This fact sheet was developed by students enrolled in Purdue's ANSC 442 Sheep Management course in Spring 2003, as a semester project. These fact sheets provide useful information on various topics related to sheep. View the list of fact sheets.

Getting Started in the 4-H Sheep Project

Misha Dillon
Justin Sellon
Joy Petscher

The 4-H sheep project is intended for individuals who are interested in showing sheep. You don't have to have any prior experience, just be willing to learn more about sheep. With this in mind lets get started learning about sheep!

Let's first define 4-H. 4-H is the largest youth serving organization in the world. It began in rural America but has spread to major urban center, suburban communities, and rural non-farm settings. All 50 states have 4-H programs and more than 80 countries worldwide. 4-H provides a family atmosphere with youth of age's third grade to twelfth grade being the primary members. However, family members are encouraged to get involved as club leaders and help work together with kids to fulfill projects as they learn together. 4-H is an educational and learning experience for today's youth.

Getting Started:

1. Selection:

You want to try to choose a high-quality, healthy, muscular lamb with some style. The main thing to remember is that the most expensive lamb is not always the best lamb. The lamb should be free of parasites when you buy it. If you don't know if it has been wormed you should worm it. Lambs should be vaccinated for CD/T before going on full feed. There are a number of different breeds you can choose from to show. Some of the more common breeds shown in Indiana are Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, Southdown, Shropshire, and Natural Color. You can see pictures of these breeds and many others at: Some of the breeds are shown below.

Dorset      Suffolk      Hampshire

There are two main ways to purchase lambs. One is through private treaty which is off the farm, while the other is in a sale. A sale although not always, is generally more expensive. You can see list of upcoming sales by looking here:

Some important factors to remember when selecting a market lamb are the age of the lamb, conformation, growthiness, muscling, breed characteristics, wool quality, soundness and substance of bone. Not anyone of these characteristics will make a great sheep, but the best combination of all of them will allow for a complete and very competitive sheep.

Lamb nursing

2. Feeding:

Feeding is one of the most important aspects of the project next to selecting your lamb. You don't have to feed the most expensive feed to get the most out of your lamb. Textured or pellet feed are both acceptable. You should feed a feed that contains 16%-18% protein. This is an area that can be played with as you gain more experience in the project. A market lamb should gain anywhere from .5-.8 pounds per day an average of 6-8 pounds of feed. Lambs are also ruminants and require some sort of roughage such as hay. A regular feeding schedule should be adopted. A good routine would be feeding early in the morning and later at night to avoid as many problems with heat as possible. Water is also very important. A clean, fresh source of water should be available at all times. Some websites that have sources of show lamb feeds are listed:

3. Exercising:

There are many different exercise programs that can be utilized when working with sheep. To get started a good rule of thumb is to walk your lambs at least 15 minutes a day. There are many reasons why exercise is important. A good exercise program can help build muscle and tone muscle that is already there. Also, a lamb that is exercised on a regular basis will hold up better in the show ring. Some other methods of exercise involve tracks with jumps set up and treadmills. For a beginner to the sheep industry it is easier just to start out with regular old walking. As you progress increase the distance and time of walking. Another important thing to remember is that with increased exercise feed intake will also increase.

Showing Sheep

4. Training:

The first thing to work on when training a show lamb is getting it halter broke. When a lamb is halter broke it can be tied for exercising, cleaning, examining and can make it easier to lead when not on a halter. There are numerous techniques to showing and it's up to you to develop your own technique. Some ways to get your lamb to stick are to practice backing it up until it pushes back into you. Backing them into a shallow hole or off the back of a lamb stand is another practical way. The most important thing to remember when training your lamb is the more hours you spend with your lamb the more comfortable each of you will be with each other.

Showing Sheep       Showing Sheep

5. Showing:

Ok, you've made it to the show ring now what do you do? This is the fun and exciting part where all of your hard work finally pays off. First of all, remember that this is your time to show your accomplishments to the judge. If you are in a market lamb class it is important to show the sheep to the judge. Make sure the lamb is always between the judge and you. Always walk around the front of the lamb. Set legs on the judges side of the lamb first. Be patient and calm. If you get nervous or anxious the lamb will sense this and possibly not cooperate. Also, be confident in yourself. If you have put in the time and effort every day then you will have no problems when it comes to the show ring.

Showing Sheep      Showing Sheep      Showing Sheep

Different ways of showing sheep!

6. Ask For Help:

On a final note, don't ever forget if you need help ask. There are numerous resources to get help. Go to producers, extension agents, old 4-Her's, or 4-H leaders. If they don't have the answers they can find someone that will be able to help you.

Last but not least remember to have fun!!!!!

Have Fun