Really Ugly Goats (or why we raise hair sheep)
For today's #whatswithWednesday, we're going to talk about why we raise hair sheep, why they're not just ugly goats, and what it means for you. Our flock consists primarily of Katahdin hair sheep, with a few Romanov and Barbado crosses wandering around. Katahdins are an American breed, developed between 1956-1976 in Maine from African hair sheep, crossed with larger wool sheep.
As you can see in this picture of one of our yearling ewes, our sheep grow a thick wool coat in the winter, then shed it out as the weather warms up. Because they're not putting energy in to producing a heavy wool coat all year they gain weight better on pasture, and they're more resilient to things like heat and humidity. Katahdins are also known for being excellent mothers, and being resistant to many parasites, meaning that we can raise healthier animals with fewer interventions and vet visits.
The big difference you will notice is that meat from our sheep doesn't taste like wet sweater, as so much lamb does! That "lamby" flavor comes from the lanolin in wool, but because our sheep don't produce wool, they have a lot less lanolin in their coat. Katahdin meat is prized for being tender and mild.
A little added bonus, we have the nicest wool lined bird nests you can imagine. Our flock tends to rub against the fences to help loosen the wool as they shed in the spring, then little birds take it to put in their nests. You can see the tufts of wool woven in to this nest we found last week as we were out for a walk with the kids.