exotics...sheep that is...

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by betty modin, Nov 18, 2003.

  1. betty modin

    betty modin Well-Known Member

    May 15, 2002
    Western Oregon's Cascade Range
    I'm wanting to get a few (read 3-4) "rare" sheep for handspinning fleeces. I've been considering small breeds, since I'm a woman alone and have only 2 acres here-with not much real grass value at the moment but I'm working on that AND fences of course. I've read alot about Icelandics and Shetlands and recently about Babydoll sheep. I've seen and spun the fleece from the first two and love what I've experienced, but the Babydolls sound so much easier to handle in size that I'm considering a rather long trip in the spring to a farm or two in the state that raises them...they are very pricey! Has anyone here had experience with raising any of these or working with them...or their fleece?Iwantsomething 'tame' enough to be a hobby farm animal and realize that how an animal is raised is the key of course...but basic underlying temperment does still play a role. thanks, betty
  2. JerseyLightning

    JerseyLightning Well-Known Member

    Nov 17, 2003
    New Jersey
    Betty, a friend of mine is the director of a living history museum in NJ that has a flock of Babydolls. If you are looking for handspinning fleeces, be aware that their wool is SHORT! It is rather like trying to spin milkweed fluff. Before you take a long drive, you might want to get ahold of a few ounces of wool and see if you like spinning it.

    Tempermentally, these particular sheep are pretty tame, as they get alot of handling, plus seeing kids on school tours all the time.

    A possible caution (and again it may be this particular herd) -- they seem to produce a higher percentage of male offspring. They put 22 lambs on the ground in Spring of '02; all were ram lambs. This year, I think they had 3 females. Not much luck when they are looking for breeding ewes!

    Have you looked at Jacob's sheep? A little bigger than Shetlands, although not by much, good temperment, alot of horns to grab hold of when shearing, and great handspinning fleeces that sell readily. Might be another option for you!

    Kathleen in New Jersey

  3. Mystic Meadows

    Mystic Meadows Member

    Sep 4, 2003
    I raise Jacobs and Shetlands. Personally, from a spinners standpoint I prefer the Shetlands. They have an incredible diversity in color and a very long staple. Being a more "primitive breed, like the Jacobs, they tend to be very hardy, healthy, are good mothers and easy lambers...assuming proper care of course.

    Shetlands tend to have great personalities also. I have several that like to come right up to you for chin scratchings and attention. I have even taken some out in public for demonstrations, etc. and they have done great. Whatever breed you decide to go with if you get adults definitely ask the owner how much they've been worked with, are they halter broken, etc. I know many Shetland breeders who's sheep are very friendlt and socialized, while others are just plain wild. There is an online Shetland group at shetlands@yahoogroups.com

    If you are intersted in more about Shetlands or would like fleece samples feel free to PM me.

    Good luck in your search for your sheepies. :)

    Mystic Meadows
  4. H A F

    H A F Member

    Sep 27, 2003
    Hi Betty,

    I raise Jacobs, and Soays. Are you interested in breeding sheep, or just having a couple around for wool? If you just want the wool, you could go with having a small flock of wethers. Most of the wethers I have seen are very tame, and extremely easy to handle. Plus, if you aren't going to be breeding, you could have a mixed "spinners" flock.

    I would send you a sample of Jacob if you wanted.

    Good luck.
  5. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

    May 11, 2002
    Now in Virginia
    I raised Babydoll sheep in the past. While the ewes and wethers are gentle, most Rams are not.
    The ewes tend to have problems lambing, compaired to Brecknock Hill Cheviot, Soay, and Shetlands.
    The Babydoll fleece is short, but can be spun. It can be blended with long stapled fleece, to spin easier.

    For Jacob sheep,, also bred them for awhile, but could not find a Ram with my requirments. Their Fleece Varies very widely. Some have great medium fleece to spin with, but many have course fleece.
    They are very hardy sheep though. The horns can be an advantage or disadvantage. If they are the only animals in the pasture, it would be fine. But if you run other livestock, "sometimes" the other animals can be hurt by their horns, even by aaccident.

    I have never raised Shetlands, but I have heard mostly good things about them.

    Best thing to do, is lots of Research.
    If you would like to talk to lots of breeders about Babydoll sheep, Please check out..


    Or for miniature Cheviot sheep

    I have also had Black Welsh Mountain, and Soay. Soay fleece is also short, and quality of fleece will Vary with the lines.

    Hands down, from my personal tastes, and I tend to be veryyy picky. The Brecknock Hill Cheviot, was the best all around sheep. They are small, have great fleece for handspinning, are hardy, easy to handle, and halter train. The great majority of Rams meet my requirements and are gentle.
  6. Polly in NNY

    Polly in NNY Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    I raise Jacobs, have now for about 7 years. I selected for high quality handspinning fleeces so that is mostly what I get with my sheep.
    On wethers, I agree that they have good temperments and if all you wanted was the fleece, you could get started with a small flock of wethers relatively inexpensively. Especially if you lived near me :), I would much rather sell my boys for their fleece as opposed for meat.
    On running with other livestock, I have raised a Longhorn calf with my sheep, she was born in a horrid snowstorm, her mother got down on the ice and couldn't take care of her so I bottled her. She went in the sheep pen and now as a two year old that is still where she prefers to be. Neither the sheep or the heifer every got hurt because of the horns of the other. Jacob horns aren't sharp, it would take a tremendous amount of force for them to puncture skin.
    The color variation with Jacobs is not as great as it is with other breeds. You will get black, white, gray, lilac, and a chocolate color.
  7. [/QUOTE]I've been considering small breeds, since I'm a woman alone and have only 2 acres here-with not much real grass value at the moment but I'm working on that AND fences of course. Iwantsomething 'tame' enough to be a hobby farm animal and realize that how an animal is raised is the key of course...but basic underlying temperment does still play a role. thanks, betty[/QUOTE]

    Betty I don't own any sheep yet, but have you looked into the minature varieties? Thats what I'm looking at currently ...So far I've seen miniature leicesters, cheviots and icelandic...I'm not sure about Shetlands. From what i'm hearing the wool is great for a spinners flock...just thought i'd lend my 2 shekels ;)
  8. brosil

    brosil Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 15, 2003
    I'm a Shetland raiser and spinner. I've got about 30 right now and have very little trouble maintaining them. Personally, if you just want a couple for wool and don't have any male sheep around, I'd go with ewes.
    Most of my youngsters get sold to middle easterners for meat. They are delicious. As far as wool goes, the only complaint I've heard from others is that the first fleece off the sheep is too fine. I don't agree.