Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homestead: Sheepish Part 2

Now for the final breeds...There is a lot of good information out there about sheep and all they entail and require. We look forward to getting our flock started.

Lincoln Sheep

The Lincoln is usually referred to as the world's largest breed of sheep. There is little question that the breed is entitled to this distinction because the average weights of the breed are in excess of those of other breeds, although a few individuals of other breeds may sometimes equal their weights. Mature Lincoln rams should weigh from 250 to 350 pounds (113-160 kg), and mature ewes will range in weight from 200 to 250 pounds (90-113 kg). Lincolns are rather rectangular in form, are deep bodied, and show great width. They are straight and strong in the back and cover thickly as mature sheep. They sometimes lack fullness through the leg and appear somewhat upstanding when in short fleece.

 The Lincoln has a large, lean, well-muscled carcass.  The Lincoln is to be considered only average in prolificacy. Because the mature ewes are easy feeders, they sometimes become over-conditioned and do not breed as readily as breeds that have less aptitude to take on fat. Lincolns are hearty eaters and make excellent use of an abundance of high-quality roughage or pasture. Modern breeders have selected for a more active and stylish kind of Lincoln that does not become over-conditioned so easily. The color markings of the Lincoln should be clear white, and the head is larger and bolder than that of the other long-wooled breeds.

The Lincoln was first imported into the United States at the close of the eighteenth century. The Lincoln has never become a very popular breed in the United States but has had its importance in the centralized states and Idaho and Oregon producing purebred, grade, or crossbred rams for use on fine-wool range ewes. The breed has been more generally popular in Canada than in the United States. 



Mature Rambouillet rams weigh between 250 and 300 pounds (113-135 kg), ewes range from 150 to 200 pounds (68-90 kg).  Mature ewes will have a fleece weigh of 8 to 18 pounds (3.6-8.1 kg) with a yield of 35 to 55 percent.  The fleece staple length will vary from two to four inches (5-10 cm) and range in fiber diameter from 18.5 to 24.5 microns or 60 to 80 for the numerical count.

The Rambouillet breed originated with Spain's famed Merino flocks, which were known from the earliest times as producers of the world's finest wool. The Spanish government was so protective of their Merino flocks that any exportation was forbidden.
This policy changed in 1786, however, when the King of Spain granted a request from the government of France and sent 359 carefully selected rams and ewes to help improve the native French stock. The sheep were sent to the Rambouillet farm near Paris where, according to government records, they have been bred since 1801.
Other Meriono sheep were introduced into Germany during the last quarter of the 18th century, and German breeders made extensive use of Rambouillet sires as the sheep's fame spread throughout Europe. That is why many present day American Rambouillets can trace their ancestry back to either German von Homeyer flocks or the flocks of Rambouillet, France. 


Suffolk Sheep

The first Suffolks were brought into this country in 1888 by Mr. G. B. Streeter of Chazy, New York. During a visit to England the previous year, Mr. Streeter had been greatly impressed by Suffolk sheep. These prize breeding animals had belonged to Joseph Smith of Hasketon, and one 21 month old ewe weighed exactly 200 pounds when she came off the ship. A 9 month old ram weighed 195 pounds and in the spring of 1890, a 7 week old twin weighed 85 pounds. That spring Streeter had a 200% lamb crop.
The Suffolk did not make its appearance in the western states until 1919. Three ewes end two rams had been donated by the English Suffolk Sheep Society to the University of Idaho. One of the rams was to be sold at auction at the National Ram Sale in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mature weights for Suffolk rams range from 250 to 350 pounds (113-159 kg), ewe weights vary from 180 to 250 pounds (81-113 kg).  Fleece weights from mature ewe are between five and eight pounds (2.25-3.6 kg) with a yield of 50 to 62 percent.  The fleeces are considered medium wool type with a fiber diameter of 25.5 to 33.0 microns and a spinning count of 48 to 58.  The staple length of Suffolk fleece ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches (5-8.75 cm).


Dorper Sheep

One of the most fertile of sheep breeds that is hornless with good body length and a short light covering of hair and wool. The breed has the characteristic black head (Dorper) as well as white heads (White Dorper). Furthermore the breed shows exceptional adaptability, hardiness, reproduction rates and growth (reaching 36 kg [~80 lbs] at three and a half to four months) as well as good mothering abilities.

The Dorper is primarily a mutton sheep and meets these requirements exceptionally well.  The Dorper has a long breeding season which is not seasonally limited. A good manager can organize his program so that lambs can be dropped at any time of the year. The breed is fertile and the percentage of ewes that become pregnant in one mating season is relatively high. Lambing intervals can be eight months. Consequently under good forage conditions and with good management the Dorper ewe can lamb three times in two years. A lambing percentage of 150% can be reached under good conditions while in exceptional cases even 180% can be attained. Under extensive conditions a lambing percentage of 100% can be expected.

The Dorper lamb grows rapidly and attains a high weaning weight which again is an economically important characteristic in the breeding of mutton sheep. A live weight of about 36 kg can be reached by the Dorper lamb at the age of 3- 4 months. This ensures a high quality carcass of approximately 16 kg. This is associated with the inherent growth potential of the Dorper lamb and its ability to graze at an early age.
The Dorper is hardy and can thrive under range conditions where other breeds can barely exist and the ewe can raise a lamb of reasonable quality under fairly severe conditions. As a strong and non-selective grazer the Dorper can advantageously be incorporated into a well planned range management system.
The Dorper is an easy care breed which requires a minimum of labor. Its skin covering which is a mixture of hair and wool, will drop off if not shorn to keep it tidy. The Dorper has a thick skin which is highly prized and protects the sheep under harsh climatic conditions.

Border Leicester

The Border Leicester is a dual purpose breed of sheep, producing both meat and wool.  Border Leicester wool falls in long, shining locks that are popular with hand spinners.  The Border Leicester also has a longer loin and leaner meat than many sheep of its size.  The Border Leicester is a natural when it comes to direct marketing.  Lean, tender lamb and premium fleece that tops the hand spinning market keeps customers coming back for more.

The Border Leicester has a regal, alert appearance.  Its head and legs are free of wool, and its arched Roman nose and long, erect ears give the Border Leicester a stylish, distinctive look

Border Leicesters rank third in size among the longwool breeds. A ram at maturity should weigh 175-300 pounds and stand about 32 inches at the shoulder. He should have a wide, level back. Ewes usually weigh 150-225 pounds.

They are also good foragers and get along on less feed than many other breeds.  Border Leicester lambs are active and vigorous at birth.  They grow rapidly for the first four months and continue to grow for several years.  Border Leicester lambs fed for maximum gains often reach a trim 110 pounds by 4-1/2 months of age.  Those who prefer to grow out lambs more slowly can shear 2-3 pounds of skirted handspinning wool.

Border Leicesters are generally calm and easy to handle, even though they are very aware of their surroundings.  A pleasant surprise for many is the gentlemanly disposition of Border Leicester rams.




The breed was first established on the Swedish island of Gotland by the Vikings with Karakul and Romanov sheep brought back from expeditions deep into Russia and crossed with the native landrace sheep. The Vikings were great seafarers as well as sheep farmers and took these animals on their extensive voyages to provide meat and skins along the route.

Fine-boned and of medium size. Hornless black head sometimes with white markings and free from wool. Bold eyes, alert medium sized ears. Small neat muzzle with even jaw and teeth set squarely on the pad. Slender neck and shoulders set smoothly into a level back with generous length, good depth and reasonable breadth of body. Slender black legs well spaced and upright. Short hair tipped tail. Dense, long, lustrous gray fleece, occasionally black, or white. Clearly defined even curl and staple, soft to the touch. Calm, friendly disposition.  Fleece is fine, long, lustrous and dense with clearly defined curl and staple, soft to the touch. It is typically 29 to 34 microns in diameter at 18 months of age, as measured midside at the last rib. Lambs wool is typically in the low to mid 20's micron range.

Gotlands are easy to lamb, have a high lambing rate, produce abundant milk and have strong mothering instincts.
Gotland sheep are very inquisitive, making them an entertaining sheep breed to own.

They are a hardy breed; adaptable to a variety of management systems.


This calendar project combined with Sheep research has had some interesting results. I had not heard of the Gotland before and I quite like them. The good old Suffolk are still lovely sheep and I know that although they are not a fine wool reed they are superior meat sheep. The Lincoln Longwool just looks very cool and they are big robust sheep. As to the Dorper although they are a hair sheep they balance that with fine quality hides. The final selections will be tough and Ralph and I have discussed trying more than one breed to see which we like the best and to see how they react to our management style.

One thing about all of the things we have to do is the realization of how much our ancestors knew that we no longer know. The lost knowledge of being able to feed and care for ourselves is massive and its going to be grand to recapture a lot of it.  Now go out and have a nice lamb stew or knit something, perhaps nibble on some sheep cheese....its going to be fun! 



  1. You put together a lot of good information, Fiona. We raised Suffolk for a few years, then went to a mixed flock, then transitioned to Nubian milk goats.

    Mutton is a good meat, you just have to cook it a little differently. The fat on lamb is very waxy and will congeal quickly on your plate as you eat if there is very much left with the meat as it cooks. We found it best to use a rack to let the fat drip off, or to drain the liquids and fats off of a roast as it cooked to prevent the waxy problem. The flavor is also different, and a little stronger than many other red meats. Some folks like it and some folks don't. If I had a choice of goat or lamb, I would choose goat, or chevon. It has a much milder flavor.

    Thanks again for the information and the work that went into finding it.


    1. Serving lamb properly was something my mother taught is a technique that helps with venison as well. Warm the plates to almost too hot to touch....serve quickly! Modern animal feeding is also a bit of an issue, the lamb fed grain develops a different fat, a more congealing fat. Thank you for your observations. is so good to learn from actual experiences!

  2. Ads on your website keep popping up constantly.
    We are a small homestead and really enjoy Targhee sheep. Dual purpose with fine wool and mild taste. Great mothering and can take care of themselves. Made in the USA

    1. I have missed the t
      Targhee, thank you for telling me about them.

  3. The ad' not show up anyone else getting them? I have all the blocks on...supposedly???

    1. I don't get the ads, but I have added AdBlock to my browser to prevent having to look at them. It's great.


  4. Adding sheep to your homestead, congrats!! I still remember pouring over homesteading books reading about all of the different breeds trying to decide. So many nice breeds to choose from. Good luck!!

  5. You asked about ads, there is always one pop up that comes up when I visit your blog.

  6. The decision is going to be tough....and ever since I had the sheep cheese, well you get the drift of that train of thought!

  7. I am curious about the Gotland sheep - I have never run across mention of this breed. I had always wanted Merinos until I heard about the fly strike problem - those rolls! Yes, an ad offer pops up when I first open your blog but you can opt out.

  8. Wow I honestly did not know how many different kind of sheep there are. As a cattle farmer I know cattle. We did when we first started farming consider sheep but decided against it. Well done article part one and two. Thank you. About the add yes there is one pop up. B