Cade: an orphan lamb that is hand-reared by the farmer using special milk (made from milk powder) and fed using a bottle and teat. Farmers try to avoid this, as it is far better for a lamb to be reared by a sheep than a human, and every effort is taken to find an mother to adopt a lamb - see foster lambs.
Cast ewe: an older breeding ewe (also known as a draft ewe) which is sold off a hill farm to farmers on lower ground where the terrain and weather is less challenging.
Cross-bred: a sheep that has one breed as a mother and a different breed as a father. Cross-bred sheep benefit from something called 'hybrid vigour' (sometimes called heterosis) which is a genetic phenomenon which results in an increase in such characteristics as size, growth rate and fertility in the cross-bred animal over those of its parents. Hybrid vigour is a natural occurrence that is utilised in all types of agriculture, be it growing crops or rearing livestock.
Cull ewe: a ewe that has reached the end of its breeding life, usually because of old age, but sometime due to a health problem. Cull ewes are sold into the food chain as mutton - see mutton - but are sometimes traded first so a farmer can help the ewe gain weight before slaughter.
Draft ewe: an older breeding ewe (also known as a cast ewe) which is sold off a hill farm to farmers on lower ground where the terrain and weather is less challenging.
Ewe: an adult, female sheep of any breed. A typical ewe produces a single or pair of twin lambs once per year. Ewe is often pronounced ‘yow’ in the North of England and Scotland.
Finish: Finish is the amount of meat and fat that a grown lamb has to make it perfect for the different cuts of meat we are familiar with on our dinner tables. A 'finished lamb is one that is the right weight, conformation (shape and meat cover) and fatness for processing. A more tradition term for this is a 'fat lamb', which does not mean that the lamb is fat, but that it is heavy enough to go into the food chain. Lambs will be finished at different weights and grades depending on the market being catered for.
Flock: a group of sheep, often in the ownership of one person.
Fodder crops: also known as forage crops, these are great ways to feed sheep during the autumn and winter when the grass does not grow. Types of fodder crops include stubble turnips, sugar beet and kale.
Foster lamb: If a ewe dies when giving birth or, more commonly, has more than two lambs and not enough milk to feed them all a 'spare' lamb - see cade lamb - is fostered onto an adoptive mother. There are many different ways of 'fostering on' baby lambs, but a common method is to identify a ewe that is about to give birth to a single lamb and ensure the adoptive lamb and the birth lamb mix together in all the birthing fluids. Then, when the ewe sniffs and licks the lambs (part of the natural bonding process), she will think both lambs belong to her.
Gimmer: a female ewe lamb that will be kept as a breeding female rather than being sold for slaughter. A gimmer typically becomes a ewes after her first shearing
Heft: an area of land occupied by a given flock. Amazingly, sheep know their heft even if it does not have physical boundaries and do not stray beyond it. Hefts are traditionally in the uplands of the UK.
Hirsel: a traditional word for a piece of ground and flock looked after by a shepherd.
Hogg/Hogget: a lamb that is getting past one year of age. Hoggs can be male or female and are usually destined for slaughter, although farmers in some parts of the UK will call ewe lambs selected for breeding hoggs too.
Lamb: a) a sheep up to one year old (after which it will generally be refered to as a ewe lamb or hogg); or b) meat from young sheep (four to 18 months) processed for human consumption.
Lambing: the time period when a flock of sheep give birth. This can be indoors in a shed or farm building, or outdoors, and is usually in the spring. Some flocks lamb early or out-of-season if the farmer is producing lamb for a specific market.
Mule: a cross-bred sheep, fathered by a longwool breed by a hill breed mother. Examples include the Scotch Mule, North of England Mule and Welsh Mule.
Mutton: meat from a sheep that is older than a lamb and, therefore, has a different taste and texture. Mutton is usually produced from ewes that have reached the end of their productive life, but mutton is typicaly used to refer to meat from any sheep older than two years. Mutton is available all year around, but the best meat is produced from October to March due to the nutritious summer grass. Hebridean, Herdwick, Romney, Shetland, Southdown and Welsh Mountain are just some breeds of sheep with an historical reputation for producing delicious mutton. See www.makemoreofmutton.org.uk.
New season lamb: The UK lamb production cycle runs on an annual basis, and the first lambs sent for slaughter at the beginning of then new cycle (usually to coincide with Easter) are called 'new season' to differentiate them from 'old season' lambs born in the previous annual cycle that have been reared more slowly (see store lambs) and not yet sent to slaughter.
Old season lamb: Once lambs from the next year's lamb crop start being sent to slaughter (see new season lamb) lambs from the previous year's lamb crop are called old season lamb to differentiate them. Old season lambs will have been 'stored' over winter (see store lambs) so farmers can supply the market before next year's lambs are big enough. The incredibly diversity of farm types and lambing times means UK lamb can be sourced for our dinner plates all year round, despite what the supermarkets say when they put imported lamb on their shelves instead!
Pedigree: a pure-bred animal (see pure-bred) that is registered with a breed society and listed in a flock book as a breeding animal with all its parentage and performance details. The best pedigree animals are chosen by farmers each year to breed the best offspring and continue developing a sheep breed to be the best it can be. Pedigree animals are often exhibited at agricultural shows, competing to catch the eye of the judge as the best representative of that breed.
Pure-bred: a sheep that has a mother and father of the same breed. Pure-bred are often, but not always, registered as pedigree (see pedigree).
Ram: a male sheep; also known as a tup. Rams can have horns or no horns, as can ewes. Horns can indicate breed as well as gender and don’t always mean a sheep is male.
Shepherd: A person in charge of the management, health and welfare of a sheep flock. A shepherd can be the farmer who owns the sheep, or an employed or self-employed person charged with caring for the flock.
Shearling: A young sheep between its first and second shearing (called a yearling in some parts of the UK). Older sheep are sometimes referred to as two-shear, three-shear and so on as an indicator of age. More traditional names include a twinter (two-year-old) and thrunter (three-year-old).
Shearing: Adult sheep have to be shorn every year, usually in early summer, to ensure they do not become to hot and bothered by blowflies. Shearing does not hurt the sheep, and is similar to human getting their hair cut. Some farmers will shear their own sheep, but most use a contractor. These contractors are highly training and incredibly fast, taking as little as two to three minutes per sheep. The world record is more than 700 sheep in nine hours!
Store lamb: Lambs grow very quickly in the early weeks of life, but this slows down as they get older and as grass growth begins to drop off in the winter months. Farmers who do not have enough grass on their farm to get lambs to the right size and shape (see finish) will sell their lambs as 'store lambs' to go to other farmers who have more grass or the right kind of land to grow fodder crops to feed store lambs through the autumn and winter.
Tup: a male sheep; also known as a ram. Tups can have horns or no horns, as can ewes. Horns can indicate breed as well as gender and don’t always mean a sheep is male.
Tupping: when a ram mates with a ewe.
Wether: a male lamb that has been castrated. This is done at a very young age to minimise discomfort.
Yearling: A young sheep between its first and second shearing (called a shearling in some parts of the UK). Older sheep are sometimes referred to as two-year, three-year and so on as an indicator of age. More traditional names include a twinter (two-year-old) and thrunter (three-year-old).