Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sheep of the month - November 2014

Crossbred sheep on salt marsh pasture. Image: Jessica Winder

Breed notes
Many modern sheep are a mixture of breeds, combining the desired qualities of each. Here, Beulah Speckled-Face ewes (hill type: hardy, good mothers) have been bred to Blue-Faced Leicester rams (high milk production, high rates of multiple births, good conformation for easy lambing). Resulting ewes (called Mules) are then bred to meat rams, such as Suffolks, which are fast growing with a high meat yield.

Isotope notes
Coastal wetlands are an important pasture resource, either by direct grazing or production of hay. Because of the high salinity and regular flooding of these areas, only specialised plants can grow here. They have different isotopic composition (carbon, nitrogen and sulfur) to dryland and freshwater plants.

Animals which have been pastured on salt marsh will therefore be isotopically distinct from those pastured elsewhere. The progressive embankment of salt marshes in Europe has reduced the availability of this pasture type. Lamb produced on salt marsh pasture is considered to have a distinctive taste, and is highly prized as a delicacy in some regions of Europe.