The major products from sheep are meat, wool, and hides; sheep milk is important in some areas of the world. Sheep are raised in many different environments, with great variation in efficiency. The type of production system in any area depends on many factors, primarily the availability and cost of pasture, the climate, and the interaction with other livestock and cropping systems.
Different areas of the world use different production systems. Extensive year-round grazing, with large flocks (>2,000 sheep) and minimal sheep handling, is the typical system of sheep management in the major wool-producing nations of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and parts of South America, eastern Europe, Asia, and the USA. Confinement and intensive feeding during the winter months, with access to pasture for the rest of the year, is the common system of sheep management in Europe and most of the USA. Close confinement in feedlots in the final growth stage of lambs for meat is virtually restricted to North America. Shepherding small flocks of sheep and goats along roadsides and common grazing areas is a typical management system in the Middle East and in Asia.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Clive C. Gay, DVM, MVSc, DVSc (Hons), FACVSc, DACIM (Hons)