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Author Topic: opinions on zwartbles?  (Read 3985 times)

Jamie12

  • Joined Nov 2013
opinions on zwartbles?
« on: August 16, 2014, 11:52:43 pm »
Originally I intended to buy some mules or suffolks but have recently been spending time with some zwartbles and now I'm tempted. I'm finding them good to work with but would like some opinions on how they thrive? The grass I have to rent is good quality, flat and seems dry though he does have some fields that weren't cut for hay therefore are a bit long and dry (but I can graze these for free but I'm not keen!), I have heard they do take a lot to feed, hoping to also get some opinions on lambing and anything else really.
Voss Electric Fence

FCA

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2014, 10:53:48 am »
Hi Jamie12, I can only comment on Zwartbles as pets.  We bought 4 ewes about 13 years ago and have loved them to bits.  Our original choice had been something else, but then we came across Zwartbles and nothing else seemed right after that.  We had the last two put to sleep last winter (but had already prepared for that by buying 4 more). They all reached the ages of 12 and 13.
So - they are big and cuddly.  They are exceedingly friendly and gentle, although as they are big and strong they can unintentionally knock children (and the odd unaware adult!) over.  We struggle to turn ours over, so my advice for foot care would be to train them to hold their feet up like horses.  You don't get such easy access, especially to the back feet, but it's the best we can do.  Another tip for turning - get them up against a wall (we're lucky as we have stables for them), pin them there, reach through their legs so one hand grabs the front leg nearest the wall and the other grabs the back hand nearest the wall.  Then pull those two legs towards you away from the wall, the idea is that the sheep slides down the wall and ends up lying on her side.  It's not best practice, but it's worked for us on the odd occasion.  Having said that, our shearer flicks them over with no effort at all - our technique is clearly lacking!
We have never lambed ours (knew I'd never be able to get rid of any of the lambs and we can't end up with 50 sheep!), but in the first few years we made the mistake of still feeding them grain.  I now know they don't need it and they did end up a little fat, which in the long run isn't good for their hips and legs (arthritis got 3 out of the 4 in the end and the extra weight didn't help).  Now they just have grass and hay which we feed ad lib when the grass is poor.  And the odd bucket full of grain, just because I can't help it!  They have been exceptionally easy to bucket train and will come running at the sound of it, and also a rustling plastic bag because that signals treats - fruit, veg, the odd digestive biscuit.
They are very easy to catch for checking things out.  In fact, I can walk up to them in the field and they will stay lying down while I put a head collar on them. 
They are a milky sheep and we have had some trouble with full udders in the summer even when they have never had lambs.  One ended up with an abscess filling her entire udder, but she was about 10 by then and it never caused any problems.  We've had no problems ever with flystrike (treat with Vetrazin) and they've never been ill (treat with Heptavac).  They have had limps and the occasional 'something' when I've felt that they were under the weather but that's all been easily fixed with antibiotics, pain relief and rest.  That's not to say we have't had our share of dramas - rhododendron poisoning (recovered), trip to Royal Vet Hospital when I though abscess was cancer, cyst on head which did turn out to be cancer (treated as cysts for a long time, but after realisation struck we had to put her to sleep).
Sorry, I've just read through your original question and I haven't really answered anything you wanted to know!  Nor did I intend to give you their life story.  Guess what I wanted to get across is that if you are tempted by Zwartbles I don't think you'll be disappointed in their personality, their gentleness, their friendliness, their looks or the simple pleasure that you'll get from having them.

mowhaugh

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Scottish Borders
    • Facebook
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2014, 11:40:59 am »
I would agree with what FCA has said about their temperaments and so on, and they could be well suited to the type of ground you have.  I did try them here a little while, and I loved them, they weren't for us as I had to spend far too much feeding them, but we are clinging onto the very steep side of a windswept scottish hill, very different to where you are wanting to keep them.  Another issue in this area was I found it very difficult to get the wether lambs away, store lamb buyers were reluctant to touch them at all.  But they are very canny sheep and nice to work with.

Jamie12

  • Joined Nov 2013
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2014, 12:21:28 pm »
Thank you. I have been finding them great to work with,which is great when you are a 5ft female!. Trying to look a bit more into how financially viable they are. Prices seem a bit less silly than suffolks and crossing any mismarked females to a texel (or similar) seems a good option. Worried this is going to become a rather expensive hobby lol.  :innocent:

mowhaugh

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Scottish Borders
    • Facebook
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2014, 01:34:11 pm »
Thank you. I have been finding them great to work with,which is great when you are a 5ft female!. Trying to look a bit more into how financially viable they are. Prices seem a bit less silly than suffolks and crossing any mismarked females to a texel (or similar) seems a good option. Worried this is going to become a rather expensive hobby lol.  :innocent:

If you aren't concerned about breeding pedigree, but just want some nice sheep to work with, I would have thought choosing some Zwartbles which are good sheep but not marked correctly, tupping them with a texel, selling all the lambs and buying in female Z replacements as needed could work well.

Jamie12

  • Joined Nov 2013
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2014, 02:00:00 pm »
I wouldn't mind a few decent ones to breed as pedigree (id love to show for fun) but realistically breeding only pure for the pedigree market isn't going to make me anything (if anything) hence the texel idea. I would like to be MV accredited, if possible. Plenty to think about lol

ewesaidit

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2014, 09:41:39 pm »
 :wave: Hi Jamie12    I have a small flock of Zwartbles - started in 2008.  Love them! 

 If you go on to www.fwi.co.uk and type Zwartbles in the search box you should find two excellent articles on the breed, the most recent one includes info on how great they are as a breed for crossing.  Hope this helps.  You could also try www.zwartbles.org for the association website. 

ewesaidit

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2014, 09:50:33 pm »
Hi again Jamie12 ..... should have said ... the article I referred to in the last post is specifically about the potential for the Zwartbles breed to be an alternative mule producer -  first cross will produce black lambs but then that generation put to a terminal sire will produce mostly white lambs. 

Jamie12

  • Joined Nov 2013
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2014, 10:49:34 pm »
Thanks ewesaidit, would love to see photos of your zwartbles. I have been helping out with zwartbles recently and seem fan. Will have a read of those articles  :thumbsup:

Azzdodd

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2014, 08:51:36 am »
Personally I did agree with them I have welsh x & texel x ewes and there no bother I bought 4 zwarble ewes with there lambs and they were a pain always lame more then anything but couldn't fault then as mothers

Jamie12

  • Joined Nov 2013
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2014, 09:12:56 am »
Out if interest Azzdodd, is there anything specific that makes them lame? Or are they just bad for it as a breed?

Azzdodd

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2014, 10:37:32 pm »
Might off just been the breeding line I got I don't really trim my other ewe's they needed every 4 weeks

Daisys Mum

  • Joined May 2009
  • Scottish Borders
Re: opinions on zwartbles?
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2014, 09:53:17 am »
I have done a fair bit of complaining about mine but now that the wet weather is over and the grass is shorter I'm not having the lameness problems, I do find that their toes do seem to get long very quickly so need to be trimmed frequently. They are big sheep so do take a fair bit of feeding in the run up to lambing and afterwards although now they are on grass only and looking good. I had intended getting rid of mine this year but have decided not to although I will cross them this year and definitely manage them differently too.
Anne

 
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