Tuesday, January 31, 2012

future farm critters - part 3: sheepies

There's a lot to farm animals that kinda scares the crap outta me, like de-worming medications and susceptibility to parasites and poor mothering skills and finicky eating habits and hoof rot. I really don't want to get farm animals that I am ill-equipped to care for due to misinformation on my part, stupidity, fear, or just plain bad luck. One of my favorite blogs to read is Farmgirl Fare - I love Farmgirl Susan's blunt honesty about farm life coupled with charming photographs that were just enough to whet my appetite for a farm of our own - but the trials and tribulations that she has talked about in detail sometimes make me want to just become a vegetarian again and forget all about raising our own meat.

Fortunately, I'm lucky to have a partner in crime that shares my lust for all things related to self-sufficiency and is not a sissy like me when it comes to the not-so-fun stuff. When I first started backyard homesteading (if you can really call it that), I was determined to cut the head off my first home-grown chicken to prove to myself that I really could pursue such an existence on a grander scale. But I much prefer to have Jay do it because his aim is better than mine, and besides, I still do the plucking and gutting and carcass dressing and cooking and what not.

So I figure we should try to tip the odds of homesteading success in our favor by focusing on breeds that are relatively fool-proof and don't require a lot of input on our part. I previously reviewed the merits and applicability to our future homestead of Scottish Highland cattle and Ossabaw Island as well as Red Wattle hogs, and I've pretty much decided which breed of sheep would likely suit our situation best: St. Croix hair sheep.

I adore this scene and wish to replicate it in its entirety. Well, maybe not quite so many sheep. But definitely the LGD.
[ image courtesy Five Ponds Farm ]

They're not really anything special in the aesthetics department, just white, although the boys do get a pretty rad lion's mane type thing that can grow all the way to the ground. Hair sheep don't produce wool and are bred primarily for their meat whereas wool breeds sacrifice meat quality for wool quality. I could care less about wool. I might take up knitting again someday, but that's pretty low on the totem pole. And the idea of shearing a sheep with sharp shears and possibly severely injuring myself or the sheep because I'm too stubborn to hire someone to do it is not a pleasant thought. Besides, hair sheep look funny when shedding their coats without any need for intervention from myself, and I'm always down for some free entertainment.

St. Croix sheep originally hail from the Virgin Islands, and I'm all about bringing a lil tropical flair to our Appalachian mountain backdrop.

But the big kicker is that if well managed, St. Croix sheep generally don't require any de-worming medication, which apparently is expensive and a pain in the ass to administer, and I've said time and time again that I'm lazy and don't want to be wrangling a sheep just to shove some medicine down its throat that it shouldn't need in the first place.

We, like, forage and shit instead of demanding hay like picky other sheep breeds. We RULE.
[ image courtesy Lenox Ranch ]

But I've read that even the most parasite-resistant sheep breeds sometimes still need some de-worming, so I hope to take Farmgirl Susan's advice and try to stick to a hippie garlic/apple cider vinegar concoction that supposedly really works in addition to using diatomaceous earth (aka DE). The combination of extremely hardy sheep and natural remedies will hopefully prevent us from ever having to buy some de-worming medication that I cannot pronounce the name of. Take that worms!

Lenox Ranch in eastern Kentucky says that they raise their St. Croix sheep on pasture alone with no supplemental feed, even in winter. This is what sold me on these guys. I'm confident that we have enough pasture to support enough lambs to fill our freezer. According to St. Croix Hair Sheep Breeders, Inc., they also have a high lamb survival rate, are good mothers, don't have horns to get caught up in fencing, and provide delicious meat.

We're not trying to run a major farm operation here. Our goal is not to make money farming but to provide food for ourselves. If we have bumper garden crops and are successful in breeding our stock that, in turn, generates an income, all the better. Which is why I feel extra blessed that we can be choosy in our farm stock and pick the best breeds suited to our needs instead of focusing on profits.

Next farm critter: goats!

~ Mitsy


  1. I grew up with sheep and de-worming can be a pain so I like your choice! I also like the fact that the St. Croix are good foragers. My parents' polypay/suffolk crosses are a little picky when it comes to eating weeds.

  2. Yes, that, too! Our land is definitely in various stages of pasture health, so the ability to forage is very important. :)