There is a new sound on the ranch, new voices echoing through the glen and filtering through the pines. It is the collective voice of a small flock of Shetland sheep, which has joined what we now refer to as our livestock “fold”!!! After three years of waiting and dreaming (quite literally of late!) it seems almost surreal to finally have our own flock! We are Shepherds!!!
Shetlands sheep are an ancient, hardy, thrifty, low maintenance, primitive breed. They hail from the Shetland Islands off the northern coast of Scotland; what is called a hill breed, they thrive on rough forage and browse, in extreme weather, and rocky hills; small size, friendly disposition, minimal intervention, multiple births, strong flocking instinct, protective/attentive mothers, parasite resistant, delicious mild meat, and the finest wool of all British breeds renowned for its soft silky feel. Shetlands don’t even need their tails docked!
Sheep in general are called “golden hooved” partly because their size minimizes impact on even wet ground. Shetlands are one of the smaller sheep breeds. According to ATTRA, it has been demonstrated that grazing sheep with cattle increases total meat production by as much as 24% than cattle alone, and more than 9% than solely sheep.
Along with our other resident ruminants, American Milking Devon cattle, the Shetland sheep will be grass-fed, no grain. We must include weeds too for they are terrific at weed control! This species appropriate diet for ruminants, as well as no chemicals/medications/antibiotics, will contribute to healthy meat and quality fleeces. We think they’ll be a perfect fit in our multi-species managed intensive grazing system.
Our beautiful flock represents a few of the 11 main Shetland colors. And let me tell you, their fleeces are glorious!!! The young ram named Hawthorn is dark brown; two ewe lambs named Honeysuckle and Poppy are fawn which is sort of a creamy color; the mature ewes- Taffy is brown with light tips, Lassy is black with grey tips, and Blossom (the eldest), is fawn with light grey underneath. It’s kind of neat too that Lassy and Honeysuckle have horns.
The three mature ewes are likely bred. Hawthorn may breed the younger ones this month; he’s been showing a lot of interest in Honeysuckle. We look forward with great anticipation to our first lambs in spring, as well as our very first crop of gorgeous wool!!!
Just in case you’re wondering… I don’t know how to spin yet, but will be learning. Yes, we will be offering wool for sale, just not sure in which forms (fleece, tanned pelts, yarn, or all of the above). You can be sure it will be stunningly beautiful!