I've heard about tiny sheep in Napa that are able to graze in the vineyards, but can't reach the grapes. I would like something along these lines for wool and manure. I am trying to have fruittrees and vines everywhere so a small breed that cannot reach the fruit would be preffered. Any suggestions?
I've looked into this for fruit trees, but don't have any practical experience so far. Three breeds that seem suitable for the job are:
2. Soay, and
3. Olde English Babydoll Southdown
The Babydoll sheep are quite expensive right now since they have a cute name and are being bought up to keep as pets. The Soay sheep are supposed to be ridiculously hardy as they come from an island of feral sheep, but they are somewhat uncommon since they were only brought to the states a couple decades ago.
Shetlands are easier to get and relatively inexpensive, so my plan is to try growing a pair in the orchard for a season as a learning experience.
Great info. Thanks for the reply. Do you know if any of these breeds are good for wool? I rarely eat meat or milk so I'm thinking of wethers primarily. Anyway just looking for small breed advice. Thanks again.
Sorry, I don't know which of those sheep has good quality wool. My thinking was that small sheep produce small fleeces, and since my orcahrd flock would be small, it would not be worth the trouble collect and process the wool. That's actually one of the reasons Soay sheep were interesting. They (and to a lesser degree Shetlands) will naturally molt their wool so you do not have to sheer them if you don't want to.
Well-bred Shetland sheep have excellent quality wool, though their fleeces are light. They are nice for handspinning, and not nearly as hard to shear as some of the larger breeds with heavy, greasy fleeces. They also come in many natural colors, which is nice for making patterns in your knitting without having to dye the yarn. They are small, and the cuts of meat from them are also small, but the flavor is pretty good compared to breeds with greasier fleeces (the amount of lanolin in the fleeces seems to correlate with the muttony flavor of the meat -- the less grease, normally the better the flavor of the meat). They do tend to be escape artists and are very good fence-jumpers when they want to be (some people we used to know kept reg. Shetlands and reg. Merinos -- every spring during lambing they would have to sort out the cross-bred babies born to Merino ewes -- the Shetland rams could jump out of their pasture, breed the Merino ewes, and put themselves back into their own pasture!).
With both the Soays and the Shetlands you will still need to protect your trees (I don't know anything about the other breed you mention). Soays are very flighty and difficult to tame and the fleeces are pretty awful. Shetlands can have lovely fleeces but it depends on the bloodline. The advantages of Shetlands is if you don't know how to shear you can roo them.
The only breed I know of that is likely to leave trees alone is the Shropshire Down but I don't know if you can get them where you are.
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