After experimenting with different breeds of sheep, the ones I am choosing to raise are primitives, that is untouched or unimproved by man. Jacobs and Karakuls are the two breeds which The Fat Ewe will keep.
Two Est a Laine Merino ewes have been added. They are typically raised and not handled. Hopefully they will become more tame in time. And finally, the Cotswolds are coming! Last year I tried to get some of these remarkable sheep and there were none to be had. I was on a waiting list and this year Cotswold sheep will join the farm. Now to get busy and make a decent feeder that keeps the hay off the sheep...
Sheep are amazingly insulated against the elements, at least the cold and wind. Only in the severe storm we had with minus 40C and a huge windchill, did they go in to their shelter. The alpacas and goats, on the other hand, are more delicate and seek shelter from the cold and wind. The goats have large dog houses in which they can hide. Being pygmy goats, two or three huddle together and can be seen peaking out the door chewing away. The baby kids born in October are now weaned and away from Weezie. They cry still and she calls, but it is less frequent. Yesterday, I milked Weezie just a tiny bit to ease the pressure for her. She is not in very good condition, but is being treated. I bought some goat minerals in mollasses for the goaties, however, first they have to be separated from the sheep because the minerals contain copper which is deadly to sheep. The sheep have their own loose minerals. I even got Brianna piggy, who is so pregnant she can barely move, a salt block yesterday. Piggies love salt and need it as well as minerals. If they are pastured they get them from rooting, but winter is different.
The sheep waste so much hay. They eat the leaves and leave the stems. Once they tramp on hay, they do not eat it either. Next year I will erect a feeder so that less is wasted. The piggies will be cycled through the winter sheep pen in spring to rototill the hay into the ground a bit better and it will become the biggest, best pumpkin and squash patch. As a reward, the piggies can go back there in the fall and reap the harvest, or what is left just for them. Sheep are not much on pumpkin!
Fay, the little winter surprise lamb, is sure a feisty, strong little thing. I guess that is her Shetland/Karakul blood! It makes a splendid cross. Today is windy and snowy. I put in a large horse bucket on its side so the lamb could hide from the wind and still be out with Mom. The trouble is the wind came from the south and the opening was to the south, so she laid on the outside of it, still sheltered from the wind. Winter is a time for surviving. Winter is half over, yay!
Twin ewe lambs join the karakul ewes this week. They come from a small farm where they were hand raised and loved as much as I love them. The twins are half Friesen, a dairy breed, and half Suffolk, a general purpose breed with nice wool. So far, they are cute as buttons and let me pick them up and hug them. Lena, the white karakul with the pink nose, is still the stuff Christmas cards are made of and Dora and Olga, the black/brown karakuls are friendly and always looking for treats. Soon they will be sheared and the wool made into something neat.
When I was hunting around for the perfect critters to have on my farm, I came across Awassi sheep. They are the most common sheep in the Middle East and we do not have any in Canada. Too bad. The next best breed that I found was another breed from afar, the Karakuls. They are similar to camels in that they store nutrients for lean times in a pad of fat located in their tails, hence they are called a "fat tailed" breed. We have limited bloodlines in North America, some say only 6 lines or so, but that is fine when the flock is small enough. The rams for The Fat Ewe are from Missouri and should be on the farm in the summer of 2011, but the ewes are from Haslo Farms in the east of Canada and all stock is pure bred. Pure bred itself is a misnomer when the gene pool is so limited. Of course along the way, North American farmers have let the occasional other sheep into the flock. It had to be so. This is now reflective on the varying sizes of tails, the colours and even the sizes and appearance of the sheep themselves, which all vary greatly.
Originally Karakuls were sought after in North America for the pelts of the new born lambs.These tightly woven curls begin to unfurl at 3 days old, so the lambs were only born to die. In the 1950's, it was very sought after to have a Persian Lamb fur coat. If only people knew how the fur was obtained, I want to think it would not have been popular at all.
The karakuls are all purpose. They can be milked. Sheep milk is highly tolerated by almost everyone and if it served fresh and chilled, it is also delicious. Sheep cheese is a very fine delicacy in many parts of the world and Canada is no exception. The Fat Ewe (well, I am really talking about myself here) is going to try to make some wonderful sheep cheese one day. The karakuls have two types of coats: a coarse guard hair ideal for rough wear such as saddle blankets or carpets, plus any felted items. The Mongolians lay the wool on an old felt blanket to a deep thickness and then wrap it up around a log. The log is dragged behind a horse, continually rolling the felt, until it is set and ta da...a new felt blanket is made. They use the felts for everything from clothing to housing. The karakuls also often, but not always, have a fine undercoat, ideal for spinning soft garmets and lining slippers. The wool is sought after in the natural colours by spinners everywhere. Because the fat of the karakul is stored in its tail, the meat is very lean and tasty. I do not want to think about eating my wool producers though.
So far, we have 3 purebred ewes born in 2010. They can be bred this fall by one of the new USA rams being imported. Then those ewes and the daughters can be bred by ram number 2 and so on. It gets a little complicated keeping it all straight.
So, that is the story of my karakuls. Check out the link on the links page to the Karakul registry for their history. That is pretty fascinating too. Not baa baaaaad for some sheepies,eh?