If the thought of shearing sheep sounds like a hassle, try these hair sheep breeds for your homestead instead…
Sheep are fairly docile and easy-to-raise animals, but many homesteaders shy away from keeping sheep for one reason:
Shearing is a messy, time-consuming, and difficult job, especially if you don’t have the equipment for a large-scale shearing operation – which most small farmers and homesteaders don’t.
However, the good news is that there are a number of sheep breeds that don’t require shearing at all.
Many of these breeds are excellent additions to a small homestead, and also a tasty source of fresh meat for your family. Using responsible and sustainable grazing practices (which you can easily do on a small farm when you’re not raising hundreds of animals at once) means your meat will have much less of an impact on the environment, and these breeds of sheep – often known as “hair sheep” – may also have a milder flavor than their wool-covered cousins due to the lack of lanolin in their hair. They are also generally very adaptable, and less prone to diseases as most are descended from hardy wild sheep stock.
Here are 4 breeds of hair sheep to consider for your homestead:
Developed in Maine in the sixties for clearing brush in powerline corridors, Katahdins were bred from traditional West African hair sheep that were crossed with various modern European breeds. They are considered extremely robust, and well-adapted to hot, humid conditions.
This modern South African breed thrives in arid regions and is known for its extremely large, meaty carcass. Most sheep are able to mate only in fall, but the Dorper mates year-round, making it a popular choice for industrial scale sheep production.
This Caribbean breed originated in the 17th century and is now considered endangered by the Livestock Conservancy. Though it is adapted to heat and humidity, the St. Croix will grow a thick winter coat in cold climates, making it suitable for use throughout North America.
This ancient Russian sheep does grow a coat of wool, though it is naturally shed in the summer. Romanovs are astoundingly prolific breeders. They start mating at just a few months of age, and quadruplets are not uncommon. The world record litter size for sheep is held by a Romanov ewe that bore nine lambs (most sheep have one or two). They are considered a “rat-tailed” sheep, which means they have a scrawny tail that does not need to be docked for hygiene purposes, as is common practice on many breeds.
Read about more breeds of hair sheep at ModernFarmer.com…