Polypay sheep

Polypay Sheep Breed: Information, Behavior, and Care

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The Polypay sheep breed is native to the United States. It was developed at the National Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho.

In 1968, scientists at the station performed the crossbreeding – two years later, the resulting breed came to life.

The name, Polypay, was established in 1975, combining two terms; poly meaning many, and pay, meaning return on investment.

It matched the project’s objective – to create a productive breed that would earn money for its keepers. This is why Polypay sheep have fast-growing lambs, high-lifetime prolificacy, produce more than one lamb yearly, and have good quality meat.

Quick Facts about the Polypay Sheep Breed

Country of origin United States of America
Breed name Polypay
Breed purpose Meat, wool
Mature body weight
  • Ram – 200 to 250 lbs.
  • Ewe – 160 to 190 lbs.
Average fiber diameter 28.5 microns
Grease fleece weight 6 to 13 lbs.
Fleece staple length 3 to 5 inches
Care Level Low
Temperature Native climates
Temperament Docile and easy to maintain

History of the Polypay Sheep Breed

Before the inception of the Polypay sheep breed, farmers didn’t make reasonable profits from sheep keeping.

The frustration prompted researchers to develop a breed that would profit farmers by producing high-quality wool and giving birth to more than one lamb yearly. The project’s chief was Dr. C.V. Hulet, based at the Idaho Sheep Experimentation Station.

Dr. Hulet and his team used four sheep breeds during the experiment. These were Dorset sheep for their excellent maternal instincts, Finnsheep for their high prolificacy and early maturity, Targhee for their large bodies, quality fleeces, and long breeding season, and Rambouillet for their adaptability and hardiness.

As mentioned earlier, the first crossbreeding happened in 1968. The scientist later crossbred the first generation offspring in 1970. In 1975, the resulting breed got its name, Polypay.

The sheep has proven its adaptability to diverse environments, including farms and ranges. It is popular in North American countries, the USA, Canada, and Mexico. South American farmers are also importing this breed from the North.

Polypay sheep

Characteristics of Polypay Sheep

Polypay sheep are medium-sized with hornless heads and smooth bodies. The rams weigh between 200 and 250 lbs, while their ewes range from 160 lbs. to 190 lbs.

Being a crossbreed, the Polypay sheep breed borrows a lot from its parents. Its carcasses are incredibly similar to Targhee and Rambouillet meats – however, they have low-fat levels.

The wool is between coarse and medium grades, with fiber diameters ranging from 24 to 33 microns. The grease fleece weight is lower than other dual-purpose sheep, as it falls between 6 and 13 pounds, while the staple length ranges between 3 and 5 inches.

Polypay sheep attain sexual maturity earlier than other American sheep breeds. They also have higher fertility and prolificacy.

On average, mature ewes give birth to 2.4 lambs yearly, and most survive into adulthood.

Typical Behavior of the Polypay Sheep Breed

Polypay sheep are calm and docile. Like most sheep, they don’t mind human attention. However, they may flee if you get too close to them or when approached by unfamiliar people.

The rams are harmless since they lack horns. This also means they are unlikely to get stuck in objects and structures.

The ewes are excellent mothers and good milkers, explaining the high lamb survival rates among Polypay sheep.

Most people don’t keep Polypay sheep as pets, as they are a commercial breed that needs to mate regularly to generate profit for the farmer. It has nothing to do with their temperament.

Advantages of Polypay Sheep

The Polypay sheep breed has many advantages, mainly because it’s a product of extensive scientific research and experiments. Some claim it’s the closest thing to perfection due to its numerous desirable qualities.

The most significant benefits of rearing Polypay sheep include fast growth rate, high fertility and prolificacy, high-quality wool, and longevity. This breed guarantees at least two lambs and a crop of quality wool yearly. The carcass is also as good, as it has low fat and more muscle than its parent breeds.

Additionally, Polypay sheep are hardy and have a strong immune system. They aren’t predisposed to health issues that affect other sheep breeds.

Disadvantages of Polypay Sheep

The biggest drawback of keeping the Polypay sheep breed is their inability to graze and grow in small pastures. These animals thrive in large, open fields.

They require a lot of food to facilitate rapid growth and provide the energy and nutrients needed for procreation and tending to young ones.

The feed is also crucial to wool and meat production. For these reasons, Polypay sheep are unsuitable for small-scale farmers. 

polypay sheep in the country

Taking Care of the Polypay Sheep Breed

The following are helpful tips for taking care of Polypay sheep.

Maintain Healthy Sheep

Ensure that your sheep walk on dry surfaces to prevent foot rot. If this isn’t possible, trim their hooves regularly.

When trimming, avoid cutting too deep and exposing the sensitive tissue. This causes bleeding and increases the risk of infection.

If any animal has foot rot, separate it from the rest of the flock. Infected sheep are easily identifiable through foul-smelling feet. Then, trim the hooves and apply antiseptics.

Besides trimming hooves, it’s also helpful to shear your sheep. The best time to shear sheep is before the onset of summer. Do not shear your sheep in winter. Overgrown fleeces can get waterlogged and increase susceptibility to flystrike.

Avoid Grains

Some farmers use grain to supplement pastures and hay. Experts advise against giving grains to sheep because they cause bloating. Overfeeding on grains can also cause death since they contain high amounts of copper.


Nobody will ever create the perfect sheep breed. After all, they’re all mortal and susceptible to diseases. However, the Polypay sheep breed is arguably the best you can get.

It guarantees early maturity, high fertility, and more than one lamb yearly. Moreover, it produces high-quality wool and meat. On the downside, Polypay sheep require food in large amounts, making them unsuitable for small farms.


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