The UF/IFAS Sheep Unit is located directly next to the UF Animal Sciences building on Shealy Drive. The sheep unit is a 30-acre farm that includes an approximately 100-head ewe/lambing operation as well as a 100-head capacity feed yard where the UF Ram Test (established 2021) and UF Buck Test (established 2024) is conducted annually. There are 2 breeds of sheep raised here. Katahdin and Florida Native, as well as crossbreds between the breeds. The sheep unit provides facilities for research for intensive efforts in nutrition, reproduction, and physiology. The manager, one full-time staff member, plus part-time student employees care for the animals utilized for research, teaching, and extension activities. The objectives are primarily to improve the quality of animal protein and increase the efficiencies of production.
There are approximately 100 ewes used for breeding at the Sheep Unit. All breeding is done by natural cover, meaning the ram(s) is turned out with the ewes during breeding season. The ewe’s gestation is 150 days, and most lambs are born between January and March. When it is time for an ewe to give birth, she is kept in a pasture near the barn. Student employees watch the ewes and will assist with the birth, if necessary. The lambs are ear-tagged for identification and their tails are eventually docked. This unit undergoes bi-weekly herd health checks by the UF College of Veterinary Medicine -- Food Animal Reproduction & Medicine Service, and they provide medical treatment if required. This collaboration provides an additional opportunity for our student employees to gain hands-on experience with FAMACHA scoring, body condition scoring, breeding soundness evaluations, and performing ultrasound on ewes for pregnancy evaluation. Our student employees take full advantage of being able to learn new skills that will help them build their resumes.
This unit also serves as a location for numerous county-wide and state-wide UF/IFAS Extension functions. The Sheep Unit is utilized for numerous courses within the ANS degree program, such as Intro to Animal Science labs. Students are welcome to contact the Sheep Unit manager, Clay Whitehead for more information about volunteering or employment opportunities at the unit.