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Montadale sheep have white wool on their bodies, and their hooves and noses are black. They have little or no wool on their heads and legs.
The Montadale is a medium to large breed of sheep. Mature ewes (females) weigh 150-200 pounds and rams (males) weigh 250-300 pounds.
- Sheep have the ability to bite off grass close to the ground, much closer than cattle are able to. This gives them access to a food source that other animals are unable to utilize.
- As ruminants, sheep have four-chambered stomachs that allow them to chew their food quickly and then store it for further chewing and digestion later.
- This gives them the ability to eat quickly in an area where they may have to watch for predators.
- The thick wool of a sheep is an important source of warmth.
At Cosley Zoo, the sheep are fed a diet of commercial livestock grain and hay.
Ewes give birth once a year. Lambing occurs in the late winter and spring. The gestation period is 5 months. Although single and twin births are most common, triplets are not unusual.
Shelter and Space Needs
The sheep at Cosley Zoo are housed in a stall in the barn. Their stall has a back door that is kept open during the day and gives them access to an outdoor yard. After lambs are born, a creep feeder is erected. The creep feeder is a row of bars that the lambs walk through to get their food. The bars are set close to each other so that the adults are not able to fit through, thereby preventing the adults from eating the lambs' food.
The average life expectancy of a domestic sheep is 10 to 12 years. However, their productivity tends to decrease after about 7 years.
Importance to Man
Sheep are raised primarily for their wool and meat. Sheeps' wool has many characteristics that distinguish it from other fibers. Wool will absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture without feeling damp. It is also elastic, highly insulating, and fire retardant. During the cleaning process, a greasy substance called lanolin is removed from the wool. The lanolin is used to make lotions. Wool can also be formed into felt by compressing it. In addition to wool, sheep also have other uses. Their milk can be used to make cheese and fat can be used to make tallow for candles or soap.
- Sheep were domesticated long before recorded history. Wool fibers that date back an estimated 20,000 years have been found in Switzerland.
- The Montadale breed of sheep was developed in the Midwestern United States by E.H. Mattingly, who was determined to produce the ideal sheep. Montadales are known for producing large amounts of meat and maintaining good-quality wool.
- A good sheep shearer can shear a sheep in less than 5 minutes. The entire fleece is taken off in one piece. A sheep shearer comes to Cosley Zoo once a year on Wild at the Zoo Day in June, and shears all the sheep during a public demonstration.
- A lamb can easily identify its mother, even in a large herd of similar-looking ewes. Each ewe makes its own distinctive sound called a bleat. Lambs are able to identify their own mother's bleat even when they are in a large crowd of sheep.