Today Lee and I along with my sister Jessica went to the Black Sheep Gathering. The purpose of going was to scoop out different sheep breeds that we might be interested in once we get our fences up. Well it worked. We now have our sights on both the Shetland sheep and Navajo-Churro sheep breed.
Both are small breeds, with ewes weighing about 100 pounds or less. They are also old breeds, come in multiple colors, dual purpose, and have lower feeding requirements. Much like goats, these two breeds of sheep are browsers and will eat Blackberries, Poison Oak, and Scott’s Broom. However, for all their similarities there are some major differences. The Navajo breed was developed in the U.S. by native Americans from sheep they bought and borrowed from the Spaniards about 500 years ago. They do not need grain supplements even when lambing and generally produce twins. Their wool is coarse, low in oils, and good for rugs and blankets. If sheared twice a year it will grow to 6 inch lengths. Navajo-Churro sheep still have a strong wild instinct and are not very sociable with humans. Their meat is supposed to be quite mild flavored.
Shetland sheep were developed for the harsh climate of the Shetland Isles of Brittain. They come in 11 colors and over 30 different coat markings. Their wool is extremely soft and fine, considered to be one of the best wools after Merino. They are slightly less prolific than Navajo-Churro’s, and will benefit from a grain ration during lambing. They are extremely sociable and will follow you around and wag their tails if you pet them.
Obviously, the pattern here is that we are interested in sheep that are lower maintenance and that won’t demand a lot of purchased hay and grain. We’d like them to have useful wool, but also be good for dinner. Seems like both of these breeds would meet those requirements. We plan to do more reading and visit a few sheep farms before making any purchases. We don’t expect to have the fences done and the property ready for sheep until next year.