Sheep-breeding has an ancient history in Azerbaijan. Sheep are grown in all regions because it is profitable and less labor-intensive.
Mutton is preferred by population because of its high calories. Its fat and milk are used as food products. Leather, fur etc. products are obtained from sheep.
Sheep have first place among farm animal for variety of products.
Wool has particular importance among sheep products. Precious clothes, carpet and carpet products, knitted goods, felt, bag, farmas and mattress-blanket of hygienic valuable is made of wool due to its high physical-mechanical and technological properties.
Sheep milk has more nutritious substances than other agricultural animals. Chees of high nutritional value are made of sheep milk.
One of biological features of sheep is that they have ability of early-maturity. They already tend to sexual desire in 5-6 months and they are able to increase and multiply. However, their pairing should not be allowed at this age. They can be paired from 12-15 months. Sheep breeds are classified for zoological and production principles.
I. Zoological classification – they divide into 5 groups for shape and length of tails:
- Short thin tail – they have short tail. North short tail and other sheep belong to this group.
- Long thin tail –Their tail is till their joint and they have fat in their tail. All sheep breeds of fine wool and semi-fine wool belong to this group.
- Short fat tail - Their tail doesn`t reach to the joint. They have fat in the root of the tail (in the form of pillow).
- Long fat tail - Their tail is till their joint and sometimes longer. They have fat in their tail.
- Tailed sheep – they have fat in their tail. They have tail of too short and not developed.
II.Economic-industrial classification of sheep was put forward by M.F.Ivanov. Sheep divide into 8 groups in terms of products and product features according to the classification:
- Fine wooly breeds – they have fine wool of same type. It includes all groups of fine wooly breeds.
- Semi-fine wooly breeds – they have semi-fine wool of same type.
- Semi-coarse wooly breeds - semi-coarse wool is obtained from them.
- Fur breeds are kept for obtaining fur.
- Fur breeds - curved and colored fur of various forms are obtained from them.
- Meat-fat breeds – mainly meat and fat is obtained from them. The wool does not have so much importance.
- Meat-wool is milk breed which has coarse wool. They are kept for obtaining meat, wool and milk.
- Meat-wool breeds have coarse wool.
Sheep of fine wool divide into 3 groups for features of obtained products: wool, wool-meat and meat-wool.
I. Wool sheep group includes soviet merinos, stavropol, Azerbaijan mountain merinos and other sheep breeds. These breeds provide wool fiber of 50-60 g per live weight of 1 kg. Azerbaijan mountain merinos was created with participation of F.A.Malikov, M.G.Sadigov and others in 1947 in Gadabay and Shamkir in Azerbaijan Republic. For this purpose, merinos of fine wool and less productive brought by people moved here was interbred with askaniya breed and breed which adapts to mountainous condition was created by carrying out selecting-pairing. 4-5 kg and 8-10 kg of fine merinos wool is sheared from ewe and ram respectively.
II. Wool-meat breeds with fine wool – this group includes askaniya, Caucasian, altay etc. breeds. These breeds provide wool fiber of 40-50 g per live weight of 1 kg. Caucasian breed - was created by interbreeding of American rambule sheep with local new Caucasian sheep in Stavropol in 1936. 5-6 and 7-8 kg of fine wool is sheared from ewe and ram respectively. 130-140 lambs are obtained from 100 ewes with birth ability. They are also kept in our republic.
III. Meat-wool breeds with fine wool – this group includes prekos, Kazakh, Georgian fatty tail and Viatsk breeds. These breeds provide wool fiber of 30 g per live weight of 1 kg.
Prekos breed. Prekos is French word and means early-matured. This breed was created by interbreeding of rambule sheep with English long woolly Leicester breed in the end of XIX in France. The breed doesn`t have horn and they have wrinkle in the skin. 3,5-4,0 kg and 4,5-5,0 kg of fine wool is sheared from ewe and ram respectively. This breed is widely spread in our republic.
Karabakh and Garadolag sheep is kept in Azerbaijan since ancient times. They can walk 18-20 km per day. They are resistant to dry weather and can be adapted to local conditions. They are resistant to lack of nutrition because of fatty tail. They protect their organism from starvation by using tail fat when there is lack of nutrition. They are resistant to some diseases, also they are not infected with tuberculosis. But they are often infected with brucellosis, mangy, smallpox and mastitis. Sheep don`t feel good and lose weight in wet and marshy areas and therefore, the productivity decreases.
Karabakh and Garadolag sheep give births to more lambs, twins in most cases. Averagely, 120-130 lambs are obtained from 100 ewes with birth ability. They live 12-14 years, but using them in farms for 6-8 years is more efficient, because they are maximum productive during this period. More products can be obtained from them if they are kept in the herd. They are highly susceptible to weather change. Pregnancy period is 5 years and lambs are separated from the ewe after 4-5 months. Sexual desire starts in the second half of the year. Sheep wool has some physical-mechanical and technological properties – the ability of combing, staining, spinning and getting flet. Wool is fur of mammals which are useful for the production of consumer goods in the textile industry. Sheep wool differs from other textile fibers (cotton, kenaf, linen, jute, hempen, etc.) for its some valuable features. Sheep wool has high elasticity, higroscopicity (moisture absorption and evaporation capacity) mobility. It burns poorly and doesn`t conduct electric and conduct voice poorly. It absorbs paint well and retains it for a long time. If we hang load from metal and wool threads of same thinness respectively, we shall see that wool thread is stronger. It conducts heat poorly and warms by itself when it is soaked. Only wool gets felt. Woven clothes, felt products, felt greatcoat, headgears of high quality is made of wool.
Karabakh and Garadolag sheep has coarse wool. Wool color is light grey, white and other colors. The best quality wool is white wool. This kind of wool can be painted into various colors.
The composition and properties of the mutton - the value of mutton is associated with ratio of muscle and fat tissue. In terms of soft muscle and protein, beef is superior than mutton, while mutton is superior than beef for the amount of fat and calories. In terms of amount of protein content, mutton is closer to beef, but superior than pork.
The difference of meat of Karabakh and Garadolag sheep is that mutton fat contains less cholesterol and fatty acid. Mutton is estimated according to live weight before slaughtering, weight of carcass and suet, weight after slaughtering, meat proportion after slaughtering, ratio of meat to bone in the carcass, as well as muscle and fat tissue, obesity rate, morphological and type composition of the carcass, nutritional value and quality of meat etc.
The color of the meat is characterized by myoglobin. It depends on breed, gender, age, feeding and feeding conditions. The meat color of old sheep gets dark. Their meat gets white when they are lack of nutrition. 6-14 kg forage is used for weight increasing of 1 kg. It depends on breed, gender, age, feeding and feeding conditions. If sheep is started to be fatten earlier (6-8 months), then young mutton can be obtain by using less forage (6-7 kg forage) for weight increasing.
Sheep milk is invaluable food for new-born lambs. Most popular cheese is feta cheese among these cheeses in our country. It is made of milk of high quality obtained from sheep grazed in slopes.
In addition, sheep milk plays an important role in the diets of humans. Dairy products of high nutritional value are produced from sheep milk which can be stored for a long time. Valuable hard and soft cheeses are made of sheep milk.
Karabakh is local indigenous breed, it is adapted to local conditions very well and it has coarse wool. Karabakh sheep is less demanding for feeding, large-bodied. It has wool of light-gray and brunette color. Female sheep and male sheep have 45-50kg and 60-80kg of live weight accordingly. Meat proportion is 55-60% and it has marble type structure. They are less demanding for feeding. They can walk 20-25 km per day. Majority of lambs are twin. It is possible to obtain 130-140 lambs from each ewe able to give birth to a lamb. Milk yield of ewes is higher. It is possible to get 50-60 kg of milk during lactation. They are resistant to local conditions and they are less caught with diseases.
Garadolag sheep. These sheep are spread in the area where Karabakh sheep are spread. Garadolag sheep which is spread mostly in nomadic mountain pastures of Azerbaijan is considered the best sheep in this area. They have large body structure, mature skeletal form, great and the good exterior view, fatty tail, high meat proportion and milk, the ability to give birth and ability of walking long ways. This features caused them to be spread in large areas. Average live weight of Garadolag lambs of new born and 10-12 months is 3,97-5,21kg and 39-45kg accordingly. Average live weight of ewe and ram is 46,8 kg and 73-80 kg accordingly. Weight of carcass of Garadolag sheep is 19-20 kg, while meat proportion is 48-49%. Hybrids are obtained from these sheep which attain maturity earlier than other species. Therefore, these sheep are widely used in inter-breeding. Milk yield of Garadolag sheep is 75-80 kg during lactation. Ability of birth is 108-112 %.
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