Many years ago I saw a picture on face book of a Valais Blacknose Sheep, or VBS, and I fell in love instantly. Back then, the breed did not exist in the US- it originates in Switzerland, the Valais region, so I looked at import rules, and there were no imports allowed of these adorable little sheep. The reason they have been dubbed the cutest sheep in the world is quite apparent when you see them. Add a calm and almost dog like temperament and you might just be looking at the perfect sheep.
(I’m unable to give credit to whomever took these adorable pictures so I’m hoping I’m not breaking any blogging rules by posting it!)
While browsing the internet in search of my perfect 4-legged lawnmower I happened to stumble on the breed up program that is taking place. Sheep breeders have diligently been working to be allowed to import semen, and by using AI (Artificial Insemination) you can inseminate a foundation ewe with Valais Blacknose semen. The resulting lamb (called an F1) will be 50 % Valais Blacknose. When the F1 is inseminated with VBS semen, her offspring will now be 75% Valais (F2) and so forth until the 5th generation is almost 97% which then is considered pure bred!
There seem to be a few different thoughts on how to chose your foundation ewe; many prefer to start with Scottish Blackface Sheep, others have bred to crosses, Lincolns, Teeswaters, Gotland Sheep, Finn Sheep, Babydoll sheep and so forth. I visited several farms and took notes on what they did and what their F1’s and F2’s looked like. I went to a Sheep and wool festival and saw even more sheep! I finally decided to to breed to a Corriedale, since I liked that particular sheep and its fleece. Unfortunately the once I picked out ended up having foot rot, not something I wanted to start out with, so back to the drawing board I went. I was disappointed to say the least, everyone with breeding age ewes had already started their fall breedings in my area. Many sheep are seasonal breeders, and only breed in the fall, another reasons I had like the Corriedales since they were able to breed fall and spring and although too young to breed this fall, I could have bred them in the spring. But now it looked like I wouldn’t be able to start my adventure for another year.
While visiting Mary Jean at Laurel Highland Farms, another breeder of VBS she happened to mention that the Cotswold sheep was one of her favorites. I went home, googled the breed and instantly knew this was the sheep for me. I loved everything about it and it seemed very compatible to the Valais Blacknose Sheep. But even better than that was that I liked the breed as I didn’t want to just dispose of these ewes ones I had my F1’s. It might be hard to keep them all on my small farm, but I feel they deserve better. I haven’t even started yet, so who know’s if I’m making the right or the wrong decisions! What I do know, is that I’m embarking on an adventure and am looking forward to seeing how my instincts will pan out.
Sometimes after everything goes wrong, you are pointed in another direction and I recently I finally found my Cotswalds, 4 mature ewes that have all been moms before, ready to breed this fall. And this wonderful breeder, Heather from Blue Springs Farm is even putting them on her trailer since she’s going from her place in Vincent Alabama to the Sheep and wool festival in Rhinebeck NY and is passing me on the way. I’m unbelievable grateful for everyone who has answered questions, had me visit their farms and befriended me. So many people with sheep are just incredibly nice and go out of their way to help out.
At this moment, I can hear my very fast growing baby chicks chirping in the sun room next to where I’m sitting, my shoulders and arms are dead weight after having been outside until dark digging fence post holes, while chatting to dogs and pigs and I can’t help just feeling such gratitude over being so blessed!
We are busily engaged building shelters and putting in fences for both pigs and sheep. The sheep will be here in a week- woohoo!
How is your breed up going now? I am just starting out and am trying to get as much information as possible.
Sorry this reply is late! It’s going well, thank you. We now have only 2 Foundation ewes left out of the original 4. The 2 sold ones are retired, the third gives us triplets and the fourth is a great surrogate for embryos- we are contemplating another one but might wait depending on lineages available. We have 2 F1 ewes and one ewe lamb, 1 F2 ewe and one ewe lamb and our own 100% purebred ram who will start breeding this fall. It’s a labor of love, but we truly love it! What kind of information are you looking for? Do you already have your foundation ewes or are you buying F1 or F2’s? Text me at 508-344-9820 if there is anything you wonder or want more information about. Thanks and good luck!