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Gulf Coast native sheep, was Re: Newly cleared land COVERED in Cassia Obtusifolia!

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  • laurie (Mother Mastiff)
    ... tell 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 27, 2009
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      >>I am interested in knowing more about your sheep, though. Can you
      tell 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

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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