North Country Cheviot pros and cons

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by Starlighthill, Sep 26, 2006.

  1. Starlighthill

    Starlighthill Northern Michigan

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    The area I live in (N MI) is hilly, has poor soil and long, snowy winters. I'd like to hear your experiences with this breed. I'd like specific info on:

    meat flavor (strong vs mild) when raised on forage and alfalfa/grass hay with little grain.
    wool quality, quantity and what it is most suited for/
    parasite resistance.

    Please feel free to pass along any additional info on temperment etc.

    Starlighthill
     
  2. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    I've noticed no one has answered you..... I had Border Cheviots for nearly 15 years - they are similar to the NCC, so I will try to help you.

    We sold our Cheviot meat at a Farmers market - all grassfed lambs. They always had nice white fat (not yellow like some people claim grassfed will be) and our customers were very happy with the flavor. Most described it as very tender,sweet and mild meat, without that wooly taste some lamb has.

    We have very hilly ground, some of it brushy. The Cheviots are very active sheep, and seemed to enjoy the hills. They are good brush eaters, and eat most all weeds, even thistles and ironweed. I should think they would thrive in your area.

    We never grained our Cheviots - using grass to flush them in the fall, and lambing late enough in the spring that they were eating lush pasture by the time lambs were born and they were lactating. They did very well under this system. We did use a rotational system of grazing to make sure the grass was good quality, and not rank and overgrown. We grazed ours all year long. They would seldom seek shelter in the barns. Of course, SW Ohio has less severe winters than yours, but ours may be wetter, which is actually harder than cold and dry.

    Cheviots are very independent. They don't have a strong flocking instinct, and spread out to graze. They don't like being handled. They prefer to be left alone to lamb, and seldom need help lambing; nor do the lambs need help getting up and nursing. They will learn to trust you as their shepherd, but are wary of strangers. Ours took a long time to accept the guard dog as part of the flock. They are intelligent sheep, but not at all docile.

    They have very good feet, seldom needing trimmed or having disease problems. They are very hardy in general. I'd say they have average parasite resistance.

    Their wool is very white, with little grease, so its easy to wash. It has a wide range of degree of fineness, and some fleeces will contain kemp. In general, they are a medium grade that is very springy and tends to have a fairly harsh handle, being more suitable for blankets and socks and outerwear. Its not highly sought after by handspinners, but there is a market for it at lower prices. The wool makes great quilt or pillow batting, since it does not mat. It does not felt well.

    We bred our Cheviots to Bluefaced Leicester rams to produce Cheviot mules. They have the hardiness and ease of care of the Cheviot, with the added prolificacy, growth rate, gentle temperament,flocking ability, and improved wool quality from the BFL rams.

    Lisa at Somerhill
    www.somerhillfarm.com
     

  3. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

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    I raised their smaller counter parts for a number of years and loved them!
    They are all what the NC is with the hardiness and all that. However their fleece is a bit more fine, no kemp at all in my lines and they were a lot more friendly than the NC or some of the Borders Cheviots.
    However the Brecknock Hill Cheviots are a lot harder to find than either the NC or Border.

    If you have the right set up, think any of the Cheviot sizes would do well.
    Also agree with the crosses. They make some really nice mules.

    Meat flavor, I did not eat too many but what I did have at the start had a good flavor and tasted inbetween mild and strong with no wool over tones.

    BHC fleece wool is wonderful for Handspinning, as it has a nice spring and luster to it. Has a distinctive helical crimp, which gives it that highly desireable resilience, the spinning count runs from the 48`s to 58`s. Both beginners and experts find this wool very easy to spin. Blends very well with Llama or such to make a softer fleece that still has a strength and good handle to it.
    I sold my well skirted fleece for $8.00lb. After winning at the Fiber shows I had a lot of buyers and return buyers. Could of charged more but I did not want too.
    You would have to be willing to show and market your fleece to get the same results.

    They are Very resistant to fly strike, worms and foot rot.
    But like any animal, they will still need care.
     
  4. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    Bergere, are you saying they have a purled (or springlike) crimp rather than the "Z" crimp or wave that most other breeds have? That is cool! BFLs (Bluefaced Leicesters) also have purled wool. The BHC seems to have a much different wool than the Border Cheviots do in general. We did have some nice, softer fleeces with a distinctive crimp, and even lock formation with some lustre. We also had lots that had coarse, mushy, indistinct crimp. Of course, the BC has not been selected for handspinning type fleece - being primarily a meat breed. Its interesting that the BHC has a higher quality fleece - I would assume this is by design?

    Lisa at Somerhill
    www.somerhillfarm.com
     
  5. Somerhill

    Somerhill Well-Known Member

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    I forgot to mention - the Border Cheviots were great at digging through the snow to find food. We'd stockpile our pastures so there was heavy fescue with lots of clover sheltered under it. Fescue becomes very palatable to the sheep after a hard frost or two. It retains its nutrition for a long time during the winter, especially if it has some snow cover to insulate it from freezing and thawing. OSU tests show it remains higher in protein and in digestability than most local hay until late in the winter - even as long as into February.

    Anyway, as long as the snow was 6 inches or less without a thick crust on it, they would much rather dig through the snow and graze than come to the hay feeders. After a heavy snow, they'd come down off the hills and eat hay for a couple days, but as soon as it started to melt off, away they went to graze again. Like I say - tough, independent little sheep. :)

    Lisa at Somerhill
    www.somerhillfarm.com
     
  6. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

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    Yes, they have a purled crimp. Stuff is lovely! Not as soft as a BFL's but not as course as the Border or NC.
    Again yes, I and a couple of other breeders really focused on the quality of the wool the BHC produced. Along with the temperaments. Autumn house (haus) my line and Frosty Creek, I think had the best lines for fleece quality.
    There was one other farm but can't for the life of me remember the name.
    Since they were much smaller than their larger counter parts, most people did not use them for meat.
    When I showed their fleece the Judges (really tough ones too) could not believe the quality if my BHC fleece.
     
  7. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I had NCC's. Big sheep requiring little care which is as well because most were very difficult to handle. Excellent feet, I doubt we had 2 that ever got foot rot while others around them did. Wool was coarse and hairy, it's a carpet wool or would make a lofty batting for quilts or pillows. Too many singles for my liking but they grow like wildfire and do it on very little feeds. Great range sheep. If I stop now that'll be the nicest I've ever written about them but if you only remember one thing, remember they are difficult to handle. It is an understatement.
     
  8. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Forgot meat flavour, mild, very lean, superior to many better wool breeds. NCC's are good sheep, but .............. I no longer have any ........ and unless I get 2000 acres in Manitoba (which ain't happening) I never will again.
     
  9. Looking4ewes

    Looking4ewes Well-Known Member

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    I LOVE NCCs! Easy keepers, good mothers, many twins and triplets in our bunch, and easy to handle with a well-trained dog. Much prefered over hair breeds, IMO, though I can live with Katahdins.

    Ross, I would like to hear more of your experiences with your "difficult to handle" flock. Perhaps the flock I work with is overly dogged and atypical.
     
  10. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    We had approximately 40 NCC and X breds which varied little from the PB's. The were simply unruley evasive and even hazardous to work with. When you finnally caught one they would struggle like the devil to get away and they can run! We had one ewe get away from the shearer and dive through a window! We tried milking NCC;s and a few would just tolerate a machine but most simple leapt 6 feet straight up and came down kicking. The lambs could be born into a snow bank jump to thier feet sling off the goo, instinctively hate you and run. We did have a very few sweeties and all were great mums. Bad genetics? We had rams sourced from three very seperate farms and the xbreds had Arcott mums Dorset and suffolks. It made little difference. If you spin thier actions positively they're tough independant sheep that are preditor resistant with a strong imune system. I've simply had my lifetime's fill of sheep that require big muscle to fit a small farm manament system. It's a common enough reputation that I describe for NCC's around here and in other places that I have heard. A small closely kept flock might be different, and on an open range thier temperment could be a serious asset. Glad your's are sweet,
     
  11. Starlighthill

    Starlighthill Northern Michigan

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    Thanks for all the replies and discussion.
    I have 1 purebred NCC ewe, her Suffolk x half sister, the crossbred ewe's triplet daughters (again crossed with Suffolk) and what appears to be a purebred Suffolk ewe. I started out with the triplets and the Suffolk as lambs and later the farmer I bought them from gave me the NCC and her sister. My ram is a 3/4 Merino and 1/4 Corriedale. I'm wondering where I'm going with all this:) I'm considering getting a NCC ram next spring and building in that direction.
    Information online about NCC is pretty sketchy and what I read led me to believe that the fleece was sought after by handspinners. Glad I asked here since I won't have first hand experience til spring when the NCC is shorn. The wool from the triplets and Suffolk is fine for mittens and socks especially since I'm thrumming them with the ram's roving.
    What is stockpiling a pasture? Sounds interesting, whatever it is:)
    Diane
    Starlighthill
     
  12. Looking4ewes

    Looking4ewes Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing, Ross. Wow, with your experiences, I can understand where you're coming from.