This article was written by Megan Nielson, former 4-H Youth Livestock Field Specialist.
As you feed and train your market lamb for show this summer, having an exercise plan for your lamb will impact the success the lamb has in the show ring. Just like in humans, exercise will increase muscle development and the animal’s appetite while toning the muscle to get the rock hard body look and touch. However, remember this doesn’t happen overnight. Working with your project lamb should start 2-3 months before the show. The amount of exercise and how often you exercise a lamb should be dependent on the lamb’s condition. Lambs that are lighter with less condition should be exercised less frequently compared to lambs that are becoming heavy and fat. There are many ways to train a lamb but different workout routines will have different results.
For example, have you ever noticed how a short distance runner, like a sprinter, is bulkier and heavier muscled compared to a long distance marathon runner who is thinner with flatter muscle shape? Their workout routines are very different. Sprinters exercise short distances at fast speeds whereas marathon runners will jog for long periods of time. They have trained their muscles to adapt to the type of exercise they perform. Your muscles (and your lamb’s) are made of red (slow twitch) and white (fast twitch) muscle fibers. Red muscle fibers have the ability to hold a lot of oxygen and are smaller in diameter. Marathon runners will have a higher concentration of red muscle fibers compared to sprinters, who have more white muscle fibers that are stronger and thicker. The way you exercise can change the red and white muscle fiber concentration in your muscles over time. Making your lamb sprint for short periods of time will help them build up their muscle shape and white muscle fibers. Walking lambs for long periods of time will help them slim down and increase their red muscle fibers.
One thing remains the same whether you are training a lamb to be a sprinter or a marathon runner, avoid over exercising them as it can cause their muscle tissue to break down. Animals need time after a hard or long workout for their muscles to relax and repair themselves. You should mix up the exercise routine between high intensity (running) and low impact (walking) each day. Also, for your lamb to function at its best, always keep your lamb hydrated, muscle is 70% water. Each lamb is different, but following an exercise plan with proper nutrition will help your lamb perform at its best come show time.