Other name(s): Ideals
Scientific name: Ovis aries
Country / Place of origin: Australia
History: Polwarth Sheep are a dual purpose (meat and wool) breed which was developed in Victoria Australia in 1880. They were first bred as three-quarter Merino Sheep and one-quarter Lincoln Sheep. They are large, predominantly polled sheep with long, soft, quite fine wool and produce good meat carcases. Polwarths do well in a mix of hot and cold temperatures, low to high rainfall, and either hill and high country, or lowland environments. Polwarths have been exported into many countries, including South America where they are known as Ideals. The Polwarth Sheepbreeders' Association of Australia was formed in 1918 and the studbook closed in 1948.
Current Uses: Meat and wool.According to the Polwarth Sheepbreeders' Association of Australia, "Polwarths produce a super type wool - stylish, white, long-stapled, soft-handling and high-yielding. Under average conditions, it is visually a 58s/60s fleece which averages about 23 micron, with a staple length of 100-120mm. In recent years many studs have dramatically increased the size and fleece weight of their sheep and many commercial flocks now cut an average of 6-7 kg a head. Polwarth wool has a very high resistance to fleece-rot - repelling water and drying faster than shorter, tighter fleeces - making the breed well suited to wetter areas." "As a meat sheep, Polwarths produce lean carcases. They do not run to fat and are ideal for the lamb and mutton trade where minimal fat is demanded by consumers. Lambing percentages are consistently high, allowing high culling rates for replacement ewes. Many producers are selling pure prime Polwarth lambs for the local and export lamb market. The fast growth rate and early maturity of Polwarths mean they are well suited to supplying the ram lamb export market (with a top quality fleece shorn before shipping). Shipper wethers are also keenly sought after for their size and ideal, lean carcases."
Average weight: 110 - 180 lbs.
Lifespan: 10 - 20 years
Grooming: Wool sheep require shearing at least once a year. Otherwise, they become stressed and susceptible to ailments. Hand-shearing is possible but professional shearing is recommended to minimize injury. Freshly shorn sheep should be protected from extreme changes in temperature, and given extra feedings, for at least six weeks, especially during cold months. Pet sheep also need to have their hooves trimmed regularly.
Diet: Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.
Housing: Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health. For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.
Health issues: One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.
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