Sheep farming is the raising and breeding of domestic sheep. It is a branch of animal husbandry. Sheep are raised principally for their meat (lamb and mutton), milk (sheep's milk), and fiber (wool). They also yield sheepskin and parchment.
Sheep can be raised in a range of temperate climates, including arid zones. Farmers build fences, housing, shearing sheds, and other facilities on their property, such as for water, feed, transport, and pest control. Most farms are managed so sheep can graze pastures, sometimes under the control of a shepherd or sheepdog.
The major sources of income for a farm come from the sale of lambs and the shearing of sheep for their wool. Farmers can select from various breeds suitable for their region and market conditions. When the farmer sees that a ewe (female adult) is showing signs of heat or estrus, they can organize for mating with males. Newborn lambs are typically subjected to tail docking, mulesing, and males may be castrated.
According to the FAOSTAT database of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the top five countries by the number of heads of sheep (average from 1993 to 2013) were: mainland China (146.5 million heads), Australia (101.1 million), India (62.1 million), Iran (51.7 million), and former Sudan (46.2 million).
In 2013, the five countries with the largest number of heads of sheep were mainland China (175 million), Australia (75.5 million), India (53.8 million), former Sudan (52.5 million), and Iran (50.2 million). In 2018 Mongolia has 30.2 million sheep. In 2013, the number of heads of sheep was distributed as follows: 44% in Asia, 28.2% in Africa; 11.2% in Europe, 9.1% in Oceania, 7.4% in the Americas.