Sheep

Among the other crazy things I hope to do on our little farm, sheep are up there in the Top 5. Of course we’ll have a garden, and our laying hens, and Ladies Homestead Gatherings, but what our homestead really needs is livestock. And I think our first one will be sheep.

Sheep are beautiful. Sheep scream “FARM!” And sheep make WOOL and since I’m a knitter, it only seems logical that I would have sheep, right? No, I don’t have a spinning wheel, nor have I ever sheared a sheep or carded a fleece, but I am 100% confident that I could and so, I am determined.

Where to start?

One of the cornerstones of our farming philosophy is to choose animals that are considered “heritage” breeds; those bred by farmers before the drastic mono-culturization of our current food and fiber system. So the first thing I did was check the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy for their list of endangered breeds. The ALBC’s Mission is to :

{Ensure} the future of agriculture through the genetic conservation and promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.

Under sheep, they have the following breeds listed as Critical:
Florida Cracker
Gulf Coast or Gulf Coast Native 
Hog Island
Leicester Longwool
Romeldale/CVM
Santa Cruz

And the following listed as Threatened:
Black Welsh Mountain
Clun Forest
Cotswold
Dorset Horn
Jacob – American
Karakul – American
Navajo-Churro
St. Croix

Romeldale/CVM Sheep Mama and twins

Romeldale/CVM Mama & Twins

I read through the descriptions of the various breeds, focusing mainly on those on the Critical list. The folks at Colonial Williamsburg maintain a breeding flock of Leicester Longwool and the Hog Island is native to a small island off the coast of Virginia, so those two were considered finalists. But the winner, at this point in time, is the Romeldale/CVM. I am attracted to this breed because the animals come in a variety of colors, because the dams are said to be good mothers, and because “the breed’s fleece quality and performance characteristics…make them useful for many production systems and valuable to handspinners and other fiber artists.”

Ok, so I chose my starting breed. Now I have so many questions!

  • Will I have success selling the fleece?
  • Should I consider selling the lambs for meat?
  • How many animals should I start with?
  • What kind of fencing will I need?
  • Should I keep a ram?
  • What about Livestock Guardian Dogs {aka, LGDs}?

I have really enjoyed reading Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep which is a wonderful resource for new and experienced shepherds. But, even better; I was fortunate to come across Alison Waddel of Phoenix Farm Fiber in South Carolina through www.LocalHarvest.org. Alison has a profile on that website which directs people to her farm, plus she is able to sell roving and other fiber right there as well. To supplement what she sells through Local Harvest, Alison maintains an internet store on Etsy where she sells fiber from her Romeldale/CVM sheep and mohair goats as well as upcycled / recycled products, soaps, and other neat things. So naturally, I emailed her! I introduced myself and mentioned that I was interested in keeping Romeldale/CVM sheep and did she have any advice or suggestions. She responded quickly and thoroughly and for the past week has been answering innumerable questions from me. The ones listed above barely scratch the surface, but here are the answers I’ve come up with, with Alison’s professional guidance:

  • Yes
  • Yes
  • 4-6
  • 2×4 No Climb Fencing around the perimeter to contain dogs and baby lambs + our poultry netting surrounding the chickens within the sheep’s paddock.
  • Yes
  • Alison recommends Great Pyrenees. My plan is to have one {trained female???} LGD as soon as we get our sheep.

I am so grateful for making a long-distance shepherd friend already, and look forward to my opportunity to Pay it Forward very soon. Thanks, Alison!

** Internship Update – Unfortunately, the Howell Living History Farm has decided not to take any new interns this fall, so I will not be learning to drive a horse team in Lambertville, New Jersey. BUT, recently I came across a gentleman just 30 minutes or so from me who works his horses in the fall for wagon rides and parades and he has offered to teach he what he can. I spoke with Greg today and hope to spend some time with him and his pair of Belgians very, very soon. I’ll keep you posted!