• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Shetland Breeds and Island Ecosytems

 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't really know where to file this thread because it's more about speciation than one particular breed. Speciation is basically just genetic drift caused by isolation or human intervention (breeding). Island ecosystems are particularly noted for their speciation as well as trend in which large mammals tend to shrink (such as the now extinct pigmi elephant) while the small mammals tend to grow. This certainly holds true of many of the Shetland breeds as well as other breeds originating on the Isles of Scotland - These breeds seem to be hardy domestic breeds with long co-adaptation with humans in less than optimal environments. Here are a few sheep and cattle varieties.

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shetland_%28cattle%29&redirect=no

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_sheep

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soay_sheep

Who wouldn't want a mini-cow or two? For those working with smaller land parcels, such as my self, small hearty breeds which specialize on being able to broadly forage seems ideal. Does anyone have experience with any of these breeds?
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And, from the Isle of Eire

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexter_cattle
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
These sheep from the Orkneys survive and thrive off seaweed several months of the year. I want some!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Ronaldsay_sheep


Really!
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ewe Tube!



I'm defiantly starting to like the look of these lambs.

Some thoughts on paddock shift. I'd kinda like to try out some of these dense stocking methods myself and observe the results. I was thinking of using something like These 16'x34" 'Hog Panel' Where the bottom wielded wire is tighter than the top, with a mind that though slightly more costly, it will also hold a full grown goose in a way 'max 50' cattle panel most defiantly won't. Or the 'combination panel'?

http://stockyardsupply.com/index.php/fencing/welded-wire-livestock-hog-panels/

I think I would need 8 full panels to do it right and six 6' t-posts to do it. Basically a square 8 each day. I would cut Two of the panels in half with a hack saw or grinder to get 2x8 foot sections. The '8' would be two 16x8 paddocks, halfway through the day the 'mid-gate' would be removed give the sheep access to an 8x32 foot area (half ungrazed) for the rest of the day. The following morning the gate would be put up behind them. The now empty top square put down and a new empty "8" put up for them to enjoy. Rest grazed land as long as possible. At least 45 days. I think the math works on that. 8x32/66x660m, I mean it's not a full acre of grass there's trees and beds and stuff. But that's why I'm going with the 8x16 so I can wiggle around some if I need.

That sounds like 45 minutes of work a day. Everyday to be sure. Could someone with experience chime in particularly on stocking density? I was thinking about 5 ish small breed sheep for that from the hip. I feel like I have good pasture. Lots of variety. Several grass types, speedwell veronica, vetch, clover, plantain, buttercup (meh), dandelion, nettle, lots and lots of stuff. Plenty for sheep to eat.

Thoughts?
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I also have some crappy large (LARGE) mesh electronet which would be worthless for anything BUT sheep. I mention this because I'd probably have to let the little buggers run around one or twice a week for a few hours for me to feel good about eating them later. Shuffling around in a tight grid for ones entire life would be kinda tragic. Especially if your going to die young anyway.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Also for shelter I had thought sturdy tarp doubled over on itself and stretched tight and tied with those bungie loop thingies could work well. Biggest risk of predation here would come from my own dog and he's usually pretty good.
 
Maureen Finn
Posts: 1
Location: Western Washington
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a small flock Shetland sheep for wool, and occasionally meat. With these and other small breed sheep it will take at least a year, maybe two, to get a decent sized carcass off of these little buggers, so it's a slow way to get meat (and a lot of work, from what you describe). My Shetland lambs are 8 months old now and still probably not more than 50 pounds, most of that in the gut (rumen!). If you're looking to raise meat, you might be better off with rabbits. I have a wether that will be two this April who's finally getting a decent size for the freezer.

The sheep will love the grasses and weeds (my Shetlands LOVE buttercup - it no longer resides in my pasture and when I moved in here it was taking over), and they love browse - blackberry, salmonberry, etc.- but they will. not. touch. the nettle. I've had some goat people tell me their animals will eat them, but then others confirm even goats won't touch nettle. I don't know if it's the sting or the flavor (my sheep will munch on Devil's club, so my guess is the flavor). They will decimate most vegetables (won't eat squash plant leaves, but will eat the fruit), many herbs (love comfrey and horseradish), and many ornamental/landscape plants (fruit tree leaves/low branches, including the bark), so if they get loose, or you let them out to graze the lawn, etc., you have to be sure they can't get to anything you want. Basically anything a deer will eat, a sheep will eat, in spades.

Soays are small and very wild; the horns make good handles, though I'm not a fan of horns in general (Shetland ewes are polled/hornless and only intact rams are fully horned), they're really convenient on a wild breed like this. With just a few of them they would perhaps tame a bit - I don't have any experience with them personally. My Shetland sheep run the gamut of doglike friendliness to nearly feral (but even those two will come running when you shake the grain bucket) - you just have to know how to move them, how much pressure they can take. Mine are pretty good with dogs - most of my adult ewes will turn around and butt at my Rottweiler when she comes in to "herd" them (they're not a flocking breed, so not easy for dogs to herd), despite the fact that she's larger than all but 3 or 4 of them.

With Soays you might be able to get away with the electronet; in general it can be tricky, as the wool insulates against direct zaps. They are usually respectful of barriers, but when sufficiently frightened will go right through a fence (or try, depending on the fence - I use woven wire and have been glad it's secure more than once). The fence should be at least 40" tall; they're not climbers like goats, but can jump high with enough incentive. Check out some local shepherds/farms, or go to area fairs to see the breeds you're interested in and talk with the shepherds. Above all, make it easy on yourself, especially with 6 months of rain and mud (which seems like it will never end).
 
I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Lumberjack ad:
Got Permaculture games? Yes! 66 cards, infinite possibilities::
www.FoodForestCardGame
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic