Sheep breeds come from a variety of climates--evaluating each breed by their wool type can help in choosing the one that's right for your weather, as well as the purpose for which you plan to raise them.
Here are descriptions of different wool types:
- Fine Wool
Breeds that produce large amounts of soft wool used for fine, next-to-the-skin garments.
Found mostly in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia, South Africa, South America and the western United States. Most sheep of this type have Merino (Spanish) ancestry. Popular for baby-soft clothing and spinning.
- Long Wool
Breeds that produce long, wavy or ringed fleece, used primarily for tweeds and rugs.
Found mostly in high, cool, rainy areas such as England, Scotland and New Zealand. These sheep are popular with weavers.
- Medium Wool
Breeds that produce medium-soft wool used as outer garments and blankets.
Most are considered dual-purpose breeds as they produce both meat and wool. They’re popular with handspinners.
- Hair Sheep
Breeds that do not produce wool, but are covered in hair that sheds naturally. Raised primarily for meat.
Found mostly in Africa and the Carribbean, as well as in temperate climates in the United States and Canada. These breeds are popular with ethnic markets that rely on sheep for meat.
- Fat Tailed
Breeds that store large amounts of fat in the tail and rump area.
Found mainly in extreme arid regions such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East, they are raised primarily for milk production and meat. These breeds are popular with rugmakers and with cheesemakers.
- Rat-tailed or Short-tailed
Breeds with a thin or short tail that does not need to be docked.
Breeds of this type are typically Scandinavian in origin and are known to be prolific (having multiple lambs per pregnancy). Double wooled, these breeds have a thick undercoat covered with an outer layer called “tog.” Tog is a fine, crimped wool similar to mohair. These breeds are popular with handspinners.
Must-have Lambing Kit
Interested in breeding sheep on your farm? In addition to reading, researching and asking lots of questions about how to breed and what to expect, here's a list of some supplies you'll want to have on hand.
- Protective, latex sleeves or gloves
- Obstetric lubricant
- Nylon rope, snare or lamb puller
- Gentle iodine or other disinfectant for dipping navels
- Ewe bearing retainer (spoon) or prolapse harness
- Heat lamp or warming box
- Broad spectrum antibiotic
- Digital thermometer
- 60-cc syringe and catheter (for tube feeding)
- Frozen colostrum
- Lamb milk replacer
- Propylene glycol
- Calcium solution
- 50 percent dextrose
- An assortment of syringes and needles
- Obstetric S-curve needle
- Ear tags
- Docking and castrating equipment/supplies
- Scale and sling
- Towels and rags
- Record book
This article contains excerpts from Popular Farming Series: Sheep, a publication with in-depth information for those who own or would like to own sheep. Buy one online today!