Our introduction to sheep, while comical, was not particularly well thought out. In our defense, we only planned to raise them for a few months and then send them all to the butcher. It wasn’t until close to butcher time that it occurred to us that by the time we bought lambs each spring and paid for processing each fall, the lamb meat was rather expensive. So instead we kept the ewes, acquired a ram, and raised our own lambs each year.
The problem with those original sheep is that they are wool breeds, which requires that we get someone in to shear them. Shearing is not as oft-practiced a skill these days, as it once was, so finding a shearer is not easy and finding one close by even less so. And, since we have no interest in processing the wool, the by-product has no value to us.
Had we known we’d be doing this long-term and done our research, we’d have discovered that in addition to the traditional wool sheep, there are multiple breeds of “hair” sheep available. Hair sheep shed like a dog or a goat; in other words, they are the perfect solution for a small homestead.
After much deliberation on the various breeds of hair sheep, we settled on Royal Whites. This is a new breed, having been developed only about 25 years ago, by crossing two other breeds of hair sheep – St. Croix and White Dorper. The result is a sheep that is naturally polled (hornless), has hair that resembles a goat more than a sheep, grows into a decent sized butcher lamb, has good mothering ability, is naturally parasite resistant and needs little in the way of hoof care.
Settling on a breed is easy. Finding them not so much. Being a new breed there are still relatively few of them and I had to travel some distance to acquire them. But they are here now and we are thrilled with them so far. We have 4 ewes and a ram, which takes our total flock number to 10, as we still have 5 of our wool ewes. The Royal White ram will breed all 9 ewes but our plan is to send lambs out of the wool ewes to the butcher. Lambs out of the Royal White ewes can be butchered but, since Royal Whites are in high demand and I am the only person in our state who currently has them, they may be sold to local sheep farmers.