Baa Baa Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool? No Sir, No Sir! I shed to save you on feed and shearing costs.
The next generation of sheep geared to meat production, not wool, comes in a variety of colours that make shepherding a lot more fun. Each year there seems to be a new pattern theme, even from the same ram line.
The real positive of hair sheep as a meat breed is the absence of lanolin which prevents the meat (lamb) from becoming mutton (stronger tasting) that is the meat from older sheep.
Most Canadians did not grow up eating lamb (mutton) due to our fathers and grandfathers being given cold mutton while in the trenches in the First World War, leaving them very negative about eating lamb after returning to Canada.
The new market for lamb being meat and not wool, has opened a whole new set of options for shepherds. No crutching, no shearing, and one-third less feed that would have gone into wool growth.
There are several breeds of hair sheep and each have different traits. But all traits combine to make an easier-to-care-for sheep.
There are many sites on the Internet to study the different breeds of sheep and what will work best for any operation depends on how your management system is set up.
The real benefit of hair sheep breeds is that they can be added to a cattle operation with only minor adjustments. Adding two or three electric wires to the bottom of your existing barbwire or high-tensile cattle fencing will allow the addition of sheep to your present grazing rotation. It is a good idea to also add a guardian animal with the sheep.
Purchasing your sheep directly from the farm will help to ensure that you have quality ewe lambs to start your herd. Visit several operations prior to your purchase to familiarize yourself with as many aspects of shepherding as possible and to learn what to look for in a sheep.
Lorna and Pete Wall raise white dorper sheep and border collies in Poplarfield, Man.