Sheep Industry Glossary of Terms
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The educational information listed in this section has been graciously donated by the American Sheep Industry Association.

This glossary is taken from the following document which appears in the: "A Handbook for Raising Small Numbers of Sheep" (By Ralph L. Phillips, Farm Advisor - Kern County, Bruce Lane, Farm Advisor - Sonoma County, John Glenn, Extension Veterinarian, Edmond C. Loomis, Extension Parasitologist, University of California Cooperative Extension)

Abortion - Abnormal or early termination of pregnancy.

Anaplasmosis - A blood disease of cattle caused by a minute protozoan parasite.

Anemia - Deficiency of red blood cells and/or quantity of pigment known as hemoglobin.

Antibodies - Circulating protein molecules that help neutralize disease organisms.

Autogenous vaccines - Vaccine made from organisms collected from a specific disease outbreak.

Black face breeds - Meat breeds of sheep.

Black fleece - Fleece containing so many black fibers that white or light colored cloth cannot be made from it; thus, the wool's value is reduced.

Booster vaccination - A second or multiple vaccination given to increase an animal's resistance to a specific disease.

Breech birth - A birth in which the hind feet of the young are presented first.

Breed - Animals of like color, body shape and wool grade similar to those of parents.

Broken-mouth - A sheep that has lost part of its permanent incisors, usually at 5 or more years of age.

Bummer or orphan - A lamb that is not raised by its mother; usually it is raised on a bottle.

Castrate - Removal of male sheep testes.

Clip - Wool from a given flock; also, total yearly production.

Colorado tick fever - A disease of humans caused by a virus transmitted by ticks. 

Colostrum - First milk a ewe gives after birth. High in antibodies, this milk protects newborn lambs against diseases.

Condition - Amount of fat and muscle tissue on an animal's body.

Constipation - A condition in which the contents of the large intestines (bowels) are discharged at long intervals or with difficulty.

Creep - A feeding area where lambs can feed but ewes are excluded.

Crimp - Natural waviness of wool fibers.

Crossbreed sheep - A sheep resulting from the mating of two different breeds.

Crutching or tagging - Removing wool from the inside of a sheep's back legs and belly.

Crutchings - Wool removed from sheep during the crutching or tagging process. This wool usually is free of manure as opposed to tags, which contain a lot of manure.

Cull - To sell or eliminate from a flock.

Dam - A female parent.

Dental pad - An extension of the gums on the front part of the upper jaw. It is a substitute for top front teeth.

Diarrhea - Watery feces ("scouring" with staining of wool around the breach).

Dock - Stub end of the sheep's tail.

Docking - To remove the sheep's tail.

Drench - A means of giving liquid medicine by mouth.

Emaciation - Loss of flesh resulting in extreme leanness.

Energy - A nutrient category of feeds usually expressed as TON (total digestible nutrients).

Epididymis - Tubules that carry sperm from ram's testicles to the spermatic cord.

Estrus - The ewe is receptive (can mate with the ram) and can conceive (become pregnant).

Ewe - A female sheep.

Finishing - The act of feeding an animal to produce a desirable carcass for market.

Fleece - Wool as it is shorn from the sheep; the fleece should remain in one piece.

Flushing - Increasing the plane of nutrition of a ewe before and during the breeding season.

Fly strike - When green and blue blowflies lay eggs in wet and stained wool and maggots develop.

Gestation - Same as pregnancy.

Graft - A procedure in which a ewe raises a lamb that is not her own.

Granny ewe - A pregnant ewe close to lambing tries to claim another ewe's newborn lamb.

Grease wool - Wool shorn from the sheep before it has been cleaned.

Jaundice - Yellowishness of the skin, mucous membranes and secretions.

Jug or jail - A 4-feet-by-4-feet or 5-feet-by-5-feet pen where a ewe and her lambs are put for the first 24 hours after birth.

Kemp - A chalky white, brittle, weak fiber found mixed with normal fibers of a fleece; kemp will not take dye; thus, the fleece's value is reduced.

Lactation - When the ewe is giving milk.

Lamb - Young sheep of either sex under 1 year of age.

Lambing out of the wool - Ewes shorn before they lamb.

Larvae - Immature stages of adult parasite; the term applies to insects, ticks and worms.

Libido - Usually refers to the ram's sex drive.

Lymphatic (lymph) - Pertaining to a system of vessels used for conveying the liquid portion of blood (lymph).

Mastitis - Inflammation of the udder.


Nymph - A young stage of insects and ticks unlike the adult, having incompletely developed sex organs. 

Oocyst - A minute pouch or saclike body containing a fertilized cell of a parasite.

Overshot or parrot mouth - When the lower jaw is shorter than the upper jaw and the teeth hit in back of the dental pad.

Ovulation - Egg released from the ovary.

Parturition - Act of birth.

Pelt - The skin of a sheep with the wool on.

Pneumonia - Infection in the lungs.

Protein - A nutrient category of feed used for growth, milk and repair of body tissue.

Puberty - When a sheep becomes sexually mature.

Pulpy kidney - Another name for enterotoxemia.

Puparia - Reefing stages (nonfeeding) of insects.

Purebred animal - An animal of a recognized breed kept pure for many generations. A purebred animal may or may not be registered, but all registered animals are purebred.

Quarantine - To isolate or separate an animal from other sheep.

Ram or buck - Male sheep of any age that has not been castrated.

Ration - Total feed given an animal during a 24-hour period.

Registered animal - A purebred animal that has a registration certificate and number issued by the breed association.

Scoured wool - Wool that has been cleaned or scoured.

Scouring - See diarrhea in reference to discharge of animal feces; also a term used in cleansing wool.

Seasonal breeders - Ewes only show estrus during part of the year; estrus season depends on breed and climate.

Shearing Shed

Smooth-mouth - A sheep that has lost all of its permanent incisors, usually 7 or more years of age.

Staple - Common reference to length of wool fibers.

Tags - Heavy, manure-covered locks of wool.

Teaser ram - A ram that has had the spermatic cords cut or tied (vasectomy). These males cannot impregnate ewes but have sex drive.

Tender wool - Wool that has a weak or tender area in it. The tender area is called a break. Wool fiber that breaks at this point reduces wool value.

Trachea - Windpipe leading from the throat to lungs.

Undershot - Lower jaw is longer than the upper, and teeth extend forward past the dental pad on upper jaw.

Vascular - Pertaining to, or provided with vessels; usually refers to veins and arteries.

Virulence - An organism's ability to produce disease.

Wether - A male sheep castrated before the development of secondary sex characteristics.

White face breeds - Wool breeds of sheep.

Wool blind - A condition where the wool grows too close to the eyes. This is opposed to open face where there is a large area around the eyes free of wool.

Wool tie - A string or twine made of paper used for tying fleeces.

Yearling - A sheep of either sex that is approximately 1 to 2 years of age, or a sheep that has cut its first set of incisors.

Yolk - The natural yellow grease in a fleece that keeps the wool in good condition.

Learn more from the following links:

Wool Definition 

Wool fiber

Benefits of Wool

Sheep Wool Grades

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