10 Best Meat Producing Sheep Breeds

Meat Producing Sheep Breeds
Photo by suju-foto

Sheep are raised all over the world, and they are a significant source of meat and wool. While some sheep breeds are grown specifically to produce wool, others are raised specifically for their meat.

Each sheep breed raised for the production of meat has specific characteristics that make it an ideal choice for shepherds. 

Selecting the ideal breed of meat sheep for your family depends on several factors. The sheep are selected for their ability to gain weight quickly and produce a muscular carcass. 

Some sheep breeds are large and meaty, while others produce delicious meat. The meat of some breeds does not lose taste as they age, while others grow pretty fast.

The ideal sheep breed for meat production depends on the goals you have for raising sheep. 

Also, farmers typically like to keep exotic and pure breeds for crossbreeding. It is best to raise pure-breed and crossbreed ewes when starting new farms.

This is because crossbred rams grow faster than purebred lambs.

1. Cheviot

The Cheviot breed can be described as alert and active. It has a white face with ears that stand erect and distinctive noses.

It has a compact body and bare heads and legs. This breed can be found in the United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales.

The Cheviot sheep breed is named after the Cheviot hills between the borders of Scotland and England. Cheviots are mainly considered to be a meat breed of sheep.

They produce high-quality, well-muscled meat and grow at a moderate pace.

They also produce wool but not as much or as high quality as sheep raised primarily for the production of wool.

They can live in a wide range of climates and areas where food is scarce. 

2. Suffolk

The Suffolk is a meat sheep breed is known for its meat and milk. It is also a popular breed for kids participating in 4-H and other youth shows.

Suffolk sheep have a unique black face, ears, and legs that are all wool-free. They can be described as calm and docile. Suffolks also have the fastest growth rates of any sheep.

Their meat has a good texture, taste, unique flavor, and decent moisture. The meat also has less fat than many meat breeds of sheep.

Ewes give birth to three lambs annually, and the lambs grow fast. The lambs can be marketed at any age.

The only drawback to raising Suffolk sheep would be that they need a very good pasture and supplementation to grow well. 

3. Icelandic Sheep

The Icelandic sheep breed, as the name implies, is from Iceland. They were brought to the region more than 9000 years ago by Vikings settlers.

Icelandic sheep are known as one of the purest sheep breeds globally because it has not been crossbred with other sheep breeds.

The meat from this sheep is famous around the world for its mild flavor and organic purity. This sheep breed is low maintenance but yields high profits.

They can survive in a range of climes, even on poor pastures. They also do not require as much supplementation as other sheep breeds.

The meat of this sheep breed is tender and has a fine texture.

4. Shropshire

The Shropshire sheep were initially bred in England and resulted from crossbreeding Leicester, Southdown, Cotswold, and native sheep.

This sheep breed was introduced to the United States in 1855 and became a hit with local shepherds until the 1930s.

The Shropshire sheep are average to large in size and have distinct dark coloring on their faces and legs.

They are primarily meat producers and are known for their lean, high-quality carcasses. The females of this breed are popular for their strong maternal instinct and their milk production.

Shropshire lambs have a high growth rate and are robust. Although it is a majorly meat-producing breed, Shropshire wool is classified as medium-grade. 

5. Texel

The Texel sheep breed has its origins in the Isle of Texel, Netherlands. This animal was introduced to the United States to sheep producers in 1990 and became immensely popular.

Texels are adaptable sheep with a unique appearance. They are medium in size, lean, but heavily muscled.

They do not have wool on their heads or legs, and they have a white face. Although this breed produces a soft, medium-grade fleece, this is second to the meat product that the Texel is primarily known for.

Their carcasses are easy to cut, which makes them valued higher than a lot of sheep breeds. 

6. Charollais

The Charollais is a recently recognized sheep breed that has its origins in the Burgundy region of France.

They are medium to large-sized, well-muscled with pink-grey faces and legs. Their wool ranges from fine to medium and covers the entire body.

The Charollais are heavily muscled and produce lean carcass, making them ideal for meat production and trade.

Some of the qualities that make this breed desirable among sheep farmers are lean quality meat, easy lambing, fast growth, and high yield.

These sheep are, however, poor foragers and require an excellent pasture and supplementation for optimum growth. 

7. Corriedale

The Corriedale sheep is famous for being one of the oldest of the hybrid sheep breeds. This breed originated from New Zealand and is the most popular sheep breed in several countries around the world.

The Corriedale is a hardy and adaptive sheep breed, and they have premium grade meat and high-quality wool.

The Corriedale lambs are fast growers with high-quality lamb carcasses, and they reach their ideal slaughter weight around ten months. 

8. Montadale

The Montadale sheep breed has the honor of being one of the youngest sheep breeds to exist.

This sheep breed originates from the United States and is a cross between the compact Cheviot sheep breed and the large Columbia sheep breed.

The Montadale was developed by E.H Mattingly, a famous lamb buyer, who crossbred the Columbia and Cheviot to produce beautiful sheep with a high-yield carcass.

Ewes of this breed are said to have a strong maternal instinct and make lots of milk to raise lambs.

Montadale lambs grow very fast – a trait inherited from their Columbia ancestors. The Montadale sheep have lean, well-muscled carcasses.

They are average-sized and possess bare legs and heads, white wool, and black nostrils and hooves.

Although the Montadale sheep are primarily considered a meat breed, their Columbia ancestry is evident in their quality of fleece, making them serve a dual purpose for shepherds.

Their wool is commonly used by farmers at commercial mills.

9. Tunis Barbari

The Tunis Barbari sheep breed is thought to have originated in Tunisia nearly 3000 years ago. They are fat-tailed sheep that are popular among regular lamb eaters.

The Tunis sheep excel at grazing and foraging, and they typically do not require additional supplementation.

This sheep breed is another dual-purpose sheep breed on this list. However, they are raised primarily for meat production.

Tunis is pretty hardy and can thrive in a hot and dry climate. 

10. Dorset

Dorset sheep are popular for their ability to lamb up to twice a year.

This is possible because many Dorset ewes don’t pause their estrus cycle during the warmer months like other sheep breeds.

This makes them the ideal breed for sheep farmers as they provide the flexibility to lamb at any time of the year.

The Dorset is a crossbreed between the Welsh Horned sheep and the Spanish Merino sheep. Dorsets can be found today in Dorset, Wales, Devon, and Somerset.

Horned Dorset was first introduced to the United States in 1885, where polled Dorsets – Dorset without horns – were later developed due to dominant poll genes.

Dorset ewes provide lots of milk for their young, who grow at a moderate pace. 

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