Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Zwartbles sheep  (Read 4201 times)

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2022, 11:24:43 am »
For any beginner, I'd recommend Shetlands and cross them to give a decent butchers lamb. We started with Coloured Ryelands and we loved them but I had sheep experience. For a complete beginner, Shetlands are hard to beat. We have a couple and I've never seen them lamb - check them, go back in an hour and two lambs are bouncing round the pen.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2022, 03:36:03 pm »
For any beginner, I'd recommend Shetlands and cross them to give a decent butchers lamb. We started with Coloured Ryelands and we loved them but I had sheep experience. For a complete beginner, Shetlands are hard to beat. We have a couple and I've never seen them lamb - check them, go back in an hour and two lambs are bouncing round the pen.

Sounds like the OP has chosen and booked some Zwartbles by now ;) - but I agree that Shetlands have much to commend them, especially the hands-off lambing.  My top bit of lambing kit is a pair of binoculars so I can keep an eye from a distance; I rarely need to go closer.  On one occasion, I did go up quietly once I saw the first lamb, hoping to be able to video the second coming out.  The ewe stood up, I switched on my video recorder, she turned around to face me, and there was lamb #2 dropping to the ground behind her!  The lambs pretty much jump up and run straight to the milk bar too, and are very persistent, so even with first timers who are finding it all a bit discombobulating, the lambs pretty much always manage to get their colostrum without any human intervention. 

(I have said many times that if my only needs were the shepherding and the welfare and wellbeing of the sheep, I would have pure Shetlands, put to a Shetland tup, every single time. )

But, given the provisos about lambing first time Zwartbles mums indoors, or at least where they can be penned with their lambs under cover pretty quickly after giving birth (and then of course making sure that the lambs are being mothered properly, get their colostrum, etc etc), and getting the feeding right, I think Zs are a pretty good choice for first time sheepkeepers too. 

Several of us have said on this thread and others similar, that it is very important to to get sheep (or any livestock) that float your boat, so if the OP goes gooey at Zs and not at Shetlands, I would say that they have made the right decision for them! :) 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2022, 03:51:26 pm »
I go a bit gooey when I see Shetlands, too, but I read that they are good jumpers and escape artists.

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2022, 05:45:56 pm »
The biggest difference between Shetlands and Zwartbles is that for Shetlands you will need to grow them until their second summer at least - their meat is fantastic as hogget but even better as mutton. However you will need enough land to grow them on over winter (they will not need hard feed but hay is good), you are unlikely to get any reasonable amounts for them if selling through the mart, but could have a good business if you are able to sell meat directly.


Shetlands are opportunists, and if you are relying on rented ground where you cannot guarantee the quality of either the grass or the fences, you are better off with large sheep that stay put.


Selling fleece from Shetlands will also not give you a profit, but selling skins, if they are done well could.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #19 on: February 21, 2022, 07:15:50 pm »
I go a bit gooey when I see Shetlands, too, but I read that they are good jumpers and escape artists.

Some are and they can be.  But get the right sheep from the right breeder, and keep them happy (ie., on decent grass with some shelter), behind normal, well-maintained stock fencing and you will be fine.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2022, 11:31:35 pm »
- first timers are best lambed indoors or at least penned up with their lambs for the first 48 hours.  They mostly don't bond well the first time without intervention.  I have never seen this after the first time, once they have experienced mother love it seems to kick in fine on subsequent lambings.  (We are an outdoor lambing flock here, and they are generally fine with that after the first time.)

Hi Sally, I hadn't seen this until you mentioned it again.

Honestly? This isn't my experience at all. So far, we've had two ewes that didn't immediately want their lambs. Each time we put that down to first time nerves, but actually they were no better the next year, so they became casseroles. Actually that's not true - one of them was called Caribbean - she became a number of very tasty curries  :innocent: .

I have had ewes try to steal lambs from others, which is a good reason for penning, but apart from the two just mentioned we've never had an issue. So, yes it can happen, but I don't think it's accurate to say they 'mostly don't bond well'.

They do tend to stay behind fences BTW - they're too big to do much jumping.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2022, 11:45:44 pm »
Well, I can only share my own experience, which clearly differs from yours!  You have way more experience of Zwartbles than I do, but the ones I lambed here (some bred here and some bought in) were not great first time - apart from the mighty Gwenneth. 

So maybe the message is to try to source from a flock which has good first time mothering.  All breeders will say their sheep have great feet, lamb easily and mother beautifully, so I s'pose ideally try to find a flock which is recommended by others.  Hopefully there will be a return to shows, and smallholder events, and the like, for those interactions to happen! 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

silkwoodzwartbles

  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2022, 07:03:51 am »
I'm completely late to the party but did comment on your thread on Facebook. Congratulations on having chosen your first stock, and I'm sure you'll love them. They are a brilliant breed  :thumbsup:

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2022, 07:58:03 am »
Well, I can only share my own experience, which clearly differs from yours!

...... which tells us something, don't you think? Mothering aside, the Zs you started with - would you have bought them had it been your choice? For instance were they good examples of the breed and was their conformation good?


It's been said already, but not all sheep are built equally. I think that must be doubly true for a breed where there is pressure to select for pretty markings rather than one where they all look ostensibly the same?


I know you've talked before of flocks that always lamb indoors potentially masking things like mothering issues which then persist. There is also the issue of my flock becoming adapted to my ground and conditions over time, so they might not do as well for you, for instance?



Also nobody sells their best sheep - I certainly wouldn't. We made a rule that we will never sell an animal to anybody else that we wouldn't happily keep ourselves if we had the space, but that may not be true for everybody!
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2022, 01:48:21 pm »
[
...... which tells us something, don't you think? Mothering aside, the Zs you started with - would you have bought them had it been your choice? For instance were they good examples of the breed and was their conformation good?


It's been said already, but not all sheep are built equally. I think that must be doubly true for a breed where there is pressure to select for pretty markings rather than one where they all look ostensibly the same?


No obvious issues with any of the Zs here when I arrived, no. 

Funnily enough, Gwenneth had cost more than the others because she was (so they tell me) perfectly marked.  The folks here didn't care two hoots about that, but they did think Gwenneth was the best ewe lamb they were being shown, so paid the extra for her.  And she was the best of all of the Zs here, by a mile (although her fleece was fairly horrible.)  I liked her because she was an excellent sheep in every respect (bar that fleece.)   So that also tells us that the folks who bought the sheep in before I came could tell a good sheep.  ;) 

Gwenneth just didn't last very long, sadly :'(   And another sheep from that same place went the same way, just never really regained condition after a few lambings.  Investigations and treatments discovered nothing and fixed nothing, same as we later went through with Gwenneth.  (Which was why we went through the shenanigans and expense of all the Johnes' disease investigations with Gwenneth - it seemed the most likely explanation, having ruled most other things out, and if it was Johnes, we needed to know.  But that all came back negative, and no other obvious issues post mortem at the abattoir either, so it remains a mystery.) 

Two other Zs here were good sheep to begin with, and one had a very nice fleece (as Z fleece goes).   But all that line got mastitis at around crop 2 or 3, so the whole line went in the freezer.

I think it is always a balancing act trying to run two quite different breeds (of any species) on the same system.  Our system suits primitives and crosses better than it suits Zwartbles.  Although it does seem to suit Wensleydales fine too, which is a bit surprising, but maybe being from the north of England they have been bred for tougher conditions than the Dutch dairy sheep.  And Wenseys aren't particularly milky, so they don't have that demand on their systems.


Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2022, 01:57:43 pm »

I know you've talked before of flocks that always lamb indoors potentially masking things like mothering issues which then persist. There is also the issue of my flock becoming adapted to my ground and conditions over time, so they might not do as well for you, for instance?

I do think that about buying in from an indoor lambing flock, yes - irrespective of breed.  And the same negative pressure, in spades, with a dairy breed operated for dairy.  For sure, you don't necessarily lose mothering - most Jersey cows are devoted mothers, given the opportunity - but you have an absence of selection for good mothering-up. 

As to the "terroir" effect, the breeder was very local and the holding not dissimilar as I understand it.  But their management was different to ours. 


Also nobody sells their best sheep - I certainly wouldn't. We made a rule that we will never sell an animal to anybody else that we wouldn't happily keep ourselves if we had the space, but that may not be true for everybody!

Well it's true for me, not that I sell many in the normal course of events.  It's as much about not wanting a ewe put into a situation where she performs poorly / is stressed as it is a matter of professional pride.  Breeders have the added incentive of reputation - hard won and easily lost, as you have said before! 

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Startingout

  • Joined Dec 2021
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2022, 09:01:47 pm »
I'm completely late to the party but did comment on your thread on Facebook. Congratulations on having chosen your first stock, and I'm sure you'll love them. They are a brilliant breed  :thumbsup:

Thank you! I'm still in the stage where I find all sheep talk fascinating, so it's nice to read the debates about various types of sheep, etc.

I'm sure I'll have a billion questions once the sheep land!

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Zwartbles sheep
« Reply #27 on: February 23, 2022, 10:36:36 am »
I'm still in the stage where I find all sheep talk fascinating

Me too :)  (15 years in...  ;D)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

 

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