Friday, April 09, 2010

Comeback Farms :: Chapters 15-16 Book Report

In chapter fifteen Greg Judy writes about the flock of hair sheep he began with and how he suggests going about beginning your own herd. On his farm they started out with purebred St. Croix hair sheep from a small herd that had never been wormed. The gentleman that Mr. Judy purchased his sheep from had been building his parasite resistant flock for some time and had already gone through the struggle of severe culling and loss of sheep to build the genetics he needed. I've got to admit that I think that is a great way to go ... especially if you are going to start out with a small flock like I would like to.

The small flock of St. Croix's was not all that Mr. Judy wanted for his farm. In fact he mentioned that he would like to have a flock of 500 ewes. After searching all over for more St. Croix hair sheep he found that they were hard to come by ... or as much as $500 for ewe lambs. As you might guess that would be a bit too much to pay if you wanted to build a large production flock, so he moved on to "Plan B". That plan involved buying a flock of Barbados hair sheep. What they are doing now on his farm is using the St. Croix rams to breed to the Barbados ewes in hopes of building up their parasite resistant flock. It sounds like a good idea ...

Along with parasite resistance Mr. Judy has a few other goals for the type of sheep that are part of his flock. His goal, "is to build a flock that needs no wormer, no lambing assistance, no feed, no hay, no shelter. They must have extreme flocking instinct, lamb on pasture, get no shots of any kind, wean their own lambs, shed off every spring, lamb every year, require no hoof trimming, and have good mothering instincts." As you can see that is a pretty lofty goal, but once it is reached they will have a flock that fits perfectly into their system and that uses very few inputs!

Chapter sixteen deals with developing the parasite-resistant flock. I can sum it up pretty quickly. Cull ruthlessly ... get sheep from your area ... find sheep being raised the way you want to raise them ... and ... cull ruthlessly! Of course he adds a bit more, but I think that's a good summery.

4 comments:

simply_complicated said...

his wish list for sheep sounds a bit like the icelandic breed. i'm not a farmer, but i'm familiar with icelandic sheep via their wool. they are very hearty animals from what i understand, but rather expensive of course

Rich said...

What is the thinking behind choosing St. Croix sheep instead of something a little more common like Katahdin sheep?

I recently read an account of Cody Holmes's UHDG operation in Missouri and how they added Katahdin sheep to their cattle herd. They started with 30 bred ewes, the second year they had about 50 ewes (from retained ewe lambs), and planned to increase their closed herd at about the same rate each year.

Being able to build a herd of sheep at that rate makes hair sheep pretty attractive. But, finding half a dozen 'high-quality' parasite resistant bred ewes to start the herd could take some searching.

Ethan said...

Rich ... I'm not sure if there was anything overly significant about the St. Croix over any other breed. Rather I bet that those particular sheep were close enough to the Judy's and they fit his bill as far as the way they were raised. Of course I'm just guessing.

Me ... I'm looking at some Katahdins because they are close and raised nearly the way I would like them to be raised.

Steven said...

Greg said in a talk I saw, that he started with a few different breeds and nearly all died but the St Croix. From all the reading I've done they seem to be THE most parasite resistant hair sheep. I think it's important to get animals being raised the way you will manage them. I know a lady that has St Croixs thathave never been worked, out of a flock that hasn't been wormed in 20 years. She was told that they may die if she let the vet worm them. I saw them last month and they looked very healthy.

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