Introducing our first blog from our resident vet Willie Stewart.  Willie, began his career in veterinary practice treating all animals great and small before moving onto a post as a ministry vet later in his career covering the areas of Orkney and Shetland.  Willie has now retired from this position and is currently working on his other passions including a project car called Madge, supporting the Orkney Rugby team and being a constant support to us at Mixter Maxter HQ.

1 – I like sheep. They don’t bite and they don’t kick (much). They are very good mothers especially the hill breeds, and are gentle creatures. (most of the time).

2 – Sheep were the second animal to be domesticated (after dogs) about 12,000 years ago.

3 – Sheep can be found on every continent of the world apart from Antarctica (because grass does not grow there!). The countries in the world with most sheep are China, Australia, India and Iran. In Europe it is Spain and the UK that have the most sheep.

4 – Sheep can produce meat, milk, wool, and to a lesser extent sheepskin. Very few sheep can produce all three products, most only producing two. So in European and Asian countries where they have milk-producing sheep and provide meat, the breeds tend to be hairy.

5 – Sheep will live and thrive and provide high quality meat, or milk or fine wool on some of the poorest pasture land in the world from the Mongolian and Patagonian plains, to the Australian outback to the Scottish Highlands. Often this is on land that is too cold or too high or too dry, or simply too poor to grow crops or keep cattle.

6 – Sheep live on grass but will also eat clover, hay, silage, leaves from bushes, cabbages, sprouts, carrots and potatoes. They will also eat grains, barley, wheat, oats, soyabean, maize, and peas. It is not unnatural for sheep to eat grains; they have always eaten seeds. Sheep will eat seaweed, or distillery grains. Sheep are very good at tidying up fields that have had potatoes or other vegetables growing in them. Sheep are the ultimate vegetarians!

7 – Sheep will graze on permanent pastures which helps to reduce atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, encourage wildlife, and to protect against soil erosion. Sheep are used in some countries to control grass growth around ground-based solar panels without damaging them, and to prevent fires under power lines (in America) and to graze orchards.

8 – Sheep will eat some noxious weeds such as larkspur or ragwort which is poisonous to other animals.

9 – MEAT Sheep will produce high quality, nutritious meat full of protein and vitamins from poor quality grazing as described.

10 – WOOL Sheep produce wool of differing quality depending on the fibre size. The coarsest fibres are used for making carpets, tapestries, and stuffing mattresses. Medium grade wool is used for blankets, sweaters, tweeds, socks and felt. The finest wool is used for high quality clothing. Wool is also used in tennis ball covers, pool table baize covering, and is now being used as insulation in the construction industry and to soak up oil from oil spills. Wool mixed with Kevlar improves the bullet-proofing abilities.

11 – Australia has one eighth of the world’s sheep but produces one quarter of the wool in the world.

12 – Lanolin or Wool Wax is extracted from wool at the scouring stage and can be used for motor oil, printing inks, and adhesive tape as well as in lipstick, mascara, shampoo, skin lotions and hair conditioner.

13 – MILK Sheep produce milk in large parts of the world, mainly in the Mediterrean basin and in Asia, and there are approximately 80 known sheep cheeses including Feta (Greece), Manchego (Spain), Pecorino (Italy), Halloumi (Cyprus) and Roquefort (France).

14 – Sheep milk has a higher solids content than cow’s milk, particularly short chain fatty acids which reduce cholesterol and have other health benefits. A gallon of sheep’s milk will produce twice as much cheese as a gallon of cow’s milk.

That is why I like sheep!!

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