It probably seems a little abrupt, from a 'blog perspective. Not even three short months ago, I 'blogged about the last Jacob lambs for the season having been birthed out that day; now, I report that all have been re-homed.
What didn't get 'blogged down was the thought process that occurred in the meantime. Jacobs were our very first, experimental foray into sheep. I had always wanted sheep, Babydolls specifically, but, having never owned sheep before, I was extremely hesitant to plunk down the $300-600 per lamb that a Babydoll ewe commands. A much less pricey breed, Jacobs were a good way to test the waters of sheep-dom. They helped us discover that we did, in fact, both really enjoy sheep.
Once the Babydolls arrived, though, I had the feeling that we would be switching focus in the future. They were just as cute and friendly as they were rumored to be. Moreover, their short, stocky body build perfectly fit the standard that I typically seek in most animal species. They just looked -- and felt -- "right." The Jacobs still were cool, but ...
The next strike came when the Jacobs were shorn a week or so later. Previously puff-balls, they were suddenly denuded into revealing their true form. True to breed standard, our Jacob ewes were "unimproved," meaning that, while the Babydolls waddled around like little meat-bricks, the Jacobs looked fairly lanky. This is not a fault -- it's what they're supposed to look like. It really just didn't quite fit on our farm. Despite the spots, the Jacobs now looked out of place.
Our sheep paddocks are right behind our bedroom window. This may seem like a glaring stupidity of design to seasoned shepherds, but it never even occurred to us that the sheep might eventually make noise. They really didn't make much noise, either; not until their lambs were weaned. That night -- weaning night -- we did not sleep. This is not surprising. What was surprising was that the weaning seemed to have flipped a switch in our ewes, and suddenly, they went from being relatively quiet girls to being the all-sheep chorus of New Hampshire. This wouldn't have been so bad if the baaing was a cute, gentle sound, but it wasn't. I eventually realized that it reminded me quite powerfully of a really, really loud version of one of those noise makers that you turn upside down that makes that very sickly mooing noise, and when I was a little kid, I used to hate those.
So, we concluded that, between the relative discord of the Jacob standard (fine-boned and lanky) with our farm standard (heavy-boned and stocky), the discovery that Olde English "Babydoll" Southdown sheep fit our farm perfectly, and, of course, the baaing, we made the decision to find our ewes a new home.
With the re-homing of the Jacobs, my plan is now to spend some time seriously focusing on the development of our Babydoll Southdown breeding program. I never even got around to seeking out a Jacob ram, and now, my focus is on finding the highest-quality Olde English Southdown ram I can find. I've learned by now that when I choose to really work with a breed of animal, I don't like to mess around with low-end. Howling Hill Farm takes all of our breeding programs seriously, and our Babydoll Southdowns will be no exception. Now that we have made the decision to focus on the breed, it's time to seriously focus on building a top-quality flock!