The sheep simply do not do well in the winter here. They need coats, or rather, parkas, to stay warm. One of their attributes is their very fine fleece, which is much sought after by hand spinners. It can create a warm wearable next to the skin garment with no prickle or itch and takes dye very well too, so it is popular, that is , if it clean and free of debris. My fleeces are not so far. Already I am seeing an improvement using hay nets though, so my fingers are crossed for next shearing.
So, the Blue Faced Leicester sheep do not thrive in the winter. They eat a lot just to try to stay warm, but they are always cold. I will get them old parkas for this winter. It is just not fair to have cold animals and rather than heat a building for them, I will dress them for winter. They are for sale though and some people have been interested. The drawback is usually where I am located, which is a long drive for most. So, they are still here.
The two ewes had lambs this spring. One is a ewe lamb and she is normal. They are slow growing and slow maturing, taking a full year or longer to grow to adulthood. The ram is three and has just reached his potential. Now he is rather impressive. Last year he was used as a sire to produce some spectacular fleeces without the openness factor that is the reason the animals cannot stay warm. The best cross is the Tunis with the BFL. The fleece is amazing, a creamy white, thick and luxurious. I might use him again with some of the sheep, but I also have a Romney ram this year, a prized wool breed. Some planning will definitely have to be done.
The little ram lamb that was born has failure to thrive. Right from the onset he was weak and small. I have treated him for various problems since birth and he is so small. He lost his fleece after a bout with both cocidia and worms, so he definitely will require a parka. I cannot sell him, only hope that he grows into a decent adult in time. The other ewe had a ewe lamb who is right on track and much stronger than the little ram lamb.
So, basically, the sheep would be better in another warmer winter location. They do very well in summer, gain a lot of weight and stay quite healthy, but winter usually means that they are losing weight and by spring are quite thin. This winter, the sheep will be supplemented with a little grain, which will be help, though it is contrary to my belief that animals should be grass fed if they are runimants. The hay was just not very good this year, so to give proper nutrition for our long winter, the grain supplement will be added.
I am tempted to keep one ewe and the ram if the parka idea works. Quinn, the ram, is really strong, friendly and quiet, all good temperament traits for a ram. The coloured ewe is very nice too and they both carry genes for colour so their offspring can be coloured or white, even though the ram is white. I do have some one interested in them currently. Here is hoping they can find a new home for the winter. Still…one more year of that lovely fleece would be so nice. Hmm.