We approach Sheep and Pickle Farm as an enterprise, not a hobby. While there is great love and kindness here, there are no “pets” and no freeloaders. We are often asked about this, and I explain that if the future of agriculture is to include sheepraising and sheep care, it can’t be based on a “pet” approach. We make hard decisions each fall about who shall stay in the flock, and who shall go to the freezer. This allows us to continue this venture while “pet” flocks come and go all of the time.
Integral to this enterprise is attention to quality. We want every product coming off this farm to be something we are completely proud of. This means composting some fleece, and it means extra labor as we move the animals from one paddock to another at least three times per week to optimize their nutrition. Wild sheep move from one area to another – they would never choose to live in a static pasture.
The sheep repay our effort with delicious, tender lamb with exactly the right amount of fat cover. They repay us with clean, fine wool that is soft to the touch but wears well and is never floppy or spongy. We feed grain to move animals from one place to another, and a little in the fall for flushing (encouraging the ewes to have twins through feed). We do not feed grain as a matter of course, as it encourages obesity and ill-health.
For four years, we raised a flock of unregistered, mixed breed sheep with pride. We derived many benefits from our mixed-breed sheep, but we didn’t anticipate all of the drawbacks. Cormos are uncommon in the US, and many are not managed as multipurpose animals. We struggled to find thrifty rams with good conformation. Inconsistency became the norm in the flock and our lambing percentages fell for a complex set of reasons, including soil nutrient issues. We realized that we had overemphasized wool to the detriment of meat production. As fun as it is to play with wool, meat really pays the bills. So we began to think about breeds with good wool, but exceptional meat. We also wanted an active breeding community would allow us to find rams into the future In 2015, we decided to add registered Bluefaced Leicesters to the flock and in May 2016, our first Bluefaced Leicesters arrived in Vermont!
I hope that you will enjoy the produce of our farm!