Choosing the Leicester Longool Sheep
We knew we wanted sheep, but weren't sure what breed. The internet has provided us with a wealth of information. I first went to the Oklahoma State University Web site. They have an animal science department with a wonderful catalog of livestock breeds. You can check out the sheep breeds here: http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/
We narrowed it down to four breeds and started calling breeders, asking questions and visiting sheep shows. We met our breeders at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and were pleased with their knowledge of the breed and confidence in their stock. We chose the Leicester Longwools. There is more information about the breed and the breeder's association on the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association here: http://www.leicesterlongwool.org/
I have to say that we will be entering our 5th year of shepherding. We still have all of our original flock and we are still thrilled with our choice of the Leicester Longwool. Our sheep are strong and hearty and very sweet natured. They are easy to work with and gentle to work among. It is equally as nice to be part of the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association. We have meetings twice per year and get a mix of breeders from farms that are totally involved in sheep – sometimes more than one breed, historical farms that raise a mix of heritage animals, small fiber flocks and gentleman's farms like ours.
There are a lot of Web sites, books and other sources of information available. We have a pretty good Agricultural Extension (Virginia Tech) locally and I have been able to get information on pasture management and parasite management. A book that is very readable Living with sheep: everything you need to know to raise your own flock by Chuck Wooster. Online I like: http://www.sheep101.info/
In the late fall of 2011 I took a lot of photos of our breed stock so you can see the sheep in full fleece and then also sheared. I wanted my readers to be able to see the contrast between the two and beauty and features of the animal and it's fleece. I put together a slide show that you can look at on the flicker link below. Please be sure to click on the show info link on the upper right to read my captions:http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowhousefarm/sets/72157628904162275/show/
When you open the slide show, glide your mouse across the top of the black window and you will get an option on the right to show info. Click on this and you will see some notes that I have offered to accompany the photos.
Ray Ray wanted to be the head honcho, but is really a gentle guy and is calm and patient. He knows that he will be rewarded for good behavior. Ray's fleece is pearly white and he has a beautiful ramy face. They do well together and often rest together under the cedar tree in the pasture. Our ewes are Ellie (natural colored), Molly (white) and Hannah (white). Ellie is svelt, spirited and elegant. She has an inquisitive nature. Ellie's fleece is very much like Bucko's –a little more black with some silver undercoat on the saddle. Ellie is an excellent and protective mother; their first lamb in 2009 was a fine-looking, confidant ram. Last year and this year Ellie delivered twin ewe lambs each time. Molly is the calmest and most affectionate of our girls. You can see the friendly warmth on her face. She has a pearly white fleece and keeps a very nice crimp. Molly is an excellent mother, twinning every birth thus far, even her first! This year(and last) we bred Molly with Bucko in order to offer a black factor white lamb and offer another breeding opportunity to our buyers. Hannah is our stubborn but reliable girl. No disrespect, Hannah always comes through in a pinch. She is slightly shy, and likes to be in the background –definitely always on the alert for a treat. For her first two seasons, she has had a single ewe lamb each time and her third season she delivered a beautiful ram lamb. This year Hannah had her first set of twins – ewe lambs.
We have suffered our first farm loss. Bucko sustained a grave back injury last winter just before breeding and wasn't able to recover from it. We treated and nursed him for 2 months and he continuously declined. We very sadly had him euthanized and buried him in the pasture. I won't take his photos down yet. We are considering what we will do next as our small farm moves into new breediing considerations.