What is the difference between sheep and lambs

What is the difference between sheep and lambs?

A close friend of mine has begun a homestead and is raising sheep for meat. I have considered doing the same, but I would require much more land. He has been at it for about 3 years now and truly enjoys it. Many people are confused by the terms lamb and sheep when it comes to meat. So, what’s the difference between lamb and sheep?

The answer is that lambs are sheep that less than one-year-old.  Sheep are older.  That being said, sheep meat is often referred to as hogget and mutton.

In this article, I will cover the differences between lamb vs sheep.

What is the difference between sheep and lambs
What is the difference between sheep and lambs

What is a lamb? (Young Sheep)

Lamb is a younger one of sheep which is 4-12 months old. Lamb becomes sheep when it is more than 12 months old. Meat from lamb is tender and goes under the nomenclature lamb. Mutton is meat from sheep more than 12 months old and has more flavor.

Mutton and lamb meat is commonly eaten in many countries. Lamb tends to be tender. People eating whole cuts like chops and roasts in the US are eating lamb meat.

The preference for lamb over mutton or vice versa depends upon where you grew up and local cooking traditions.

A small roasting lamb is just the right size if you want just one nice meal for the family.

Are you looking to roast a whole animal for a party? Sheep is the better choice in this situation as there will be more pounds of cooked meat with more flavor. This choice is easy as sheep are bigger than lambs.

When do lambs reach market weight?

Lambs are completed when they have filled their frame (bone structure) with a good amount of muscle and they have a covering of fat upon their bodies. Some breeds like Cheviot can reach a younger maturity early. They usually get their bred very late. Other breeds mainly wool or meat finish higher compared to the majority of larger sheep breeds. At livestock auctions, a pen of Cheviot Lambs goes over which gets the best dollar at the auction. They seem alert and spunky and have a chunky body despite being a small size lamb weighing around 50-60 kg live weight. Other breeds put on frames first and then need time of application to make frames fill out.

Lamb meat is not from baby lambs.

Lamb chops will be from an older and larger lamb since this gives a larger portion of meat. Lambs are yet produced using conventional genetics but unfortunately, there is no broiler chicken version for sheep. A sheep that is well-grown and healthy (so bigger) is doing better than a fellow than is doing less well in the same conditions. It’s a normal group performance. There are always really great growing producers and not as great growers but genetic changes are not necessary to get these plants to thrive. It’s a generalized genital pattern. A traditional chicken takes 4-6 months to reach maturity while broilers mature in.

The characteristics of a mature sheep

Mature sheep include Ewes rams and sometimes wethers who are aged less than 1 year. The duty of an adult sheep – both male as well as female – is to reproduce. The sheep will be kept for the crop of lambs next year. Moving a number of mature sheep is easier than moving lambs since lambs tend not to flock properly. Mature sheep generally will well flock and some species better than others. Some types will want to be around some other breeding groups. The job of mature shepherds is reproduction of the next crop of sheep next year. The Best way to keep good sheep in the country is to keep their breed.

How fast do lambs grow?

Grass-fed lambs will finish faster (reaching market weight/weight) than lambs with sputter feed. If you have a limited pasture available and already rotate pastures with a high stock rate you may consider creep feeding the lambs. The genetics of the flock will greatly influence what rate of reproduction a lamb does. Meat breed sheep also grow faster than wool breed sheep. Hybrid lambs grow fastest and are generally more vigorous than purebred lambs. Forage-only feeding is the traditional way of feeding ruminants.

Sheep meat from sheep less than one-year-old is called lamb.

Lamb that is harvested from sheep older than a year is called lamb. Lambs raised for food are usually kept for at least six months. For most types of animals, it is different from that referring only to meat, such as deer and venison or cow and beef. Not all animal devices work at all, it should fit the animals into the system. However. What is best for one farm is not the best for all farms and this can mean that what is best is not all farms. For example, many Amish sheep farmers sell young lambs up to 50 pounds.

Meat from mature sheep is called mutton.

The meat from mature lamb gets the name of mutton. After the life of a ram ewe ram goes down the food scale. Meat from these older animals has more flavor and is preferable by more traditional eaters. A carcass of a full size sheep will yield a large proportion of less meat. In terms of meat yield per animal, mutton gives you more meat if you buy it per head. It makes the best use of the animal and reproduce then produces good meat. The meat tastes much like full flavor meat the kids would eat at home.

The characteristics of a lamb

Lambs are spinning and agile but they do not flock like adults. Lambs don’t grow as they did once again (a frustrating experience in itself). The lamb grows and gets great coordination. They go fast. As they grow they have greater muscle growth and in those muscles grow the legs will grow proportionally. Lambs will increase muscle mass when they are younger and the legs will now be proportioned but not as quickly as adults. Moving a group of weaned lambs is not as easy as moving an adult but they.

How do I know the age of a sheep?

Only by inspecting it mouth will I know its age correctly. Sheep have two teeth at one year old. Each year until it is four it will have two additional tooth so by her fourth birthday an ewe will have 8 teeth. In five years the sheep will have 87 teeth becoming the most important animal in the marketplace. The sheep’s age is important in the sale price and in the animal value that age is dif.

Can lamb make you sick?

Though meats such as meat like lamb can become so unhealthy when served undercooked them they can cause health problems to people. Make sure to cook a piece until they are well-marinated. Every food will be highly contaminated.

Are lamb chops healthy?

1 gram of roast lamb contains 26 grams of protein. It is also a good source of iron, phosphorus, zinc selenium niacin and vitamin B12. This mineral is vital to different functions and essential to different functions.

Is lamb good for diabetics?

Eating lamb can increase diabetes risk although you eat it less. The diet needs to take care to avoid the food used to treat glucose. Eating lambs is loaded with protein.

Why do we eat lamb but not sheep?

Mutton and lamb meat can be explained as compared to lamb in that it is thicker and less tasty.. Lamb is one of the tastiest products of sheep but is the costliest meat.

What should you consider lamb or sheep?

The lamb makes the most delicious food and sheep offer the most meat. From lambswool to sheep wool, the latter is the softest. The latter is warmer.

How is lamb produced?

Lambs are typically brought on market within approximately 6-8 months. Lamb is produced by those young animals.

Age determines lamb and mutton classification

How is lamb differentiated from mutton? The only determinant is the age of the animal slaughtered.

Lamb is the meat from a sheep which is less than a year old. The name of the meat obtained from slaughtering sheep that is more than one year in age is mutton. There are several easy-to-understand articles on the internet on the differences between lambs and sheep. There are several videos which lucidly outline the differences between the two.

There are several breeds of sheep. The conditions under which they are bred determine the weight of the lambs as they grow. Lambs generally reach market weight in 6 months of age. They weigh between 80-110 pounds.

Once the lambs have their bone structure filled out with a good quantity of muscle, and develop a covering of fat on their bodies, they are ready for the market.

While sheep meat has a binary classification, either as mutton or as lamb, in the US, the UK and Australia have a third classification. This third classification is ‘hogget’ which is a sheep between 12-24 months old. The meat is called hogget meat. Some hoggets are slaughtered for meat while the rest are allowed to grow to be breeding stock. Hogget meat is in between lamb and mutton in tenderness and flavor.

The breed of the sheep and the way it was raised play a major role in size, flavor and fat covering at the time of slaughter. Some breeds tend to be small and some are bigger based on age, but lamb and sheep are so called only on the basis of age and not based on size or how they were raised and what they were fed.

Baby lambs (Baby Sheep) are not used for lamb meat

The term lamb meat creates confusion.

Is lamb meat from baby lambs?


Lamb meat is from lambs ready for market weighing around 100 pounds depending upon the breed. They tend to be as heavy as their moms. Smaller breeds produce lambs ready for market weighing 70-75 pounds. Among the meats we eat, lamb meat is from one of the older animals.

Lambs are more than six months old when they are taken for slaughter while a number of animals whose meat we eat are younger at slaughter. A major exception is cattle which are older when taken to slaughter.

Eating lamb is healthy

Over the ages, sheep and cattle which fall in the family of ruminants have been a popular choice for meat.

Common public is sensitive to the way livestock is raised for meat on the dining table. Lambs are likely to be the best choice as most are raised eating grass and foliage plants breathing fresh air in large open spaces. Lambs can grow to market weight on grass alone, without additive feeds in open areas without confinement.

The simple ingredients lambs need are what makes lamb an ethical meat. All that lamb meat needs is water, mother’s milk, lots of sunlight, grass and foliage which provide nutrients and minerals and a salt block to lick on once in a while. This is an ethical way which the consuming public will understand and appreciate.

Lamb can be consumed fresh

Different parts of the world have different values and resources on how food is consumed and preserved, especially with reference to the freshness of meat and refrigeration.

A number of cultures are into eating fresh meat. They either do not have or do not resort to refrigeration. Freezing meat does not figure in these cultures. As a result, the meat has to be consumed quickly. Hence the size of the carcass chosen needs to be of a size that can meet the needs of the group dining and can be put to use immediately. This is how a large number of mutton and lamb meat eaters choose the size of the carcass to be cooked. This is very different from the American approach to meat preservation and consumption.

Lamb can be eaten rare

Any cut of lamb meat or mutton can be eaten as rare or well done as per the choice of the consumer. The only exception is ground meat which is made by putting together and grinding trimmed off pieces of meat that do not fit into a higher value cut.

When a lamb or sheep is slaughtered, care is taken to cut as much meat as high value cuts like chops, as possible. The intent of slaughtering is to reduce pieces of meat to be ground, to as little as possible.

Care is taken to slaughter lamb and sheep in a hygienic manner so that bacteria from the digestive tract contents do not get into the meat, especially the excreta. The cuts of meat which have not been exposed to contaminants can be eaten rare like steaks.

Since ground meat undergoes more handling and processing, the chances of contaminants seeping in are real. Therefore, the ground meat has to be cooked well before it finds its place on the dining table.

To avoid such contamination and excessive handling it is best to buy meat from the local butcher who takes time and care to do things the right way. The risk of contamination of meat is much less in small slaughter houses.

The large slaughter houses process thousands of lambs and sheep every day. Their operations are fast and concentrated on value added output. The attention is more on cleanliness of value-added cuts and the left-over pieces of meat are not given the same importance. The meat cuttings for grinding are piled up from carcasses of a number of animals and excreta from just one animal in their midst is enough to contaminate the many pounds of ground meat.

This should be enough of an incentive for everyone to avail the services of the local slaughterhouse.

How are lambs reared?

How the lambs are raised depends on the geographic area, type of farming practices adopted and various challenges the geographic area is subject to, like harmful vegetation and wild animals in the area   preying on sheep.

Farms keeping lambs inside all the time are exceptions. Lambs and sheep are raised on open pasture on most of the farms. Farms ensure that lambs are raised on pasture for at least a part of their life.

Large flock-rearing farms in the western US have large pastures. These do not need any additional feed for their growth and well-being. Grass and other foraging plants are more than enough for these flocks to grow to finished market weight in six-eight months. Large flocks in sheep stations in Australia too follow this practice. Such lambs are more ethical to eat.

In places where land availability is limited, sheep raising calls for different options. The problem of parasites throws up yet another challenge. In such situations, putting lambs on grain and hay in barns is the workable option.

Raising lamb in a barn fed on grain and hay is adopted where the farmer is sure about economic availability of grain and grass. The cost of building a large barn also determines the economic aspect of raising lambs indoors.

There are two reasons why farmers take to raising lambs in barns. One reason is to keep the lamb away from predators. The other is to eliminate the harmful effect of plant parasite load in open spaces and breaking the parasite cycle which depends on the grazing lambs for propagation. The plant parasites compromise the health and growth by infestation when the lambs feed on them. As sheep grow, they develop strength and immunity. So, some farmers keep young lambs in barns and let them out into the open to raise them as they grow.

Most meat animals can be packed into confined spaces and reared to market weight, and can handle the stress of confinement. They respond well to medication. Some meat animals do not take long to reach market weight thus reducing the period of stress of consignment.

By nature, lambs cannot handle stress well and are not ideal candidates to be raised in confined spaces. Hence, they cannot be crammed into confinement the way some other meat animals can be. This influences the barn size, and hence the economics of raising lambs for the farmer. The nature of lambs requires that they be treated well. This, again, makes lambs reared in confinement ethical for the dining table.

When do the farmers sell the lambs?

Lambs grow more per unit of feed eaten.

Lamb is an efficient animal when it comes to its feed. Among meat animals, lambs have higher growth for the feed given to them. This feed to growth relationship is termed feed to gain ratio and is equally applicable to any of the feed lambs would consume, like grass, hay or grain.

Once a lamb grows to its full size with muscles and fat, any additional feed goes only to maintain the lambs and sheep and is an expense which does not give any market value in terms of weight gain for the farmer. The farmer would sell the lambs and sheep as soon as they reach market weight thus eliminating the expense in maintaining them further. Maintaining fully grown lambs and sheep is an economic drain on the farmer.

Most farmers sell their lambs when they are 10-12 months old and weigh around 90-100 pounds. At this stage they look like adults.

Many lambs are sold before winter

In regions where winter conditions are severe, requiring lambs to be provided indoor shelter and feed, the farmers tend to sell off their lambs in the market before winter sets in. The cost of feeding and maintaining lambs indoors is much higher than looking after them in the open. This additional expense is not compensated by a higher price in the market. Once a lamb grows enough in weight to be called a sheep without gaining any further weight, the additional food fed to maintain them does not fetch any additional return from the market.

Farmers in areas where extreme winter conditions prevail, tweak the birth of lambs to the beginning of the spring, enabling the lambs to grow to market animals consuming grass and foliage plants in the open, and qualifying to be sold as fully grown lambs before winter sets in.

During extreme winters, farmers retain only those lambs and sheep which are needed for breeding. Farmers sell lambs as soon as they reach peak condition of health and growth and this makes eminent economic sense.


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