Friday, February 20, 2015

Self-Shedding Sheep

This morning we visited a retired couple living on a beautiful property with river frontage and a few acres of rocky pasture. As many 'retired' people are, they are too busy to spend lots of time looking after animals so they destocked. Now after such a wet season the grass has grown, the weeds are back and something needs to be done.
"Self-shedding sheep are what you need", we said. "It so happens we have too many."
So our excess may meet their need.

Our sheep are mostly Wiltshire Horn sheep though some of these are Wiltipolls - meaning they are exactly the same but without the horns. They all shed but some of them have woolly backs - patches that don't shed. They still don't need shearing but they look a bit ragged.

Wiltshire Horns are an ancient breed developed over hundreds of years on the Wiltshire Downs in England - coincidentally where I spent five of my teenage years. They almost died out as a breed but were brought back by a dedicated group of breeders who formed an association in 1923.
Now they are pretty popular, especially with homesteaders who are more interested in meat and grass control than producing fibre. Cutting out the shearing and crutching for small numbers of sheep makes Wiltshire Horns an easier investment. Their numbers in Australia are growing fast, along with more recent self-shedding varieties such as Dorpers. Commercially the meat is marketed as 'milder' and that mutton from these sheep can often pass as lamb.

Wiltshire Horns are hardy, they birth well without assistance and apparently because they are not putting energy into wool production they grow fast. Of all the animals on Opportunity Farm they are the most numerous and the least trouble. If we can get their numbers down by passing some onto people like our friends we visited today then they are about the easiest and quietest method of producing meat we have.

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