As an ancient craft, sheep farming comes with its own special terminology and vocabulary. This list of important words and phrases will help you get to grips with some of the most important terms.

Sheep Farming Terminology

Bottle lamb
An orphaned lamb which has been reared on a bottle. This is also known as a poddy lamb, cade lamb or pet lamb.
An inability to regain footing, often because the sheep was lying on a hollow or hill, or has a wet/heavy fleece.
Cull ewe
A ewe who is sold for meat as it is no longer fit for breeding.
Pieces of dried dung which have become stuck to the wool on the rear end of a sheep. This can lead to fly-strike.
The removal of dags.
The removal of wool from the rear end of the sheep to prevent fly-strike. This can also be done pre-tupping, and is also known as dagging.
Down breed
A breed of sheep with short wool.
A veterinary medicine which is administered orally with a drenching gun. A special long-necked drenching bottle may be used for individual sheep.
A female sheep who has given birth.
Ear tag
A plastic or metal tag which is clipped permanently in the sheep’s ear. This carries an electronic chip or ID text.
Draft ewe
A ewe who is too old for rough grazing on upland or hill and is moved to gentler grazing on the lowland.
The full immersion of a sheep in a chemical wash which kills external parasites. This has now been largely replaced by injectable and pour-on insecticides (see pour-ons).
The removal of wool. This is also known as shearing.
Broken mouth
A sheep (generally around 6 years old) which has broken or lost some of its incisor teeth.
Flushing (eggs / embryos)
Removal of eggs (fertilised or unfertilised) eggs from a ewe. This is usually as part of an embryo transfer programme.
Foot rot
A painful, infections hoof disease which is common to sheep, especially those kept on wet ground.
A female sheep in her second year who has not yet had her first lamb. This is also known as a theave.
Hogg / Hogget
The name for a young sheep between the January after its birth and its first two teeth (usually at 18 months). This is also known as a shearling or teg.
In lamb
A sheep in its first year.
Lambing pen
A small pen used to keep a ewe and her newborns together, promoting bonding.
Lambing percentage
The number of lambs weaned in a flock compared to the number of ewes who mated. This is a consideration of lamb and ewe mortality rates, not to be confused with a comparison of the number of ewes giving birth versus the number of lambs born.
A thick, yellow grease found in sheep’s wool. This is secreted by the sheep’s skin to allow water resistance, and can be extracted for use in a number of industries including cosmetics. This is also known as wool fat, wool grease, wool wax or yolk.
The process of a sheep giving birth.
A species of louse which infests sheep. This is also known as melophagus ovinus.
Hoof shears
A tool used to trim hooves.
The instinct of certain breeds (especially hill breeds) to remain in a small area (heft) without the need for fences.
Greasy wool
Wool which has been shorn, but still contains lanolin.
Gestation period
The length of a pregnancy. In sheep, this is about 147 days.
An infestation of blowfly maggots. This affects the wool, skin and eventually the flesh.
Provision of improved nutrition to improve fertility in anticipation of mating.
A crossbred ewe, most often a cross between a Border or Bluefaced Leicester tup and a hill breed ewe. This is also known as a Welsh Mule (from a Welsh Mountain ewe) or a Scotch Mule if from a Blackface ewe, or other similar geographical terms. Mules usually become terminal sires to produce fat lambs.
Notifiable Disease
A disease which livestock keepers are required by law to bring immediately to the attention of Animal Health, e.g. Foot and Mouth.
A coloured pigment which is used to mark sheep for a number of reasons. This is also applied to a ram’s chest at tupping time in order to identify mated ewes.
The removal of the fleece by hand-plucking.
A wasting disease which affects sheep, also known as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE, similar to BSE in cattle). Efforts have been made to breed a sheep resistant to scrapie in the UK.
A young sheep before its first shearing.
A sheep who is not yet ready for slaughter, sold for further fattening. This is usually a weaned lamb.
Shepherd’s crook
A staff with a hook at one end, used to catch sheep by the leg or neck, depending on the type.
Removal of the fleece.
Scab / Sheep scab
A type of mange which affects sheep, caused by the sheep scab mite (psoroptes ovis). This is an example of a notifiable disease.
A male sheep who has not been castrated. This is also known as a tup.
A medicine which is applied externally along the backline, usually to prevent external parasites. Spot-ons are similar products, applied as a spot on the back of the sheep’s neck.
Meat which comes from an older sheep. This is currently gaining popularity because of its flavour.
A male mammal of whose testicles one has descended and one has retained internally. This is also known as a rig.
See Hogg.
Top knot
Wool from the poll or forehead of a sheep.
The mating season, or mating in sheep.
An issue which arises when excessive wool interferes with a sheep’s ability to see properly.
A male sheep who has been castrated.
See Ram.
Terminal sire
A tup used on ewes (generally Mules or other cross-breeds) to breed fat lambs for slaughter. Terminal sires are usually down breeds.
A ram who has had a vasectomy. These rams have all the hormones, but cannot reproduce. They’re introduced to sheep to bring them into season, before an non-vasectomised ram is introduced.