The Shetlands were first. They do have fine, luxurious wool and can be quite friendly, but are a hard sell. Their small size only commands about $125 per lamb here and because they are not big, they are last to go. Too bad, because their wool can be exquisite. The first Shetlands I had were not friendly in the least, but I tried again with two from a reputable breeder, and they are lovely.
Then East Friesians came along. They are a dairy, wool, and meat breed, but have been improved by man in that they require grain inputs to produce milk and wool. They were also needy sheep at lambing time, and even though they produced at least two lambs and as many as four, they were not the best mothers. So off with the East Friesians.
The Karakuls were here from the beginning and are all that I desired, but there are too few to have a decent gene pool in Canada. I have two of the three original lambs I started with, one who never has lambed and I have not ever found a pure Karakul ram in Canada. I might keep them, but then, no, I should not.
The Cotswolds came along after the Friesians. They arrived in March with full wool coats. They were grain fed and did not fare well in winter and could not convert to a grass based operation easily. The ram was sick and cost a total of $1200 by the time he passed away. The sheep take two full years and a bit to mature, which in this market is too long. They can be of good size and have wonderful curly locks, but the locks don't keep them warm enough in our very cold winters. I would like to keep two only of these.
I acquired a Gotland cross last year and she is a keeper. She is friendly and lovely and has amazing fleece.
The Blue Faced Leicester sheep are terrible for this area. They do not have the same type of fleece as most sheep, with an open small lofty wool that provides little warmth for them, so they must eat all the time to just stay warm, and they must be fed grain or they become too thin. They lack hardiness too. The lambs born this year were tough to keep alive, both of them. As much as I like the wool, this is not the place to attempt raising them. The crosses with other breeds are much hardier and are worth keeping.
Tunis sheep are originally from Africa. They have floppy ears and a red face and legs. They are born red, but their fleece becomes cream coloured with maturity. It is medium quality, but the sheep are good keepers and friendly and have meaty carcasses. That is important when there are too many males born and some must go as meat lambs. The Tunis and Blue Faced Leicester cross sheep inherited finer wool from the BFL and still retained the strong constitution of the Tunis. I would have loved to see what Tunis/Cotswold was like, but alas, poor Walter, has died.
Then there are the Babydoll Southdowns. They are cute, friendly, parasite resistant, easy keepers and cost a lot to buy. The gene pool was poor, however; due to some recent imports, is improving greatly. Their wool is very fine but short and collects all the debris from the other sheep since they are short and it falls onto their backs. The Babydoll Jacob cross has better fleece than the Babydoll. I will see how the Babydoll Shetland works for wool and then Babydoll Romney.
The Jacobs are lovely. They are everything I want in a sheep and are easy to sell since not many keep them. They are a small sheep though and as meat lambs, do not sell that well.
The best so far is the Romney. They are sweet sheep, friendly, docile and quiet, and their wool is so so very soft and crimpy. They are perfect. If I had only one breed, it would be the Romneys.
So, now I plan to sell many of the sheep including the foundation Babydolls, all but 2 Cotswolds and 2 Shetlands, and see if I can whittle the numbers down to a manageable amount for one person. I have been trying to sell some sheep, but with the hay shortage, it has not been a good year for that. Hoping that the spring will be better, I will persevere.
Working with sheep has been great for me. I love the animals. I love almost everything about them and hope always to have at least a few until I can no longer care for myself or them properly. Hopefully that will be a long long time from now. Sigh.