We have two new members of the Bramblewood Acres farm family.
Baaa! I’ve wanted sheep for years, but never was able to find any I liked at a time when I had the space and resources to bring them home. These two are half-brothers: Katahdin/Jacob sheep. Henry (the white one) is 11 weeks old and Bailey is 9 weeks old. We started out with just Henry and discovered very quickly he was an unhappy lamb all alone. He cried all night and all day and didn’t want to eat or drink properly. So, back to the sheep farm we went to pick up a buddy for Henry and Henry is a much happier camper. I know sheep are herd animals and have a very, very strong flocking instinct, but I didn’t even think about our little lamb needing a buddy to be happy. Live and learn. I had sheep in high school as a 4-H project and remember really enjoying having them. I hope I enjoy it again!
I did my research before picking up my lambs. In fact, I’ve been off and on researching sheep breeds for awhile, narrowing down the breeds to match my needs. I figured out pretty quickly that I do NOT want wool sheep. I don’t want to deal with shearing and I don’t want to deal with the illnesses/infections/issues that arise with a wool sheep.
I want a good, sturdy, healthy meat sheep without wool that will grow well and do well on pasture with little to no feed concentrates. I don’t want to have to dock tails or be overly worried about fly strike (nasty maggot infestation where the little buggers burrow into the wool, the flesh and can kill the sheep if not caught in time), mites, lice or other pests that come alone with thick woolly coats. Hair sheep aren’t immune to fly strike or other infestations, but they are less likely to get it because they don’t have wool.
So, hair sheep fit the bill. But what breed? I like the way the Jacob sheep look and love their horns, but they are a smaller breed. I really like the Barbados Blackbelly, but, at $200 or more an animal, they are a bit out of my price range right now.
That left the Katahdin sheep, which seems to fit my needs perfectly. They are a larger sized sheep, with the rams growing as large as 160# and ewes up to 130#. Production rate for ewes is around 200%, meaning most ewes throw twins. They are not as colorful as I would like. I kind of like a lot of color in my critters, keeps the farm fun.
But why am I even considering this stuff when I bought lambs for eating? Well, because if this goes well and I enjoy sheep as much as I remember enjoying it, I’d like to start my own small flock for both personal use and for sale. I might even try a few sheep shows if we get serious about it and buy blooded, papered stock. We’ll see what happens.
For now, Henry is destined for our freezer. We’re not sure on Bailey yet. He’s a better built sheep. He’s stockier and broader through the body than Henry is, straighter legged and just closer to the breed ideal than Henry is. His temperament will be the deciding factor on whether he gets to hang around as our first ram or also head to freezer camp. I won’t have a mean, nasty ram around.
What I’d really, really like to try my hand at breeding are these:
Huge, handsome and very colorful, the Painted Desert Sheep!
The regal Mouflon sheep.
Unfortunately, both the Painted Desert sheep and the Mouflon require more land than I have and an incredible investment in fencing to keep them from roaming. Maybe, one day, when I move out west.