American Blackbelly Sheep

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by HDRider, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. HDRider

    HDRider Well-Known Member

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    How many of you raise American Blackbelly Sheep? Can you talk about the breed and your markets?

    Did you consider Dorper or Katahdin? Do you run these (American Blackbelly Sheep, Dorper or Katahdin) breeds together for crosses?

    Can anyone discuss the pros and cons of these three hair breeds? Climate differences, personality differences, anything that can help a person understand all the differences of these breeds.

    What do you consider "The Meat Breed"?

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2012
  2. BarbadosSheep

    BarbadosSheep Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have Barbados Blackbelly sheep, which as you know are very similar to American Blackbelly. They are flighty but I love them. I have Katahdins too, but am selling them all and keeping just the blackbelly sheep. Katahdins are hardy....but BBs are much hardier. They almost never need to be dewormed, which is a huge plus is you are trying to raise livestock as naturally as possible. Our temps this past weekend were 109 and the BBs were out grazing for part of the day. The Kats were in the shade, panting. The BBs grow much slower but are also much easier on a pasture. They do not need supplemental feed either. But like I said....they are flighty. They are almost like wild animals. I got some as 3 month old lambs and was unable to gentle them. I can catch them in a stock panel round pen with a stock panel against the wall for a squeeze chute. They are in a 4' fence with hot wire on top and have never jumped out.
     

  3. HDRider

    HDRider Well-Known Member

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    Thanks...

    Can you discuss the difference between the American & the Barbados, other than the obvious one of horns? Population-wise, what is most numerous in the U.S.?
     
  4. BarbadosSheep

    BarbadosSheep Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Here's a good place to start. Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association Int'l. If you look at the breeder's page, there seems to be more folks breeding American Blackbelly sheep than Barbados Blackbelly. As far as actual numbers though...I have no clue.

    This link talks about the history of the American Blackbelly sheep. They are a cross between Barbados Blackbelly and Mouflon. They are grown primarly for their horns (really popular with trophy hunters) but are also good for meat. Breeds of Livestock - American Blackbelly Sheep
     
  5. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

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    The ABS is the newer name for what is the majority in the US.
    True BBS are rarer.
    Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association Int'l.

    The original BBS were imported and bred with larger stock in Texas to beef them up.
    Breeds of Livestock - Barbado Sheep

    Very prolific-->usually twins,some triplets. Very hardy. Heat tolerant. Leaner meat.
    Best way to gain their trust is to spend time with them. They love corn, oats, etc and it's best they learn to associate the caregivers bucket with yummies. Because if they are inclined they will sail over a 4 foot fence. Much easier to round them up and calling them in for a snack.
     
  6. BarbadosSheep

    BarbadosSheep Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Right....the American blackbelly registry is open, meaning if an animal looks like an american BB, then you can register it. The registry on Barbados Blackbelly is closed so the lambs can only be registered if the parents are. There are quite a few barbados bb breeders out west so we had a little trouble getting our breeding stock but it was worth it. They are really beautiful animals. When I need to move them from pasture to pasture, they more more like goats than sheep. The Katahdins would follow behind me but the Barbados BBs are in front, and I gently drive them. They know where they are going by now so it's pretty easy. I can't drive them too fast though or the scatter. They are easy to get into the catch pen with feed.
     
  7. HDRider

    HDRider Well-Known Member

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    That first site is what turned me from Barbados to American.
     
  8. ONG2

    ONG2 Well-Known Member

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    We had ABB for 4 years before we had to bottle feed a lamb. Have not had to assist on a birth either.
     
  9. celkins

    celkins Member

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    I am secretary of the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association Int'l (BBSAI) and co-founder of the Consortium of Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Breeders. In addition, I host an email group for over 350 blackbelly breeders. In 2004, there were 100 breeding Barbados Blackbelly in the U.S. We hadn't realized that the breed was critically endangered until we contacted everyone said said they raised "Barbados Blackbelly" and learned that their animals were horned crossbreds. There were a lot of people working hard to develop the cross (referred to as barbado, barbiedoll, Corsican, to name a few) and to build in repeatability and predictability in their flocks by conscientiously breeding to select for certain traits and culling out other traits. This requires working through several generations of animals and keeping good records. The BBSAI decided to create a separate breed standard for the horned animal to help these breeders differentiate their animals from the crossbreed. They named the new breed American Blackbelly. Soon after, they closed the Barbados Blackbelly registry to prevent any crossbred genetics from entering the common gene pool. The American Blackbelly remained an open registry.

    As of December 2011, the BBSAI estimates that there are 740 registered American Blackbelly sheep and 1120 registered Barbados Blackbelly sheep. We know that there are thousands of unregistered American Blackbelly in the U.S. but we don't know if they meet breed standard or breed true to type. Effective January 1, 2013, the BBSAI will close the American Blackbelly registry, meaning that to register either a Barbados Blackbelly or American Blackbelly sheep, the sire and dam of that sheep must have already been registered.

    The Barbados Blackbelly is still precarious until we increase the genetic diversity of the breed. At the moment, almost all animals in the U.S. can be traced back to a mere six bloodlines. We need more breeders to get involved and work toward the conservation of this breed.

    Although I have no data to support my observations, my sense from reading the posts in the email group is that the American Blackbelly is smaller than the Barbados Blackbelly. AB rams seem to top out around 120 lb (even with their horns) while BB rams reach 150 lb. I think the overall worm tolerance is decreasing in the AB, and I read more reports of diseases in ABs than in BBs. This may be because there are many more AB breeders in the email group than BB breeders and simply reflects a proportional response rate.

    Regarding the flightiness of both breeds, yes they are not huggy-kissy-in-your-face sheep like many wooled breeds are. If a breeder doesn't handle his sheep and simply brings them in from the back 40 once a year to pull the lambs, then those sheep and their offspring will always be wild. Sheep that are handled and bribed with treats generally will tame down. I say generally, because in my flock, I have two "gangs." The flighty gang and the mug-me-for-treats gang. They pass their attitude about humans onto their offspring, so I have no hope of ever taming the flighty gang. These are animals who've been with me for almost 12 years. But even the tame gang will bolt if I reach out to touch them.

    Most people decide which breed they want based on their attitude toward horns. Horns are beautiful and majestic. And they also can destroy fences and buildings. Rams of both breeds can be dangerous. Most BB breeders get into the breed because they want to be part of the conservation effort. There is a sense of doing something worthwhile when helping to preserve the extinction of a breed.

    Regardless of which breed one chooses, the meat is marvelous, the animals are easy to care for, and they are a lot easier on the pocketbook. It is much harder to find BB breeders than AB breeders, especially in the Western states. I would encourage anyone wanting to get started in either breed to locate a breeder who registers his sheep and can demonstrate (with records) at least three generations of quality breeding with no off-type traits, such as wooliness, horns where there shouldn't be, or stubs where there should be horns. If you have questions about either breed, you are welcome to send them to info@blackbellysheep.org and we will answer every one.

    You also can read more about the breeds on my personal Web site at Barbados Blackbelly hair sheep--most complete resource available on the Net. There are links on the site to join the email group, the BBSAI, and the Consortium, plus a FAQ that you will find helpful.

    Carol
     
  10. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    Is the genetics for poled hair sheep the same as it is for cattle (dominant)?
     
  11. PNP Katahdins

    PNP Katahdins sheep & antenna farming Supporter

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    Carol, nice to see you here. You have a very nice, active listserv.

    ArmyDoc, we have Katahdins. All our stock is naturally polled. Horns appear to be recessive in our breed, as well as in Dorpers and White Dorpers.

    I don't know about other breeds. There are some that emphasize trophy horns, like Painted Desert and related varieties.

    Peg
     
  12. HDRider

    HDRider Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the schoolin Carol.

    Considering what you said, should one not consider ABB as a commercial breed, still small numbers?
     
  13. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

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    Armydoc, the BBS no horns is dominant.

    Our flock originated from a sire that came from Barbados. The ram we bought got nubs then weak, odd shape horn. He was butchered. We bought a horned, ABS that originated from a VA flock and used him as our breeder for several years.

    Our goal was meat for the homestead, not horns. Eventually with ever worsening physical problems we wanted to halt all further breedings and let our oldest ewes just live out there lives.
    We thought this year we had achieved that no further breedings occurred. Just had 13-15 lambs born. After removing Billy(several years ago) our horned ram, the rest of the breedings were from his offspring. After 2-3 years the majority of rams were returning to polled. Every now and then we see horns.
     
  14. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    How much care do BBS/ABS need on a daily basis?

    I have land, and have cleared ~ 20 acres, and am working on getting pasture going. But at least initially there will be a lot of brush. I would rather use animal power to keep that down than the bush-hog, as the grass gets established.

    The problem is I live 45 minutes away. I can be, and usually am, out there every weekend. And I have a good friend who lives accross the street who could call me if needed. But I'm live in town and am a little nervous about having critters out there without being there all the time.

    I know I could put cattle out there and move them each week. But I was thinking goats might be better for keeping the brush down. Problem is I raised them as a kid, and ours were little escape artists! 'Course, we didn't have electric fencing back then, so maybe it would be ok.

    Do you think BBS/ABS would be ok in this type of situation?
     
  15. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

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    Dh waters daily. Feeds them a ration of coastal bermuda hay AM and PM. Our pastures are dry and not enough for them to eat. They have sheep mineral ad lib. Grains in the winter. Shelter. 5 ft fence pastures. Have never been wormed or immunized.

    They love weeds. Leaves from certain trees, fresh pine needles. Not sure about brush.
    Be aware, there are poisonous substances that could kill them.

    If they have shelter, water and a good food source and no predators they should be ok.
    Not an ideal situation because they will remain fearful of you with only weekend visits.
    With BBS/ABS I wouldn't recommend relying on an electric fence. First they need to be trained to it. Under the right circumstances they could jump it or bolt through it.

    You might want to consider a calmer breed.
     
  16. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Shepmom.

    I'm looking ~ 1-2 years down the road. By then hope to have pretty good growth in pasutures, mixed fescue vs bahia and crimson clover, but will likely have a lot of regrowth of shrubs and oak that were cut over. We have a mild winter and grass grows nearly year round. Can do hay in the short portion where it doesn't, but hoping to stock pile fescue for winter grazing. I have ~20 acres cleared, and was thinking of only 5-6 sheep to start off with. And running them on 5 acres at a time for a week, to allow for a 30 day rest between grazing, and adjusting as needed.

    They will have automatic waterers for each section.

    Was planning on 6-7 lines of HT smooth wire spaced ~8 inches apart, alternating hot and grounded wires. That would take me to ~4 1/2 feet. Could put another line to get to 5 ft pretty easily.

    I have also considered using 36 inch woven wire, with a barbed wire for the bottom, and with 2 lines of HT electric one hot the other grounded, on top, and a stand off HT hot wire at 24 inches. Woven wire is a lot (2 1/2 times) more expensive per foot, but if I only use 36 inches, and make the rest up with HT smooth wire I could probably swing it.

    Was hoping with treats and me moving them to better pastures each week they would be less fearful. Do you think St. Croix would be a better choice?

    Also, speaking of predators, I read an interesting article about running sheep with cattle. They exposing both to each other when young so they imprinted on each other, and they thought of each other as part of the "herd". (this was out west where predators were a major problem) When attacked, the sheep would move to the center, and the cows would protect them. I thought it was an interesting idea.

    What types of plants are harmful to them?
     
  17. shepmom

    shepmom Well-Known Member

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    Ahh, ok. They would do a good job on keeping re-growth trimmed back. If it's hard, stemmy they won't touch it.

    "Was planning on 6-7 lines of HT smooth wire spaced ~8 inches apart, alternating hot and grounded wires. That would take me to ~4 1/2 feet. Could put another line to get to 5 ft pretty easily."

    Sounds adequate for most sheep. Plan on having lambs? (pogo sticks in their legs) Would not use barb wire at all.
    If blackbellies are content(not frightened) you wouldn't need the electricity on just a barrier 4 foot or so. They are very alert and curious.

    My experience is only with the blackbelly hair sheep. You don't move them, lol. But you can get them to follow a bucket of grains.
    We have a mixed Australian Cattle dog now who has the ability to round ours up and put them all in the barn. He wants to do that with chickens, ducks,too. He use to try and herd us, as well.

    Poisonous Plant sources->
    Maryland Small Ruminant Page: poisonous plants and plant toxins

    Info on St Croix and other breeds
    Sheep 101: Sheep Breeds St-U
    St. Croix Hair Sheep Characteristics
     
  18. tonyb

    tonyb Well-Known Member

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    For what its worth, we have had terrific experience with electric netting. We use 10/42/12 for our Dexter cow and two Alpine wethers. Escapes have not been a problem at all. The perimeter fence is 7 strands of high-tensile. We tie into that to energize the electric netting.
     
  19. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    What spacing do you use on your perimeter fencing, and how tall is it?
    Do you energise all the strands, or just every other one?
     
  20. BarbadosSheep

    BarbadosSheep Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have to move my sheep around to different pasture about once evey 6 week. They know the drill, so it's pretty easy to move them. They don't follow along like the katahdins, they move ahead of me and I drive them very slowly. They go into what ever pasture has an open gate. Not too bad anymore, since they are used to it. I also can get them into a round pen if needed.