Navajo-Churro Sheep

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Other common names: Churro

The basics:
According to the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association, "America’s first domestic sheep arrived over 400 years ago by the Spanish explorers and settlers. The history of the churra importation and distribution is fascinating and complex. Archives indicate that Merinos were too valuable to export from Spain, so the common sheep such as: Churra, Manchega, Castellana and Lacha were sent to the New World. The term "Churro" is translated to mean "common" and now refers loosely to all the breeds mentioned. Navajo-Churro, derived from the original Spanish stock, are now widely distributed in the U.S. with numbers approximately 6,000. Navajo-Churro are considered a landrace breed that reproduces with high predictably."

Appearance / health:
The Navajo-Churro sheep is small with a double-coated (wool and hair) fleece that may be black, white, red, brown, or other shades in between. Rams can have two or more horns that take up to five years to grow. Ewes (who can also have horns) often have multiple births. The face and legs have no wool, and the tail is long. The wool has low lanolin content; therefore, can be woven without being washed. It is favored for its cleanliness, luster, color, and durability.

One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.

Behavior / temperament:
Sheep are herd animals that rely on staying together as a flock to protect themselves from predators. They are highly sensitive to predators because they are basically “prey animals.” They sense the presence of threat from several hundred feet away (they are able to twist and turn their ears to detect potential danger) and instinctively flee instead of fight or attack. While fleeing, sheep run in a winding pattern to be able to see what is behind them.

As domesticated animals, sheep make good pets because they are docile and easily connect with humans, especially lambs that are bottle-fed. Miniature breeds and sheep that have hair instead of fur make ideal pets. Raising pet sheep is a popular project in the 4-H youth organization.

Navajo-Churros are popular for their double-coat, resistance to disease, high productivity, and low maintenance requirements. Some say they are intelligent and have a good, gentle temperament.

Housing / diet:
Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.

Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health.

For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.

Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.


excellent mothering skills, low maintenance sheep, mild flavored meat, wool

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