This past week has been all about research. I want to start raising a small flock of sheep on our six acres of hay field, but I’m uncertain which breed will be the best for me, the climate and the location. I’ve thought about this so much, read so many pages of information and looked at so many breeds I’m seeing sheep in my dreams.
What constitutes the best?
First, I want a sheep that’s hardy to our climate, something that’s going to look at snow and think, Oh, more stuff to play in. I want a breed that when the temperatures drop, they don’t need an extra wool blanket or a heated barn. I also want them to be as self-sufficient as possible because I’ve never raised sheep before. What I mean by self-sufficient is that they are disease-resistant, birth naturally and are great mothers. If they need a hand, I don’t mind lending it, but the less intervention, the better.
I recall a story my mother told me about the flock of sheep her father raised in the small community of Lewin’s Cove (previously Loon’s Cove) on the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland. She had said that when my grandfather returned home after the First World War, he brought with him the knowledge gained by passing through and living in several European countries. When he decided to raise sheep, he didn’t settle for the popular local breed. He considered them low quality compared to what he had seen overseas. He imported a new breed from Europe, one not seen in that area of Newfoundland until then.
I often asked Mom what breed of sheep they raised, but she never remembered the name. It would be interesting to see if the breed my grandfather imported is still around, still grazing in Canada.
I’m a little like my grandfather in some ways; I don’t want to settle for the everyday sheep, one you see by the hundreds, cross-bred and/or bred for high production. I want a sheep with a long blood line, one that’s hardy, one that’s proven itself over the centuries to be strong and dependable.
The wonderful thing about old rare-breed sheep is that they’re naturally hardy, resist disease better than other breeds and tend to be great mothers. Sure they may take longer to grow, but I’m in no hurry.
Considering all this information, the two breeds of sheep I’m considering are the Scottish Blackface and the Border Cheviot. The blackface dates back to the Middle Ages in Scotland. It’s small with a long, thick coat. It’s extremely hardy. The cheviot originated from the Cheviot Hills in Scotland. They are small-framed sheep, also very hardy and survive under harsher conditions than most other breeds.
My research isn’t over, yet, so I haven’t decided on which breed to get. And the sheep I get depends on what’s available here in Nova Scotia.
It seems I’ll be counting sheep again in my sleep tonight.
A few interesting websites I stumbled upon regarding sheep: