I started raising hair sheep for many reasons. The biggest reason is easy care.
Easy Care? Is that just a gimmick for better sales?
A friend introduced easy care hair sheep to me. He was excited to tell me about them.
I listened closely as he explained the concept of the easy care hair sheep.
Here’s what I heard:
They will lamb on their own successfully.
Hair sheep will be excellent and doting mothers to their twins and triplets.
These sheep will need minimal shelter as their thick and fuzzy wool/hair combo will keep them warm all Winter long.
Wow, sounds easy! This breed of hair sheep may be too good to be true.
What are Easy Care Hair Sheep?
All new hybrid breeds begin with old base breeds.
The easy care sheep are a three way cross between Dorper, Katahdin, and Romanov.
The idea of cross breeding different breeds is designed to take the best qualities from each breed and cross them together to make a better, more durable breed of sheep.
You could call them “GMO Sheep”. But, we won’t get into that right now.
Like I said, the easy care breed started with three base breeds.
Each base breed has it’s own advantages, making this cross a very durable one.
Here they are:
The Dorper is the fastest growing, heaviest-muscled hair sheep breed in the U.S.
Dorpers can be bred for maternal purposes, but they are mostly known for being a terminal market animal.
The main reason for the Dorpers in the Easy Care cross is for carcass quality and muscling.
They lack parasite resistance of other hair sheep breeds. The more Dorper the animal has, the more parasites it may carry.
This has became evident when checking for parasites when 1/3 of the ewes in my herd were showing slight cases of some Barber Pole Worm issues.
But, for the majority to be clean of parasites, still impressive.
This breed is used for the cover, as it is a hair/wool cross. This covering is what keep the Easy Care sheep warm in the winter time.
Parasite resistance and reproductive efficiency is very high, making the Katahdin a valued breed in the hair sheep industry.
This breed is best known for it’s high level of reproduction. Romanov ewes are highly prolific.
A ewe can carry many babies, nurture the lambs successfully, and then turn around and breed again.
The Romanov also produces a warm fleece cover, but is still classified as a hair sheep because the color and guard hairs are unsuitable for the commercial wool market.
The fleece quality doesn’t really matter much to me as a meat lamb producer, but it does seem to keep the ewes warm in extremely cold temperatures.
How Easy is Easy Care?
Easy care is pretty easy.
The sheep keep to themselves regularly. They do not care to be social to us in any way.
They are very efficient and productive animals when it comes to grazing.
The lactating ewes are fed feed and brome hay to ensure proper nutrition before lambing.
Finally, parasite control is easy. While they are not immune to parasites, they are pretty resistant as a whole.
After grazing a pasture all summer the first year, 1/3 of the ewes had moderate worm loads. Less than 1% of our herd was in the heavy category.
So, 2/3 of the herd had light worm loads, making them fairly resistant.
I like this number but I know there’s no such thing as resistance. Any responsible livestock producer knows this.
I will continue to be proactive and do routine checks with my ewes each year. Pasture rotation is an important part of my grazing operation and will continue to be utilized for best production management.
How do Easy Care Hair Sheep Compare to Goats?
Hair sheep keep to themselves while goats want to socialize more with people.
I enjoy feeding the sheep because they don’t run me over at the feed bunks like the goats do. They step away and let me do my thing, which I appreciate.
Nutritionally, goats require copper at levels that will kill sheep. We have to keep this in mind when feeding trace minerals.
We make sure the goats and sheep are separate when we feed any sort of mineral or block with copper. The sheep are fed a mineral labeled for sheep only.
Parasites still need to be checked regularly with these hair sheep. Multi species grazing helps with the control of parasites, but sometimes it just isn’t enough.
It’s important to watch goats and sheep both and check their parasite levels regularly.
I enjoy my Easy Care hair sheep! I have much to learn and share with you as this journey continues.
What questions do you have about Easy Care hair sheep?
~ Much Love ~