We have taken the first step in our planned transition from dairy sheep to fiber sheep! I drove up to Marble Creek Ranch in Siskiyou County on Monday and came home Tuesday with 6 beautiful Corriedale lambs! We all love our East Friesians–they are such beautiful sheep with such sweet personalities–and we aren’t going to get rid of the ones we have. But the East Friesians are high-maintenance sheep, and in recognition of the fact that none of us here at Barinaga Ranch are as young and spry as we used to be, I’m thinking about how to make a gradual transition to sheep that are a bit easier to deal with at lambing time and other times of the year. I looked for breeds that are friendly and easy to handle, and also ones that have beautiful fleeces, so that we can develop wool as a more significant product. My cousin Linda put in a good word for Corriedales, a breed that originated in New Zealand, and that Linda raised years ago when her kids were small and she was doing a lot of hand-spinning. I was lucky to find Marble Peaks Ranch, owned by Nancy Burns and Steve Edel. Not only do they share so many of our values of land and animal stewardship and biosecurity, but they breed beautiful prize-winning Corriedales, and also win top prizes for their gorgeous fleeces. I was thrilled they had some lambs for me. My husband Corey liked the fact that we were getting sheep that share his name (sort of). We got five black girls, whose fleeces will fade to different shades of silver-grey, and a white ram lamb whose grandfather was a champion ram from Australia. Lisa, always thinking about names, noted that we can’t exactly name the ram Corrie, as there is already one Corey on the ranch, so she decided he should be called Dale. Later this summer, we may also add some Romneys, and if we do, I think that ram may need to be named Mitt. Our plan is to cross Dale and Mitt with our East Friesian ewes, to get cross-bred ewes who will have improved fleece and with luck will tend to have twins rather than triplets and quads. We will also breed the rams to the girls of their own breed, to keep two purebred flocks going as well. I thought I could never find any sheep as beautiful as my lovely Friesians, with their sleek, wool-less faces and their large, expressive eyes, but these Corriedale lambs with their hair-dos are pretty darn cute and have won all of our hearts already. (If you are wondering, the coats they are wearing are to keep their beautiful fleeces clean!)
Dale (middle) and his girls
Lisa's welcome sign
Lolo with one of the ewe lambs
Unloading the lambs
Dale and the girls in their new pasture

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