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Taylor Cleveland
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Some of you all may have read my posts so you have an idea of what we're doing. My husband and I are starting a market farm. Next year we will be doing an acre of intensive market gardens and 1 hoop house/greenhouse/caterpillar (whatever we can afford by this fall). We will be selling via CSA, farmers markets, and restaurants. We are on 145 acres of rolling bluffs and pasture On the north tip of the ozarks. Probably 50% of our profit will be from veggies. 5-10% in eggs. The chickens will follow sheep/cattle on pasture

That leaves 40%ish in cattle and lamb. (These numbers are simply estimations)

Originally we were going to to American Blackbellys. The first reason is that they look awesome (I know we have to cross that reason off the list, but being honest that's partly how we made our decision) but they lamb at least twice a year, usually with twins,since they are smaller their easier on fences, amazing mothers, super hardy and really good foragers. This is simply what I have been told and read about. I think their adverse weight is 90lb, which isn't far off from the Katahdin of I'm not mistaken.

What do you all raise? Why did you choose that breed? in a perfect world this is what I would want.
-good mothering/birthing(is not needing to help)
-good foragers
-able to keep in mobile electric fencing
-lambing twice a year with many twins
-good parasite resistance
-larger weight per sheep
-able to be raised on pasture and hay alone

So in your experience, which breed meets most of our wish list?
 
Su Ba
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In my own experience, I keep crossbred hair sheep. My access to purebred replacements is difficult, but there are plenty of accessible crosses in my area. The most easily available purebreds are St Croix and Dorper, both of which are a 2 hour drive away and are pricey ($150 to $350 per animal). My crossbreed replacements can be had for $50 each and are within 5 to 15 minutes away.

As for flavor, I prefer the blackbellies. Hands down, they taste the best out of I've tasted here. As for carcass weight and muscling, it's the Dorpers. As for eye pleasing in the pasture, it's Dorper crosses. They come up with very prettily marked lambs. As for parasite resistance, it's St Croix. But each breed has its downsides. The pure blackbellies that I've had were pretty stupid, and got themselves into dire trouble. The Dorpers had really, really, really poor parasite resistance. Parasites are a major, major, major problem in the tropics. The St Croix sport heavy capes and form mats on their backs when shedding which drew flies and thus flystrike.

None lamb two a year. I can get 3 lamb crops over the course of 24 months if I pay attention to nutrition, care, and timing.
 
Travis Johnson
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The problem with livestock is that you get a new crop every year, and so everyone messes with it so they can get the ideal "sheep breed". Except for a few very rare heritage breeds like the Rominov, most are just crosses that someone developed in that quest over the years.

I think I have raised every breed there is practically; and other then Hampshire and Katadins, most were good mothers. I don't know any breeds that lamb twice in a year either. Even with accelerated lambing which means triple-crossing, or sheep that have been triple-crossed, you get 3 lamb crops in two years. Most breeds of sheep give twins however, are good mothers, provide good conversion weights on pasture (Suffolk being an exception), and are parasite resistant. The latter stems more from available grazing acres then true parasite resistance. (For instance my sheep have no issues with parasites, but then again they get 2 acres per sheep of grazing too...since they are not eating over the same ground, they don't pick up the parasites in the 21 day cycle).

Myself, I cannot afford hair sheep. I had Katadins, and still have a few in my flock, which had/have the problem above, but also a very small carcass size. I am getting rid of the last that I do have soon. To get the same pounds of lamb I would have to raise 3 Katadins to 2 woolies lambs, but that is only half the issue. The real issue is in their length. People want chops, and that come from a long back, and a big sheep. Hair sheep just don't have that, so while I might spend $6 on shearing per sheep, I am getting $40 more in lamb meat sales. Put another way, I make $34 additional dollars per sheep by paying $6 to have them sheared. And of course even with hair sheep a sheep farmer has to trim hooves, deworm, vaccinate and check the sheep individually, so why not do it on shearing day when you got them on their backs already?

My honest opinion...my honest experience has been...with as many breeds of sheep that I have tried; I always end up going back to the Corridale. It is a woolie, but they have worked the best for us all the way around. I am not biased towards them, or against any other breed, we just went back to them time and time again because they worked.

Now we are in the process of selling out on them...not because we don't like them, but because we want to go to accelerated lambing. That is NOT for the faint of heart and I recommend people get their feet wet before trying it. It works, but a farm really has to be on the ball to juggle so many balls in the air at once. For that reason we are now looking for the following, and in that order of preference.

Romanov
Finn
Dorset
Polypay

Ultimately our goal is to produce our own breed of sheep; a Romanov, crossed to a Corriedale then crossed to a Suffolk, but it will be years before we are at that point.

 
Taylor Cleveland
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Travis Johnson wrote:The problem with livestock is that you get a new crop every year, and so everyone messes with it so they can get the ideal "sheep breed". Except for a few very rare heritage breeds like the Rominov, most are just crosses that someone developed in that quest over the years.

I think I have raised every breed there is practically; and other then Hampshire and Katadins, most were good mothers. I don't know any breeds that lamb twice in a year either. Even with accelerated lambing which means triple-crossing, or sheep that have been triple-crossed, you get 3 lamb crops in two years. Most breeds of sheep give twins however, are good mothers, provide good conversion weights on pasture (Suffolk being an exception), and are parasite resistant. The latter stems more from available grazing acres then true parasite resistance. (For instance my sheep have no issues with parasites, but then again they get 2 acres per sheep of grazing too...since they are not eating over the same ground, they don't pick up the parasites in the 21 day cycle).

Myself, I cannot afford hair sheep. I had Katadins, and still have a few in my flock, which had/have the problem above, but also a very small carcass size. I am getting rid of the last that I do have soon. To get the same pounds of lamb I would have to raise 3 Katadins to 2 woolies lambs, but that is only half the issue. The real issue is in their length. People want chops, and that come from a long back, and a big sheep. Hair sheep just don't have that, so while I might spend $6 on shearing per sheep, I am getting $40 more in lamb meat sales. Put another way, I make $34 additional dollars per sheep by paying $6 to have them sheared. And of course even with hair sheep a sheep farmer has to trim hooves, deworm, vaccinate and check the sheep individually, so why not do it on shearing day when you got them on their backs already?

My honest opinion...my honest experience has been...with as many breeds of sheep that I have tried; I always end up going back to the Corridale. It is a woolie, but they have worked the best for us all the way around. I am not biased towards them, or against any other breed, we just went back to them time and time again because they worked.

Now we are in the process of selling out on them...not because we don't like them, but because we want to go to accelerated lambing. That is NOT for the faint of heart and I recommend people get their feet wet before trying it. It works, but a farm really has to be on the ball to juggle so many balls in the air at once. For that reason we are now looking for the following, and in that order of preference.

Romanov
Finn
Dorset
Polypay

Ultimately our goal is to produce our own breed of sheep; a Romanov, crossed to a Corriedale then crossed to a Suffolk, but it will be years before we are at that point.



That makes a lot of sense, I didn't know about the added size of the wollies. As for your Corriedale, what is the adverse live weight vs hanging weight? My husband is INLOVE with the icelandics. I've heard apoplectic have really good luck with them on pasture and selling Icelandic rugs. Reading more about them, their adverse hanging weight is 40lb. Is that low? I found a breeder that sells 3 ewes and 1 unrelated ram for $1,400. As far as breeding stock goes.. Is that really high?


 
Travis Johnson
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It is kind of high to me, but maybe for pure-bred, but if you are raising market lambs then that is not required. I don't like to pay more than $150/sheep or at the most $200.

Icelandic have a VERY small carcass size, kind of like the Finn or Katadin; too small for my liking. The Suffolk and Hampshire are big (I have both currently), bust dislike the Suffolk because they will eat you out of pasture and hay loft. Then come the end of winter it looks like you starved them...very grain dependent...no good! And Hampshire's...they suck when it comes to mothering, that is why we are getting rid of them too. I am tired of bottle feeding their lambs because they won't let them nurse. No good except if you are selling to 4H kids; they love the Hampshires.

A big sheep that I liked was the Montadale, also called the Western Sheep. Nice and big, a bit flighty, but good mothers with a chiseled face that caused the lambs to slide right on out, nothing like the Texels that get hung up on their front shoulders on the way out. Hampshires do too...big and blocky so it means pulling lots of lambs; not a big deal, just something to watch out for.

So far I like the Tunis too, though I only have one, a sheep my cattle dealer had so I bought her and have yet to see her lambs, but having more would tell me how they really are. Its hard to judge a breed of sheep by only one animal.

I had several Dorset's and I liked those too.

Probably my order of preference, if accelerated lambing was not required...would be:

Corriedale
Montadale
Dorset
Tunis (from what I am seeing thus far)

Keep in mind the Montadale and Tunis are meat sheep and thus have lackluster wool; 8 pound fleeces. The Corriedale and Dorset will net you $13 pound fleeces if you care about that.

 
Libbie Hawker
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We're planning to do grass-fed lamb when we move up to larger acreage, so this thread is amazing. So much good info from Travis! Thanks, Travis!!
 
Travis Johnson
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I was thinking of this last night and literally laughing as I was driving to pick up my daughter at school.

Our cattle dealer called up all excited and said he was at an auction where the breed of sheep were that we wanted to switch over too. So he asks, "how many do you want, all that you can get?" So I say yes, "just put them on your tab and we will square up sometime". "Oh your credit is good with me", he says and hangs up. So the day goes by and I am thinking about this and so I call him back mentioning a trade of the sheep I got now, a breed I don't really want. We talk about that, then off-handedly I ask, "so how many are at the auction?" "Oh 400", he says, "but I can only put 300 in my trailer."

As I pick myself up off the floor silently shaking my head at myself for NOT asking that question before, I mean I figured the way he said it that there was a surprise batch of 25-50 sheep or so of this breed, not 400! Now I am thinking about the 5 hay bales I have left to feed them, and who I am going to call to get feed trucked in until we can get thee sheep on pasture.

My wife continuously says we need to write a blog on the stuff that goes on here. You could not write in fiction half the stuff that naturally occurs...
 
Maureen Atsali
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Oh Travis, that's funny! 

We had hair sheep, because that's all that's here.  Although nobody distinguishes between breeds here, there are two distinct body types here:  one smaller and one much larger.  They all tended to be flighty and almost feral, but were otherwise easy to handle (much easier than the goats).  They had to be put in every night because of theives, but were otherwise hands off.  I did not assist in any lambing, trim hooves, etc.  We got rid of them when we moved into our own house because we don't have any outbuildings yet to shelter them at night.  We have much more bush than grass, so I think we are better suited to goats, but I wouldn't mind keeping a few again.  They are better grazers than the cow, and their meat is very nice, with more fat and flavor than the goats.
 
todd swirka
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my daughters senior project for FFA was developing a small farm sheep flock. she Crossed her St. Croix with the schools black faced Dorper and that's what we have been raising for 3 years. the Dorper really bulked up the body yet mostly still resemble the St. Croix. they all still shed is the spring but tend to look matted and need help pulling matts. they rarely get diagnosed with internal parasites and are excellent browsers of unimproved pasture.
 
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