What are hair sheep?

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One of the most exciting additions to our farm in recent years has been a flock of hair sheep. Benson and I knew that we wanted to offer lamb as a compliment to our other meats, and we spent several years looking at different breeds of sheep to find the one that was best for our farm. We settled on St. Croix sheep, a North American breed that is part of the Caribbean hair sheep family. Our flock of seven ewes and two rams came from Virginia State University.

St. Croix Sheep at Monnett Farms in Prince Frederick Maryland
Monnett Farms St. Croix Ewes

What are hair sheep?

The first question we get is always What are hair sheep? Basically, a hair sheep is a type of sheep that sheds its wool rather than needing to be sheared. Hair sheep breeds have been improved to produce meat compared to their counterparts which also produce meat, but have mostly been breed to produce high quality fiber.

Why hair sheep?

There are many reasons why we chose hair sheep to traditional “wool” sheep breeds. The first of which is the fact that they don’t have wool. Sheep that have wool need to be sheared. They cannot survive in hot humid weather with thick wool coats. Shearing sheep is a difficult trade to master, there aren’t many shearers in the area and skilled shearers (rightly so) come in high demand and a high cost.

Monnett Farms St. Croix Ram Prince Frederick MD /><br />
Monnett Farms St. Croix Ram</p>
<p>More specifically on the reasons why we chose the St. Croix sheep: </p>
<li>* They are well adapted to our climate, having originated from the US Virgin Islands</li>
<li>* St. Croix sheep are heat tolerant, adapted to humidity and grow a heavy undercoat for the winter months</li>
<li>* They are parasite resistant, superior to most sheep breeds – because our sheep are grass-fed, this is a very important trait for us</li>
<li>* St. Croix sheep are excellent foragers, again making them well suited to a grass-based operation</li>
<li>* They are easy to handle, being both small in size and docile in nature</li>
<li>* St. Croix sheep have high fertility and are excellent mothers</li>
<h3>St. Croix Breed Conservation</h3>
<p>Another reason why we chose the St. Croix breed was because it is considered “threatened” by the American Livestock Conservancy. St. Croix is a native breed to North America, developed in the 1600s in the Caribbean Islands. The origin of the breed is somewhat unknown, but it is believed to be descendent of West African hair sheep and European breeds imported to the islands for their meat and forage abilities.</p>
<p>Raising St. Croix hair sheep at Monnett Farms allows us to participate in the breed’s conservation. We will continue the work that was started by Dr. Stephen Wildeus and his team at Virginia State University, who graciously mentored us in the ins-and-outs of St. Croix sheep and helped us select the flock we brought back to Maryland.</p>
<h3>Lamb and Breeding Stock For Sale</h3>
<p>Our ewes will have their first lambs at Monnett Farms this Spring. Because we are early in our breeding program, we will most likely retain many of the ewes to grow our herd. Other suitable rams and ewes will be available to purchase as breeding stock. There may be a very limited amount of lamb for sale this fall, if you are interested, please contact us at <a href=sales@monnettfarms.com to put your name on our waiting list.