This fact sheet was developed by students enrolled in Purdue's ANSC 442 Sheep Management course in Spring 2000, as a semester project. These fact sheets provide useful information on various topics related to sheep. View the list of fact sheets.
Sheep By-Products: The Hidden Resource
When most people think of
sheep products, two items come to mind: meat and wool. Granted, these two
products account for the majority of the income for sheep producers; however,
there are numerous possibilities to use all parts of the sheep. In using
the carcass to the full extent, everybody, from the producer to the consumer,
benefits. The major benefits come from both economical and environmental
aspects. By using all parts of the carcass, it becomes more valuable to
the processor and as a result, the lamb becomes more valuable, meaning that the
producer benefits economically. Most importantly, the consumer saves
money in two ways from the processor using the entire lamb. First, the
price of lamb meat is reduced because the processor's income increases by using
the entire carcass. Second, since sheep byproducts can be sold at a low price,
the products that they go into can also be sold at a lower cost. From an environmental
standpoint, in using the entire carcass, less waste is accumulated. By
producing less waste that needs to be disposed of, everyone benefits from a
Although by-products provide a
great opportunity for everyone in the sheep industry to profit, few in the
industry are actually reaping the benefits. It is only through educating
those integrally involved in the industry that the full resources of this opportunity
may come into fruition. The purpose of this web site is to explore and
educate on the many by-product of sheep.
To begin with, let's divide the parts of a sheep carcass that can be used for by-products and describe how these products can be extracted.
§ From the Intestines
§ From the Horns, Hooves, & Bone
§ From Manure
§ From Fats & Fatty Acids
§ From Wool
§ From Hide
From the Intestines
In most cases after the intestines are eviscerated, they would be disposed of. However, they can be converted to many valuable products. Once cleaned, the intestines can be used as natural casings for foods such as sausages and frankfurters. This type of casing provides an economical and safe packing material for these popular foods. A high value by-product of the intestines are instrument strings. Though labor intensive, this product can be sold at a high price. Sheep intestines provide a critical product for the veterinary field. Once processed, the intestines are made into suture material. By using natural sutures from sheep, veterinarians avoid complications such as immune responses, that arise from synthetic sutures. Also, these sutures are less invasive because the body reabsorbs them over time.
From Horns, Hooves, & Bone
The horns, hooves, and bones are rich sources of keratin and collagen among other things. These two proteins are important due to their binding ability and strength. The properties of these proteins allow the horns, hooves and bones of sheep to be used for a wide variety of products. These products include: bone charcoal for high grade steel, shampoo and conditioner, bone china, collagen and bone for plastic surgery, horn and bone handles, bone meal, bone jewelry, adhesive tape, gelatin capsules, bone charcoal pencils, marshmallows, piano keys, gelatin desserts (ice cream, yogart, and jello), film, and shepard crooks.
One of the last places that one would look for a usable by-product is sheep manure. However, due to the ruminant digestive action of sheep, many valuable minerals are found in the manure. The manure contains nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium carbonate, and lower levels of various minerals. Since manure contains these minerals, it is a valuable part of such products as fertilizer and potash.
From Fats & Fatty Acids
Although ill regarded and of little per unit value, fats and fatty
acids can add to the value of the carcass. Due to the high quantities available on the carcass, once fats and fatty acids are further
processed, uses can be found for these otherwise worthless attributes of the
carcass. Sheep fat and fatty acids can be added to dog and chicken feeds
with relatively little further processing. They provide an inexpensive
source of energy to fill the needs of the diet. Through further
processing, fats and fatty acids can be used as components in wax
products. Examples of these products are: paraffin, crayons, candles, and
floor wax. Also, fats and fatty acids play an integral role in chemicals;
glycol is found in brake fluid and glycerol is the ingredient that makes
asphalt stick together. To top things off, most people don't realize that
products they use on themselves everyday, such as: makeup, cosmetics, tanning
lotion, shaving cream, and hand cream, contain sheep fat and fatty acids.
Wool itself is a common product of the sheep industry, and like all other sheep products there is waste material generated that can be converted into profitable items. These products include: lanolin, artists brushes, insulation, and rug pads. Without wool by-products there would be no baseball because: the ball is stuffed with wool, it is sewn with wool thread, its rubber lining is made from stearic acid, and the cork center contains processed blood.
As an alternative to expensive leather from beef hides, sheep hides can be used as an economical alternative. Once removed and processed, the hides can be used in the making of sporting goods such as baseballs, footballs, tennis balls, and basketballs. Also, the leather from sheep hide can replace virtually all leather products made from the leather of beef hide such as footwear and drum heads.
Hopefuly this site has shown the potential of sheep by-products to benefit all those involved in the industry. From the producer to the consumer, everyone can enjoy lower prices and a better environment through the use of the many by-products described here. The knowledge of sheep by-products is the key that opens the door to both profits and a better environment for all those in the sheep industry.