They tell you not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but does the same go for a Malabrigo sheep? No way! You can tell how old a sheep is by looking at how many teeth have grown in on the front of the bottom jaw. The sheep to the left is a very young sheep – only one year old. When lambs are born, they have a small set of milk teeth and an upper dental pad.
Sheep are marked with a plastic earring that is put in very carefully – the sheep’s ears are extremely delicate and the farmers are very concerned about risking pain or infection. Every sheep is pierced with great care. Some farmers even make sure that their sheep can be identified if their tag comes off by tattooing the inside of the ear with the same number. All the numbers are often entered into a computerized data system with information on the micron count, age, and health of each sheep.
Contrary to what you may think, sheep aren’t only judged on micron or luminosity (the whiteness of the fleece), but also their general health and structure. If a sheep has a lopsided gait or his legs are too short, even with a perfect fleece, he will score lower in competitions than a sheep that has a good build.