Acquired: Bred animal myself
Posted Jan 20, 2015
I have been working with sheep for roughly 10 years, and have had sheep of my own for the past three. I got into sheep because I own border collies and wanted to learn how to herd with them. To get access to places to train I volunteered on various sheep farms and as such gained a fair bit of experience before buying my own flock.
My initial goal for my sheep was to find the best breed with which to train my dogs. Qualities included being flighty enough to never become ‘dogged’, that is to refuse to move away from a dog. And also flighty enough to not be willing to run to a human for safety. If you’ve ever worked with sheep you'll know that having them run into you at full speed is not a pleasant experience, despite all that wool padding!
I also wanted a sheep that would offer a variety of challenges for my dogs at varying stages of their schooling. As such I purchased several breeds: Cheviots, Shetlands, and Cheviot x Leicesters.
Very quickly the Cheviot x Leicester became my sheep of choice. They are flighty or ‘light’ enough when working with a dog to move nicely about the field without causing trouble. They also rarely run into me. At the same time they are far less inclined to bolt at top speed over or through fences or otherwise hurl themselves about in a great panic at the sight of a dog. I can't say the same for my Shetlands or pure Cheviots.
But my Cheviot x Leicester sheep have become my favourites for far more important reasons. After buying sheep I very quickly morphed from dog trainer to farmer, and suddenly discovered the importance of having livestock pay for its own keep! I not only wanted good training sheep, I wanted sheep that were easy to manage and that would make me money!
This cross proved itself to be exactly what I was looking for. They lamb out easily and without assistance, often giving twins. The lambs grow quickly and produce an excellent tasting and volume of meat. Their fleeces lovely and a quality of interest to local spinners.
They are hardy, thrive on a simple diet of hay and pasture, never need their feet trimmed and are strongly parasite resistant. Finally they are calm and easy to manage and move, and rarely feel the need to escape through fences.
My current ram is also of this cross and is a friendly, easy going boy. He comes over for a pat whenever I bring him food, and while huge is gentle and trustworthy. He takes good care of his girls without being rough or aggressive. His sister, Pixie, is my ideal ewe. I am hoping for more just like her this spring!
Given that they are also great sheep for training dogs, I couldn’t be more pleased with the Cheviot x Leicester cross! In fact I am actively working at producing more of them, having purchased several purebred Leicesters and Cheviots this fall to create new crosses and add genetic diversity to my original flock. If your requirements are similar to mine, I highly recommend this type of sheep.