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Fiber: Sheep vs. Rabbit

 
Steve Nicolini
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Does anyone have experience raising sheep? 

I just read about an alternative to sheep for fiber.  The Angora rabbit.  They say that these furry lil critters' fur needs to be harvested every three months at a minimum. 

I am interested in yalls thoughts on this.  Compare and contrast rabbit vs. sheep.

Rabbit is smaller, which means less fiber.  But it might be more cost effective.  I have no knowledge in the sheep department.  How often does one need to harvest sheep fibers?  What about care?  Which one requires less maintenence?  Which costs less to feed
 
Gwen Lynn
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Quick thought regarding rabbits...they multiply like...rabbits! 
 
Steve Nicolini
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Yeah that is right.  I heard that they can get pregnant while they are pregnant.  Of course my source is not the most reliable one. 

So I know people eat lamb, but what about older sheep?  Would that be a preferred meat?

I wonder what rabbit breed would be good for fiber AND meat... New Zealand Whites maybe? 
 
Susan Monroe
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The meat from older sheep is called mutton, and is less desirable then lamb due to its stronger flavor.

I think you're out of luck for multi-purpose rabbits.  The most desirable rabbit for fiber is the Angora.  And you don't have to kill them to get it.

I suspect that comparing rabbit fiber to sheep fiber is like comparing apples to coconuts.  You would have to consider their requirements, benefits, costs, and negative aspects, as well as the likely price you would get for their fiber.

Rabbits are quiet, small, and need some particular housing. If stressed, they will kill their young.  Angoras need to be handled when young so they can be handled when older, to harvest the fiber, and this can't be blown off just because a person doesn't have the time.

Sheep can do really stupid things, and you would need to find out what kinds of sheep produce the most valuable wool, if that's your main concern.  Lower-priced wool may not be worth the effort and cost of shearing, cleaning, carding and packaging.

Don't overlook goats.  The goats that produce cashmere may be very lucrative.  Goats are smart and have minds of their own, they may eat poisonous plants, and they need very good fencing (electric mesh) to keep them confined.

And when you decide which animal you want, you'll have to educate yourself to recognize a good animal of the type. 

Any way you go, I would start with just a couple of them, and see how it goes.  Some people can't deal with sheep, saying they're brainless and stupid.  Discovering that you are one of them is not good if it happens after you buy twenty of them.

And if you have animals, it's probably a given that you will never take another vacation.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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goats give fiber too! and their meat doesn't have a strong flavor and you can milk them. they like weeds too and they have great personalities.

sheep would be alot more care free than rabbits imo. some fencing and good pasture/hay and mineral  and daily care would be giving them water and that is likely almost all they would need most of the time. rabbits means water bottles, bring all their food to them daily, cleaning up poop or moving a tractor. I don't know about rabbits but wool sheep MUST be sheared,its not something you can decide to just not do. hair sheep of course don't but that would defeat the purpose!
 
Steve Nicolini
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Right now I don't mind not taking a vacation.  I want to work, sun up to sun down, 7 days a week.  The harder you work, the more appreciated the relaxation time.

Sheep would take up more space than the rabbits.  But the rabbits would be more work. 

Starting with a couple is wise.  How many sheep would you start out with?
 
                                      
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I followed advise to start out with a mother and daughter. Worked so well I've sold sets to others starting. It gives you lamb experience without the pressure of bottles. Working the lamb (otherwise known as playing) bonds them to you and you set your routine. Then you can decide if you want the ram experience or annual visits. If you like the experience and add other sheep they will follow the lead of the two you set with so there is less challenge and you meet new additions as sort of in charge. As to breed everyone has a favorite. Mine is crossing Romney and Rombuliet grade backyards. The Romney fiber is good for felting as well as spinning and I like felt. I cull for wirey fleece or inferior flavor of sons. The wethers have the best fleece but fleece not worth much at the moment. I keep a white one for santa hair (fad markets are good.)
Also enjoy my daughter's Angora Goats. Exploring Pygora, I'll know in a few months.
Did meat rabbits and didn't enjoy it but am looking for fiber rabbits since rabbits are really nice for combining with aquaponics.
 
Steve Nicolini
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How do the rabbits blend with aquaponics? 

What was the major downfall of the meat rabbits?  How did you contain them? 

I think that is awesome that you raise sheep.  Props
 
                                
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Hi. I raise angora rabbits.  My rabbits are satin angoras and german angoras and crosses between them.  I have thought about using the rabbits for meat as well as angora but for me they become too much pets to do this although I know other people who do. 

The satin angoras are dual purpose and are rabbits with a meaty type body - full rumps.  They are smaller overall compared to the Germans.  They are solid little critters.  I love their extremely fine soft fur but for fur production they are far less productive (harvest about every 5 months and get just a little) than the Germans and their coats are less care free - more prone to matting.  They are very pretty and their unique fur is extra fine and has a gloss which amplifies the color.  All angoras have muted color in the parts of their coats that grow long but the satin angoras have the most intense color. 

The German angoras grow incredible (for their size) amounts of fur, I think the most of any breed of angora rabbit, but even at that I cannot imagine clipping their fur off more than every three months.  At three months mine have about a 2 - 2.5 inch fiber length and give maybe 3/4 pound fur.  I wouldn't want it any shorter than that for the spinning I do.  They matt very little - usually just behind the ears.  All of the rabbits should have their genital area clipped midway between full clips and in warm months any soiling must be removed immediately (flies & maggots).

My satin X German bunnies have good productive coats without exception.  I started with excellent rabbits of both breeds.  The German body type is cylindrical for ease in rolling and clipping. In my herd at least, the Germans are much easier to handle than the satins - more laid back - but either breed is easy enough.  The crosses come in both German and Satin body types but all are fairly meaty.  It would be easy enough to select the solid butted bunnies for meat.  I personally like nice solid shoulders and butts on my bunnies but with all the handling that their care requires and my own disposition, I could not eat them. 

Angora fur spins into a yarn that is extremely warm and soft.  For durability it is best spun tight and fine.  It is a finer diameter than sheeps wool and will not hold up in a pair of socks the way wool does. It is also not stretchy.  It is delightful blended with sheeps wool for stretch and spring and some mohair (angora goat) for strength to make socks.  So it cannot replace wool for all your fiber needs. 

My rabbits live in pens.  Nice bucks can have a spayed doe for companionship.  Fiesty or younger bucks are best alone.  They all love companionship though and my pens abut each other and a lot of nose sniffing goes on.  The best combo for getting along peacefully is nuetered buck and doe.  They get all the hay they want to eat and some pellets - a measured ration daily depending upon their size and the temperature.

Although frightened rabbits will eat their young this has not happened to me.  It is necessary to separate out the does into their own space when they are having a litter.  I did have a surprise litter born into a pen with a neutered buck and a doe who were a bonded pair.  The buck did not bother the babies and the doe  took good care of her young but I did move him out as soon as I discovered the kits - day one. 

I clip all of my rabbits although the satins are bred to be plucked.  The Germans are not bred to be plucked.  It gets faster with time but patience is required and it must be done regularly or matts and soiling will develop and can lead to fly strike (maggots) and death.

Cleanliness and good air is required.  Cleanliness is harder to achieve in pens on the ground, which I use but the benefits in health from happiness, companionship and exercise outweighs this.  The best bedding I have found is shredded cardboard because it falls out of their coats easily.  I can purchase it for $10 a bag which is prohibitive.  I understand that it may be available from cardboard manufacturing plants but I haven't found one.  The industrial machines that shred cardboard are expensive.  So I use straw.  Wood shavings give off vapors that are harmful to rabbits.  The straw does get into their coats some and makes more work for me in spinning.  I make warm coats for rabbits to wear after their fall clipping and am now working on light coats to keep their coats clean from the straw.  I don't know how this will work out.

Well I just wanted to share a little information for those of you who are thinking about raising rabbits.  I am not an authority but have a few years of experience.  Hope this helps.

 
                              
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found some links, hope it's helpful: 
http://mammals.suite101.com/article.cfm/angora_rabbit_wool
a good angora rabbit can produce 15 oz of wool a year.

http://www.ehow.com/video_2349821_fact-sheep-wool.html ; (1:02)
an average sheep (sounds like a lot of variance here) produces 12 lbs a year, but 30% is lost when it's washed as dirt, lanolin, etc. reduced to 8 lbs.

a giant angora weighs 10- 20 lbs
a sheep weighs 100-200 lbs

so a for argument's sake a 10 lb rabbit is producing almost a pound of wool a year. That's 10% of the little guys body weight. (and as far as i know, nothing much is lost during the washing)
the 100 lb sheep is producing 8 lbs of wool. that's- about 10% his body weight too.

sothey produce the same amount proportionally- and i am REALLY generalizing-
so it's looks like the other factors are more importnat













 
                                  
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Location: central kansas
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I had dorset cross ewes.  They are more of a meat breed so they didn't have as fine a wool.  Average fleece weighed about seven pounds.  It can be tough to find someone to shear the sheep.  Especially a small flock. And it costs about three dollars per head.  You can shear them yourself, though.  It's not hard once you get the hang of it.  I don't know about rabbits but I do know there is nothing more dangerous than an intelligent sheep.   BTW: how does one get the fur off a rabbit?
 
Emil Spoerri
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after labor is factored, sheep are much more productive
cashmere and angora is rather i don't know... for those who can afford it
not exactly fiber but... some meat rabbits have excellent and valuable pelts!

also... llamas...alpacas
 
                          
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You comb or pluck the rabbits. I mean, not like ripping hunks of hair off and leaving them naked; you're just brushing them with special brushes or pulling the loose fibers out with your hands. Some rabbits won't sit still for it, but some love it. It's time consuming but it gives you a longer fiber than if you sheared it.
 
Irene Kightley
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Most of our income comes from our Angora goats. You get a lot of fleece from one animal and they're friendly and very easy to keep just like sheep. I kept rabbits for a while but goats are much easier.



The yarn is superb and doesn't get up your nose the way that Angora rabbit does and takes dyes easily.



You can make the finest, softest yarn into scarves or underwear :



and the heavier yarn makes great long-lasting socks and pullovers. This one was dyed with walnut husks.



 
                                  
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How much fiber can you get from a rabbit?  And how much does it take to make a small sweater for instance?  Or is it used more as a filler and insulation?
 
                            
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Lots of good info on the pros and cons of different fiber animals in the discussion.  Have had rabbits, sheep and goats, hoping to add a couple of llamas next.

Rabbits are less hardy overall and susceptible to temperature extremes, not happy on very hot days, we would freeze milk cartons filled with water that we then put into the hutches so they could chill out when it was above 90.  Also can get sniffles, and that can wipe out the whole group in a couple of days.  We had some smart rabbits and neighborhood cats that could open all but the most secure doors.
My daughter raised chinchilla lops, less common than a standard angora but yes the fur looks like chinchilla and is very soft, a bit shorter than angora more in the 2-2.5 inch range, we mostly combed them regularly but also sheared them.

Another sheep option is Shetlands, they produce a divine fleece and are smaller than standard.  Very friendly and mine were smarter than the average sheep it seems.  Very personable.

Goats can indeed be milked as well as produce a fine fiber,  like any animal bred for specific traits multi use means not as plentiful for some aspect.  If Fiber was my main goal I'd opt for a fiber animal and accept the amount of milk it produced.  Also it seems that the colored angora goats produce their color because of latent traits from being crossed with boar or milk goats MANY generations past so you could mix them but you might find it produces an animal that is only half good for either.  We now have milk goats and the difference is that all the energy that would make the lovely long fiber goes into gigantic full udders.  I am a huge believer in multi purpose animals though so I wont hesitate to cross them and hope for the best. 
If you do want to milk then I would try a and buy a pregnant doe or one who has a very young (under 4 weeks) Kid.  That way you can try the milking part and see how much you get, likely about half of what an alpine/milk goat  would produce (we get about 4 cups per milking from one nanny)  Contrast that to 1-2 cups for a non milk goat.  But No fiber from alpines, way to short. 

Goats are 'browsers'  they most like their food at shoulder height and above, even the plants they eat that are growing on the ground, like trees a lot, etc. they like to climb.  We haven't tried electric mesh but they goats went right through electric strand fencing that is too shocking for dogs, people, or the horse, so require the most secure fencing,  and they will 'stand' or climb on it putting their hoofs on it and stretching it out, so plan accordingly. 
NEVER tie up a sheep or goat around it's neck especially unattended!!!  a harness if you must and watch them carefully then.  They can and do strangle themselves very quickly.
Sheep are grazers, and will eat right down to the dirt, even more than a horse.  They prefer grassy fields.
 
rose macaskie
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  Rabbits can't be left in a field they would dig a hole and get out they have to have a hutch and a run, sheep can just be left in a well fenced field. Rabbits though are better if you don't have much land they dont need a field full of grass.
    Hair is good for picking up oil spills so anyone who keeps angora rabbits or sheep do the world a service providing hair to clean oil disasters.  agri rose macaskie.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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  I have done a bunch of research on angora rabbits, and have heard that their wool is too warm and delicate for use on its own - it is normally mixed with wool to make angora sweaters.
 
                    
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Yes,  long, coarse fibers (sheep wool) are stronger. Adding 10% angora wool to regular wool does wonders to make it softer and warmer. 

If one is in areas that don't have long, hot summers, consider Icelandic sheep. They are truly a good multipurpose breed. They give a high quality wool that is long and soft compared to many other breeds. They have a very mild flavor and do not get gamey or have much 'boar-taint' when the male lambs mature. They can be milked.  And they are very hardy, and can live entirely on pasture -no grain needed!
 
Irene Kightley
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They sound a bit like our two new girls Basco Bearnaise sheep, a multi-use local breed used for milk, fibre and their meat.



I can't wait until they have milk to start making make blue cheese.
 
Chelle Lewis
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Irene: That is a really pretty animal........

Steve Nicolini wrote:
How do the rabbits blend with aquaponics? 
Steve... AP and rabbits ...

I have heard it suggested that pathogen transferral from rabbit into the system that is growing salads is not such a good idea... also rabbit urine can cause an undesirable ammonia spike so needs to be watched carefully.....I know of someone who just removed his rabbits from above his AP system because it of the ammonia spiking. Rabbits on wire is not good IMO anyway... get terribly sore hocks. More humane ways to keep this very intelligent and social animal. My 2c.... always hoping to stop rabbits on wire.

But rabbit dung to earthworms... and worms to fish is a great system.  One thing about worms..... loads of fat. I would use them as a treat. I like my worms doing their miracles in my garden anyway. But good chicken treats too.... can get a nice polyculture going around aquaponics.

My favourite fish food is algae.... loads of omega 3 in algae. I use aged cow manure to get the algae levels up in my tilapia pond... also produces zooplankton for the fry too.... problem with algae though is it blocks pipes and pumps. I am looking at a system where pumps are not used so as not to lose the algae benefit... so cost effective and sustainable..... maybe have compost filled growbeds with some sort of "wicking" system to upload the nutrient rich water and feed the plants and then top up fresh...... so exterior pump is only carrying in new water and not recycling algae water and getting clogged. Not a true closed cycling AP system ..... but would be very easy to manage. Fresh water needed as top up though..... but could be from a rain tank. Just thoughts at this stage. Have the tilapia feeding on algae and mulberry ......and whatever ....... for now and thriving.

Chelle

Chelle
 
                                    
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I'll put my 2 cents worth in here--as a spinner. 

I have raised meat rabbits; they are not the same as fiber rabbits. Fiber rabbits MUST be handled daily...ie. "spoiled" so that when it's time to harvest their fiber, they can be plucked.  A fiber rabbit can not be kept in a cage 24/7 like a meat rabbit.  If you can not/ will not devote "hands-on" time to each fiber bunny DAILY...get sheep.

Fiber rabbits; Spinners pay MUCH MORE for bunny fiber that has been "hand-PLUCKED" NOT SHEARED; for a reason.  That reason being; fiber that has been plucked by hand has a greater tendency to grip the surrounding fibers and the yarn doesn't shed as much as does yarn that has been spun with fiber that was sheared. 

Hand-plucking doesn't hurt the bunnies as it is done when the FIBER is naturally shedding; NOT WHEN the owner is ready to harvest.....can you live with that ?

Sheep;
As a spinner, we love, LOVE "coated fleeces" ; meaning sheep that wear coats to keep their fleece clean while it's growing out from it's last shearing time.  A sheep normally needs 5 different sizes each, to get it thru the year from one shearing to the next. Sheep are sheared once a year, usually right before they are due to have their lambs.  You cannot skimp on the coat sizes. If you do, the fleece will get "cotted" (matted) and be useless.


We pay much more for fleece that has been coated ! 

Breeds; The best breeds of sheep for spinning; Merino, Corridale, Romney, Ramboullet; to name just a few.  Merino are the best, and the biggest. A Merino  will weigh about 300 pounds.
 
Chelle Lewis
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More than 2c worth to me! 

I am glad to hear that you recommend plucking for fibre rabbits. Watching all that needs to be done to keep a rabbit still while shearing did not appeal to me. At what age would you start handling the young rabbits to make them docile to touch?

I agree about Merino. My choice too.
 
                                    
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Chelle Lewis wrote:
More than 2c worth to me! 

I am glad to hear that you recommend plucking for fibre rabbits. Watching all that needs to be done to keep a rabbit still while shearing did not appeal to me. At what age would you start handling the young rabbits to make them docile to touch?

I agree about Merino. My choice too.



Thanks, Chelle.  I was a professional dog groomer for many years; a rabbit has a skin like a cat.  It is tissue paper thin (when you're talking about shearing it with clippers !) and (like with a cat) if you so much as NICK the skin; you will sit there and watch that tiny nick spread open into a HUGE cut !  Now imagine shearing a bunch of squirming rabbits that don't want to be...?  vs. sitting in a comfy chair with a calm rabbit in your lap that LIKES to be combed and worked with !


I would start handling the baby bunnies as soon as mom weans them; at about 6 weeks of age. If you start any sooner; mom may stop feeding them before they're on full adult food.  Cuddle them in your lap; ALWAYS supporting their hind quarters, so they learn you won't drop them. NEVER, ever pick up a rabbit by it's ears !  I've still seen people do that   

You can start by brushing them when they're babies, even if you're not getting any fiber---simply to train them to the brush and comb.  Then when they start to shed; which happens in cycles; they will know to sit still in your lap for the process.    Pluck a few hairs at a time , with your fingers, and it will come out very easy---WHEN IT"S READY TO !    It's really neat to watch it pile up and the bunny isn't hurt...and ends up cooler;


I have about 150 pounds of woolies in a ready-to-spin condition; most of it is Merino from 1 shepard in Redwood Valley, CA; and it is like spinning butter !  I live in MO, close to KC    but if I was in CA, I would apprentice with this old lady in a heartbeat !  She is in her 90s; and the last of her family that wants sheep !  HER mother raised these Merino lines; and still sheared sheep until she died AT 104 !!!
 
Chelle Lewis
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Wow... 104! Definitley knew how to live life right. 

I'll do as you say. About 6 weeks. Didn't realise their skin was so thin. Good to know. Another reason to gently pluck when ready to shed. Natural and builds relationship with the rabbit too. Neat.

That Merino wool sounds like a dream. Do all Merino produce wool like this? Or just those specifically bred to it?
 
                                    
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[

That Merino wool sounds like a dream. Do all Merino produce wool like this? Or just those specifically bred to it?

Merino wool is the best there is for spinning yarn to knit with , and for weaving cloth.  Jean and her family have been breeding these same lines of Merinos for many sheep generations to make "the best"  even BETTER.... and she has the blue ribbons, silver trophies and acolades to prove it!  She sells and ships her breeding stock all over the US and Canada; as lambs...but her  grown "spinners" live out their entire lives on her ranch, never sold. She doesn't sell lambs for meat.  She has ALL colors of fleece.  I have many colors and shades from her; I usually buy whole raw fleeces and clean & card them myself.  I "go for" the natural colors and natural dyes; rather then nasty & dangerous chemical dyes.

The Merinos are one of the largest breeds of sheep; with a fully grown one (in full fleece) weighing at least 300 pounds.  They have lots of skin folds on their neck and shoulders that I'm sure the shearers just hate; but Jean still does her own shearing (at 90-something !) so it doesn't matter.  And she has ALOT of sheep !    I have spent many hours talking to her on the internet; when she has time of course....she's a fasinating woman. It's a shame her two grown sons and grandkids want no part of the flocks when she's gone someday....but they have different professions.... <sigh>
 
Chelle Lewis
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That is sad.... dying out with her. Something like that is more precious than most realise until it is lost. Can't she find someone locally .... or even far... who would like to apprentice and buy the farm from her one day? Sounds like that is more than a business... a heritage that should be treasured.

Interesting about the different colour fleeces. Never heard about that before in Merino. Are these just variations on white or range through to darker browns and rusts too?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Madamspinner, someone has misinformed you a little bit on the Merino sheep -- they are smaller than the the other three breeds you named, actually one of the smaller breeds of sheep (Shetlands and a few other breeds are smaller than Merinos). 

They DO have superlative fleeces, although can have as much as fifty percent 'grease' (lanolin) in the wool that needs to be washed out.  A few people do spin Merino wool 'in the grease' (unwashed), and I've done it -- your hands will be very soft if you do much of it!

Shetlands also have superlative fleeces with a much lower grease content, and you have to watch for a tendency to have hair on the legs and (on poor animals) even up the sides a bit -- you don't want hair in your fleece.  However, their fleeces may only weigh a pound up to three or four pounds for a big older ram.  Cloud-soft, however. 

Modern Merinos have been bred to get rid of most of the wrinkles that used to make shearing time H-E-double hockey sticks, although because their fleeces are so dense and greasy it still takes longer to shear a Merino than most other breeds (about twice as long as a Shetland, for example) and the shearing blades will need to be cleaned and re-sharpened more often.  IMO, the top-quality, very fine wool is well worth the extra trouble, but you'd probably have to learn to do your own shearing in a lot of places.  (If you have a bad back, don't even think about doing much shearing, though.)

Kathleen
 
                                    
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[quote

Interesting about the different colour fleeces. Never heard about that before in Merino. Are these just variations on white or range through to darker browns and rusts too?

Chelle--Jean has several lines of white, several lines of black, including VERY black; lines of silver & grays from a shiny silver to an Oxford Gray, then she has 100% Merinos and Merino-Corridale X's and Merino-Columbia X's  with many shades of Moorit (browns, reds, rusts, cinnamons, etc.)

Each genetic color line is kept in separate flocks; "by the book".  She told me one time that she also names each sheep that is related so that they have the same first initial in their first name; Reba, Rita, and Randy would all be related to each other....so at a minimum...she knows w/o even looking in the books that so & so are related and can't be bred together....




 
                                    
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[quote author=Kathleen ;IMO, the top-quality, very fine wool is well worth the extra trouble, but you'd probably have to learn to do your own shearing in a lot of places.  (If you have a bad back, don't even think about doing much shearing, though.)

Kathleen


Kathleen; I talked to Jean today by phone...just happened to be her birthday today !  She's 96 and still going strong !  WOW !  She's getting some of "her girls" ready to go to the big wool show in California, where she always wins big; not only with her sheep on-the-hoof; but with her fleeces. 

I asked for some clarifications on the Merino weights.  Seems that she started with the Delaine Merinos many years ago.  Normally rams weigh in at 180# Ewes at 120#  plus fleece. 
Over many sheep generations; she has kept the bigger ones; to GET  even heavier and bigger-boned Merinos...on purpose.  (Bigger sheep, more wool -they do better on her type of ranch land )  Her Merinos do have the chest wrinkles in the front; some of her rams have the big neck rolls.  But since she still does her own shearing (at 96  ) she's used to them.

The 300 pounder ---well; turns out he is one of MY  3  standing fleeces every year!  LOL ! I've seen him---he's a big 'ol FLIRT, too !   I get 1 Merino, 1 white Corridale, and 1 black Merino-Corridale X every year, and the merino bloods are bigger then normal ones.   

That weight is WITH his full fleece.  It's a huge Merino ram, named Shane; that has a fleece in color from medium silver to an oxford gray; always about 5 inches long every April; and even after Jean skirts it for me to save on shipping costs; it STILL weighs close to 25-26 pounds in the grease !   Oh, and do I pay dearly for that "lover-ly" stuff ! I cry when I make out her check.   But it is soooo soft, and even from a ram; it has no smell...besides the lanolin. 

When I first started buying fleece from her; she told me to expect the 50% loss after washing....  so when I got the first one clean and dry...weighed it...compared that weight to the raw weight....did the math..... ah, ok, now I'm confused...it doesn't add up to a 50% loss.... so I talked to her, emailed her...we did the math again...still didn't add up....hmmmm...   

So I thought "well, maybe I didn't get it CLEAN...? "   ( I'd never washed a fleece before..)  So I picked a handfull of dry ,clean ? fleece from here, from there, & so on; boxed up about 2 pounds, and sent it to her to inspect.  Thinking I must not have gotten all the grease out.....   Nope, she got it, emailed me back...it was clean as a whistle.  We did the math again;

You won't believe it----no one does.  It has to have something to do with the breeding she's done over the years.....  In the raw; it practically drips lanolin;  but clean and dry;   Jean figured I was only getting a 38% loss on any of her fleeces I washed !!!     ( The same numbers I got ! ) Full blooded Merinos !   She's "picked my brain" on how I washed it.....even sent me several more to simply wash FOR HER---so we could see if it would happen again....40-41%  !  ( Wish I could recycle all that lanolin, tho...seems a shame to toss all of it out.  Jean doesn't spin wool , as a rule, she doesn't normally wash it either., so she didn't know...no one had ever told her....)

I wouldn't want to spin in-the-grease...couldn't with a cat in the house.  As it is; Pete takes up a "guard post"  on top of the boxes as soon as they get here; until they're washed.  lol !  The only one I will let him roll in; is Shanes' gray fleece...because Pete's gray....and only  when I'm ready to give HIM a bath when he's gotten it out of his system !  Once it's clean, he ignores it; until we spin---he helps the wheel "go round" till he gets dizzy and falls over .... then he ignores the finished yarn....only cat I've ever seen that ignores yarn.


You can't store wool -raw- for very long---it will solidify into a solid block that will take forEVER to pry apart to wash.....ask me HOW I know THAT ....   

I've seen Jean shearing a few years ago...( that's when I saw Shane on the weigh scale. ) she has a harness type thing set up ; that her mother made.....like a hanging sling for her to "hang in" leaning over...to shear from...saves on her back and legs.  But I'll tell you what....even at 96 years old....I would NOT get into an arm-wrestling contest with her !! She STILL has muscles that will put most men to shame !  She still does all her own ranch work herself.....except for setting fence posts... And I don't blame her there.

hmmmm...that reminds me...I have a free fleece from a friends'  Corridale ram that's been sitting here a few months ...whoops...I forgot about it...it's still raw...  <sigh> guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow and the day after,,,....urggg...it can't go in the wool room till it's clean !
 
Chelle Lewis
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Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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That really interests me..... such a wide range of colour in Merino.

We have a lot of Merino breeding here in South Africa too. The Dohne Merino was bred here as a dual purpose breed for tougher conditions.

http://www.agriwiki.co.za/index.php?title=Dohne_Merino_sheep

I wonder how the wool compares. It says: "Ewes produce between 4 to 6 Kilograms of high quality fine wool of 19 to 22" What does 19-22 mean? Do you know?

Breeding Merino to colour would be fascinating. I don't know if we have Corriedale here. Are Corriedale very similar to Merino and so a good hybrid mix?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Chelle, the 19-22 would be the fineness of the fleece (that's very fine, by the way).  Corriedales started out as a Merino-Lincoln cross, a good range breed here in this country. 

Madamspinner, that's REALLY interesting about your friend Jean's sheep!  Also that she's still shearing at her age!  I live with my grandmother, who is 97, and while she's doing quite well for her age, there's no way she'd be able to keep up with your friend Jean!  I'm going to have to tell Grandma about Jean! 

Wish I had enough land to keep sheep -- I love Merino wool, but didn't care for the heavy grease.  If I had the land, I'd love to get a starter flock from Jean.  Which brings up another question.  It sounds to me like she's got animals that are WELL worth preserving, and continuing the work she's been doing.  Even though she's doing great for her age, realistically, within a few years someone is either going to have to take over that flock, or all her years of hard work will be lost (I hate to see things like that happen).  Do you know if she's made plans for the future of her sheep when she's no longer around?  If not, I would suggest contacting the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) and seeing if they can help out. 

Thanks for telling us about Jean and her flock -- I'm very impressed!  (Does she have a website?  I'd love to see pictures.)

Kathleen
 
                                    
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The Corridale and Romney fiber is what I learned to spin first.  Merino came later.  It's harder to spin, simply because it's a finer wool, with a tighter crimp...and if you start with raw wool; it can be real picky when it comes to washing it.  People say it felts real easy and pills up in the carder if it's fed thru too fast.  But  Jean says I "brutilize" it the way I wash it       ...and I've never had it felt yet after 11 years of working her fleeces....and altho I have an Ashford carder; I still use curved hand carders...and I've never had neps or pills to deal with.

Jeans' website is down right now; because all her fleece is sold until April 2011.   The fleeces she's showing this month; are already sold, and will ship out as soon as the wool show is over. 
Her flocks ...well you can't see much of them because they're covered....all you see is their heads, lower legs and their behinds !  LOL !   She ALWAYS keeps them covered from the time they are 3 months old until they die...unless they are in the lambing barns.    A sheep/fleece I use to get....the sheep was a coat-"escape artist" !   She drove Jean and the LGDs  nuts !    She finally died of old age...   

Jean has dogs and Llamas living with the sheep because of wolves. 

Chelle--  Jean has alot of solid white sheep; but she is one that specializes in the natural colors.   That's what I like; because I don't like to use chemical dyes.   I have gotten into dying wool with plant dyes the last few years.  but mostly just use Gods' colors.

Jean has made arrangments for her flocks to stay together after she's gone.  The ranch will be sold and adjoined with a neighboring ranch.   She said ALL her books will stay with them; so the new owners will also have the contracts for the fleece buyers.   That means "we" will not lose track of our super nice woolies !   

Like I need any more....I have enough wool stockpiled now to last ME until I"M 196 years old !



 
Chelle Lewis
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Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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She sounds like a darling old lady. A true gem. What a privilege to know her. I am so glad her wonderful heritage will not be lost. I wish someone would interview her and record how she does things and post on the internet. I would be thrilled to even meet her that way!

You really know so much about spinning. I long to learn. The only place I heard of that could teach is miles away. Do you think someone can learn by themselves? Are there good and bad spinning wheels? They seem quite pricey. A lot to invest if I turn out not too good at it! Have you ever mixed angora rabbit and sheep wool to spin? Is such a mix wise?

I have jackal and leopard and snakes to protect my animals from when I get them. I think I will be locking up every night... that way I will be able to get some sleep because not concerned about them!

Enough wool until 196 years old! Well may you be a very strong 96 anyway.... 
 
                                    
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[quote author=Chelle  Do you think someone can learn by themselves? Are there good and bad spinning wheels? They seem quite pricey. A lot to invest if I turn out not too good at it! Have you ever mixed angora rabbit and sheep wool to spin? Is such a mix wise?

I have jackal and leopard and snakes to protect my animals from when I get them. I think I will be locking up every night... that way I will be able to get some sleep because not concerned about them!
[/quo  te]

I taught myself to spin simply by reading everything I could get my hands on and sifting thru everything I could find on the internet.  You don't HAVE to have a spinning wheel to start with.  You can start with a drop spindle and buy some wool already made into roving.  Drop spindles have been used for eons;...wayyyyyy before there ever were wheels...  ...  imagine a wooden toy wheel about 4 inches across; with a smooth dowel thru the middle of it...with a hook on one end, and a point on the other end ...and you have a drop spindle !

Angora fiber and sheep wool mix BEAUTIFULLY !!  In fact--I have a 2 pound silver mix of that ready to spin; Silver rabbit Angora/ light Silver Merino; that is calling to me; but I don't know what it wants to be yet.

Boy !--you REALLY have the predators !    I'd definitely  be locking them up...  I HATE snakes....I may not be politically correct but, other then an American Black snake; the "only good snake is a DEAD snake" !
 
Chelle Lewis
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Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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LOL. I also have a healthy respect for snakes. We have had a few come into the house over the years but nothing bad happened. I think the poor creatures were more frightened that we were. Mostly brown house snakes but twice a rinkhals... cobra head... spits into the eyes if you are not careful. They are usually pretty anxious to escape. The puff adder is the nasty one. Lies in pathways. Fat and lazy. Catches mice and small rodents this way. I nearly stood on one once when running up the path toward the house. God warned me in time and I stepped back. I just beat the earth with a branch and it moved off. I am going to have to make it completely snake proof for my rabbits in particular. They need high ventilation in our climate... but snake proof too. I will keep them well plucked to keep them coolest and have them in an enclosure that is basically mostly expanded metal windows with a roof. But put mesh or something over the windows to keep snakes out... still checking out different hardware to see what would work best. 

I must check out this drop spindle you talk of! I think I saw it once in a video about the Ladakh people. I love working with fibres... but to date only have worked with wool I have bought. I have some silkworms too that I want to use to spin into a silk canvass for painting. Could silk be added to sheep and Angora rabbit wool too do you think? Give it a special shine? What about Cashmere from the Boer goat? Have you ever used some of that in a mix? The Boer only produces a little cashmere so I would want to mix it with something.

If you ever start a thread about spinning please let me know.... you are wonderfully knowledgable.
 
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