Let me tell you the story of our sheep……………… Four years ago I began to worry about bush fire danger to our humpy so we began to mow around the general human habitat with a push mower; laborious and boring work (I can tell you). The procedure involved having my two daughters walk in front of the mower and clear a 10 meter wide strip of bush of sticks, rocks and clods while my partner and I took turns pushing the mower (with a catcher) and emptying the wheel barrow of clippings from the mower. Although this process yielded lots of kindling for the fire (sticks) and mulch for the garden (clippings), we soon got sick of it as it needed repeating on a monthly basis over summer and it took a whole weekend of 8 hour days to complete. So after two years; a new plan was hatched…… We decided we needed to let animals take over some of the work as they didn’t have to go off and earn a living and study too. After a lot of research into suitable animals for the purpose of fire hazard reduction we settled on sheep as the most useful; horses are too delicate and browse branches in preference to grass and ground cover; goats are the love children of Houdini and an old world daemon and will escape a maximum security enclosure in order to eat your favorite shrub; geese are too susceptible to predators, eagles, foxes and dogs; cattle need more feed than we can provide on our poor land, so sheep it is. I didn’t want a breed of sheep that required tail docking, mulsing and shearing so I looked around at the older varieties of sheep who shed their wool and are capable of surviving without massive amounts of human intervention. I came up with Shetland sheep and Wiltshire horn sheep as my preferred breeds because both have usable wool but don’t need a lot of attention. As it turns out, Shetland sheep are impossible to obtain in Australia so I began looking at Wiltshire horn sheep and discovered that they are wild and wary creatures who never tame fully. I kept asking around and talking about the idea until I ran into a local lady who breeds…Wiltipols. Wiltipols are a newish breed of sheep made from crossing Wiltshire horns with Dorpers (another shedding breed). They are reasonably docile, shed their wool and do not require a lot of care or intervention. I asked the local lady; Evelyn, to let me know when the next lot of lambs were ready to go. Meanwhile we began to save for fencing and managed to build two smallish paddocks by the time our babies were weaned and ready to come home.
They eat everything and anything; lantana, bladey grass, native grasses, the lot.
You can see the old wool gradually shedding and the new fleece below.
give them a handful of mixed grain of a morning to keep them coming to me and so I can check them over
They came when you call them and I love their playful yet gentle natures.
We eventually moved to electric fencing to make paddocks for them as that has proved to be the most flexible method of getting the firebreak mown.
They do a brilliant job of clearing the fire breaks and they are just going into their first moult. I believe that getting our four girls (and the later addition of Kitty, another story) has been the best labor saving initiative we have ever instituted. I have yet to figure out how to collect the shed wool in any useful amount, but it will happen if I keep thinking about it.