I thought that I would dedicate the first few blog posts to introducing the animals on the farm. First, of course, has to be the sheep. I love my sheep dearly! I grew up riding horses and knew I enjoyed large animals, so marrying that interest with my interest in fiber seemed like a no-brainer. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for how much the sheep would enter my heart and spirit. I can’t imagine a life without them! They are beautiful, funny, sweet, and intelligent (despite what you have heard) with lots of personality and charm. They are surprisingly affectionate and look you right in the eyes when they address you. I am so grateful for every day that I get to spend with them and the beautiful fiber they provide for me.
I prioritize rare and heritage breeds of sheep. Not only does this help preserve genetic diversity in the US livestock population, but it keeps these breeds’ unique and beautiful fiber characteristics available to handspinners. Most of the sheep are CVM/Rambouillet crosses, with heavy genetic emphasis on the CVM side; I also have one full CVM ewe, a ewe that is 75% CVM and 25% Blue Faced Leicester, and two Leicester Longwools.
CVM/Romeldale sheep were bred in California in the early 1900’s and were produced by breeding Romney rams with Rambouillet ewes. Romeldale sheep are white and CVM’s are the multi-colored derivative, but they are considered variations within the same breed. All of my sheep are naturally colored, with colors from very light grey to apricot to nearly black, and are much more CVM than Rambouillet in breeding. According to the Livestock Conservancy, CVM sheep are considered critically endangered, meaning that fewer than 200 animals are added to their breed registry every year in the US and the estimated global population is under 2,000 animals.
CVM and Rambouillet fleece is very fine, soft, and uniform. CVM fleece darkens as the animal gets older as opposed to lightening with age as other breeds do. From my 2016 shearing, all of whom where 2015 lambs, my largest fleece was almost 8 pounds and the longest staple length was around 5 inches. I love these animals for their beautiful colors, sweet temperaments (especially the boys), and large fleeces. I have gotten all of my CVMs from Sarah Hagemeister with Sister Sheep. She sells lambs, adult sheep, and raw fleeces and has given me so much help and advise!
The newest addition to the flock are two Leicester Longwool sheep. As you can tell from their name, they are a Longwool breed and were originally developed in the mid 1700’s in England. They were popular in the States around the American Revolution, but then the Merino-type, fine wool breeds grew in favor and they nearly went extinct in North America. In 1990, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation imported some animals from Australia, reestablishing the breed. They are also considered critically rare by the Livestock Conservancy. Their fleeces have LOTS of luster, are heavy, curly, have a staple of around eight inches and weigh from 11-15 pounds. I got my two, 2016 lambs from Rockin’ R Farm. They also sell lambs, adult sheep, and fleeces.
There you go! All you ever wanted to know about CVMs and Leicester Longwools! I hope to add more breeds of fiber sheep to the flock in the future to learn more about each breed, what they offer in fiber, and to be able to conserve more valuable genetics. Now, more pictures of my sweet sheep!