around 23 years old. Very much like humans, sheep go through basic stages in their life.

Young sheep are called lambs. Lambs depend on their mother for food until they get to their teenage years called 'adolescence.' Once they are old enough to reproduce, they are considered 'adults' and can also produce wool and milk. A grown female sheep, or a ewe, only produces young for about seven years.

A ewe becomes pregnant from one ram, or male sheep who tends the whole flock. A ewe is pregnant for about five months and usually gives birth to one lamb or will have twins. When a lamb is born, it will try to stand and walk within 30 minutes and soon begins nursing from the mother's first milk. This first milk, called colostrum, has extra nutrients and helps to grow a very healthy lamb.


A nursing lamb
Nursing Lamb


A lamb will be weaned from its mother anywhere between 5 and 14 weeks of age. Weaning means the lamb will gradually change their diet from mother's milk to solid food. At this point, it is probably considered an adolescent or a teenager. An adolescent must continue to grow and mature before it can be considered an adult, but it no longer depends only on its mother.


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