Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sheepy Sheepy

So as some you you may know is that I have several hobbies. One of which is homesteading. (I don't know if that is actually considered a hobby though) Just recently we added 4 lambs to our menagerie to chickens, ducks, and geese. I have two hertiage breeds of sheep, Iclandics and Shetlands, two of each breed. Since raising sheep is a traditional medieval occupation, I may occasionally post some updates here.

Icelandics 10 and 8 weeks old

To start with even though I have only had the sheep a few weeks I have definitely noticed that each breed has different habits and traits. Granted this may be because of where they came from, (such as the salt lick vs loose minerals) their ages, and habits picked up from their ewes, or just the individuals personalities. My older lambs are the Icelandics; 13 and 11 weeks old a ram and a ewe, while the Shetlands are 10 and 9 weeks old, both rams.

Shetlands 10 and 9 weeks old

Both breeds are considered primative breeds, and so they have retained many characteristics of wild sheep. They have a varetiy of colors, and their wool quality, length, and softness are not uniform. Both breeds can have dual coats of wool, and easily twin. They are both hardy, and do not do well on grain. Horns are not sex linked, so females can have horns also. They also have naturally short tails. Although the Shetlands I have do not have the dual coats, and thier genetics seem to have single births. My Icelandics both come from twining blood lines, and are polled (no horns).

Icelandics - Prefer the rougher forage and leaves, taller grasses and absolutely adore garden weeds. They  tend to eat in the center of the pen.  They have a on and off again grazing habit. Often laying down to chew cud in the shade, also gives them more time to get into trouble. They love loose sheep mineral, and basically ignore the salt lick. They also drink a lot of water.

Shetlands - Prefer the short tender grasses, could care less about garden weeds, and have a tendency to graze along the fence and trees. They graze constantly, with very little breaks. They prefer the salt lick, and drink a lot less water (most likely because they are eating the more tender grasses and weight a lot less).

Neither breed eats the mint in the pen.

Icelandics - They are a bit independent, and don't have to be right next to each other, as long as they can see each other they are okay. They don't really view other animals as part of their flock, but follow me around everywhere, unless I am trying to get them to go somewhere, then they go anywhere but where I want them (the ram is usually the culprit). They also love to roam.

Shetlands - Like to flock!! They can not be separated by more than five feet without one baaing like it's being murdered. They try to flock with the dog, they try to flock with the Icelandics (who ignore them or lightly head butt them). They are more cautious of people, with the littlest one being very skittish. They are are easier to get them to go where I want them to be, but this is mostly because I can pick up the older Shetland and carry him with the little one baaing and running after him.

Icelandics - They push under the fence, and will head but stakes to test for breakage. The ram will even try to paw the fence down. Especially if the grass is longer on the other side of the fence. They like to then wander around the center of the yard, or roam over by the neighbor's barn. These guys are miscreants.

Shetlands- They jump up and over fences, but usually only when the other one is already outside the fence, or the grass is shorter outside the fence. They generally follow the exterior of the fence. They rarely get out.

Icelandics-  Medium sized breed. Grow much quicker. My 13 week old ram weights at least 60 pounds. The 11 week old ewe weights about 45lbs. Also taller. The wool on the ram is already six inches long, the ewe four inches. Their wool is more shaggy looking due to the double coats Icelandics have, also more curl to their outer coats, almost looks like dreadlocks or ringlets. The inner coat is very soft on both sheep, but the ram's outer coat is a bit rougher. My Icelandics seem to be smarter also. And Stubborn.

Shetlands- Small sized breed. Grow slower. The older Shetland is about 30lbs, and easily half the size of the Icelandic ram. The younger one is about 20lbs. These guys have horns. Their hooves also grow quicker. Their wool is much shorter, but is denser. It is about the same softness of the Icelandic ewe, but has very small crips, instead of ringlets.

So judging from what I have observed, the Icelandics are very hardy, forage well, smart, inquisitive, stubborn, like to roam, but are generally people friendly. They are also a triple purpose breed, used for wool, meat, and milk. Ewes generally lamb twins after the first year. They also are good at clearing weeds and brush. Hopefully next spring our ewe will give us a lamb for food, and we may even try to milk her.

The Shetlands are more docile, do a better lawn mowing job, and take confinement well. They are smaller so generally used mainly for wool. We will be raising the two Shetlands for food, they will just dress out at a much smaller weight.

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