Friday, September 2, 2016

Which Woolly Sheep for Us?

This week we narrowed down our choices in sheep. Yes, sheep.  Bet you didn't know how complicated that could be.. because I certainly didn't! There are so many breeds.. some are great only for specific regions, others are more adaptable, some are great mothers while many need assistance lambing, and the types of wool on their back vary widely (which was a main concern since we want to raise them for wool) as well as their build.  With the wool, I want to be able to make soft items (sweaters, blankets, etc) and durable items (mostly rugs) as well.  Sheep's wool ranges from fine, medium, long, carpet, and there are even hair sheep (which are actually becoming really popular in the U.S.).  After tons of research, I decided the fine and long types of wool would work best for us. Then I had to take in consideration that we are in Oklahoma... where it can snow and then suddenly have a heat wave in the same day, so we need breeds with adaptability.

For our long wool breed, I want Romneys. They are VERY adaptable and can withstand extreme climates. They're so adaptable that they developed a resistance to foot rot AND their fleeces aren't damaged by harsh weather. They have long, lustrous fleeces that are easily spun, so they're great for beginners (cough cough..).  It's very high yielding, readily takes dye, and has the finest fiber diameter of the long wool breeds.  The finer the fiber diameter of the wool, the more money it's worth.  It also has low grease content, which means it only shrinks slightly when washed.  These darling sheep also have a quiet temperament and bond and train easily with their shepherds.  Their popularity is growing, so if we decided to breed, their lambs would sell easily.

For our fine wool breed, I want Merinos or at least a descendant from Merinos (like Cormos or Debouillets).  They have the finest, softest wool and are very adaptable.  They're excellent foragers, are great mothers, and have a strong instinct to stay with the herd.  Their wool is excellent at regulating body temperatures, absorbing water but retaining warmth, and avoiding that wetness feeling.

I plan on eventually getting a couple lambs of each breed, but this will be a loooong ways away.  I want to get our garden, foul, and goats established first, which will take years. I would also feel that our sheep would be more properly protected if we got a guard dog for them, preferably a Great Pyrenees.  I would want to get a puppy at the same time that we got the lambs so they could be raised together, producing a stronger bond.

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