Gulf Coast native sheep, was Re: Newly cleared land COVERED in Cassia Obtusifolia!
>>I am interested in knowing more about your sheep, though. Can youtell me about them? Is there a site that has info about them?
They are Gulf Coast native sheep, descendants of sheep that washed
ashore when Spanish galleons sent out the wrong times of the year
would shipwreck in hurricanes on the southeast and gulf coasts of the
US. (Greed got them, they KNEW what months were dangerous, but sent
more and more ships anyway, to get more gold and silver from
Mexico.... After all, they were sitting safely in Spain, and if a few
ships didn't come back, well, a lot more did.)
There are heritage breeds of swine and cattle also descended from
survivors of Spanish wrecks of the same period. Guess the chickens
they carried never made it to shore (it's hard to swim even on a calm
day, when you wear feathers)!
As a feral, naturalized breed, Gulf Coast sheep are extremely hardy,
but not picture-pretty. They are not consistent for looks like
modern man-shaped breeds.
Ewes in this breed can be horned, polled, or have scurs. Obviously,
they are at a disadvantage at sheep shows where sheep are groomed and
selected for their beauty and conformity to a rigid standard. I
happen to love their variations in markings (freckled faces and legs
on some) and the many styles of horns on the horned ewes, though some
people in the breed dislike horns and select so that the ewes (or even
both sexes) are polled.
Many of the sheep pictured on the association site are polled.
The quality of Gulf Coast meat has won them top place for lamb in the
Slow Foods gourmet heritage foods competition (organized by the
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which lists this breed as very
old and endangered).
Local Muslims will pay my breeder any price to get that flavor. (The
sheep are not fed anything special to flavor them, just a normal
pasture of Bermuda and mixed grasses and forbs.)
The quality of their wool is highly variable, depending on parent
flock and selection.
Mine have lovely fine wool that is consistent and has great crimp, but
some of equally old ancestry have BRILLO wool good for nothing but
rugs (made my skin crawl, ugh!) As a handspinner, I selected my sheep
specifically for wool from a flock that was culled hard for everything
else that matters.
The man with the largest flock I know of milks his Gulf Coast and
makes cheese which sells very well.
So they are a triple purpose breed: meat, wool, and milk.
Gulf Coast native sheep have been proven to be THE most resistant
sheep in the world to the effects of Haemonchus Contortus (barber pole
worm) which otherwise can kill a sheep in a few days. However, when
very young or in less than ideal circumstances (unusually wet weather,
overcrowding, sickness or old age, etc.) they can still be affected,
they are just more able to resist the worms and survive them longer
than modern "improved" breeds.
This parasite resistance has been studied for decades at UF and LSU
(and even Texas). So it is known that in a cross with any other
breed, the first generation cross (but only the first) has 80% of the
resistance of the Gulf Coast parent. People raising sheep
specifically for meat can save a fortune in wormers by using a Gulf
Coast ram on their meat breed ewes. A very large scale meat sheep
breeder in Virginia is doing exactly that.
Eventually the researchers hope to identify the genes that control the
resistance and be able to add this resistance to other breeds by gene
therapy. Don't hold your breath.
In addition to parasite resistance, they are very heat- and
humidity-tolerant and more foot rot resistant than the majority of
sheep in the US. Perhaps because they were feral so long, living in
the bottoms of Louisiana and Alabama and Florida, they eat more like
goats than many "modern" breeds. Only the strong survived!
Like any extremely rare breed, not all people who have them select
hard enough or intelligently enough to maintain ALL their historic
qualities (so you have a lot to learn and a lot of homework to do to
choose wisely), but most in the Association do select at least for
resistance and hardiness.
There is another native breed in Florida (which should always be
polled), but since many of its breeders believe they can use a Suffolk
ram year after year and still have "native" stock, I recommend you
avoid them and look for registered Gulf Coast from a GCSBA member.
They have a discussion group where you can learn a lot,
WAY more than you ever wanted to know??? <vbg>
laurie (Mother Mastiff)
Southeastern USA (NC and FL)
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance
in the rain.
I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn
how to do it. - Pablo Picasso
Hope is like a road in the country; it wasn't always a road, but when
many people go the same way, the road comes into existence. - Lin
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