Why Choose Shetland Sheep for the Sustainable Farm?
There are several reasons why we've chosen to keep Shetland sheep here at Sherwood Lavender Farm:
Shetland sheep are a small, hardy breed that can thrive in harsh, cold climates and on poor-quality pasture. This makes them well-suited to the rugged landscape of the Shetland Islands, where they originated. It also makes them well-suited to our farm in Oregon, where the climate can be quite extreme and our animals need to be happy eating blackberries as well as hay and grass!
Shetland sheep are known for their fine, soft wool, which is used to make a variety of products including clothing, blankets, and household textiles. We LOVE the wool from our sheep - it is soft and gorgeous! We have whole raw fleeces and processed wool for sale this year! Check out our store and sign up for our newsletter to be updated when we have more!
Shetland sheep are generally docile and easy to handle, making them a good choice for small-scale farmers and hobbyists. Our sheep are very tame, come when called, and eat out of our hands!
Keeping sheep means we can reduce our tractor mowing, which saves on diesel and noise and environmental pollution.
The sheep convert grass into sheep pellets (manure) to return nutrients to the soil. We operate a low input sustainable farm, and do not use chemical fertilizers, so some form of manure is needed to keep the pasture and plants healthy.
The sheep graze underneath the Douglas fir forest, keeping blackberry and other weeds under control. This is a form of silviculture, where another agricultural product is grown underneath timber trees, which take a long time to harvest.
Keeping sheep can be a rewarding and enjoyable addition to a farm, providing a sense of connection to the land and a source of pride in the quality of the wool and other products that are produced.
Shetland Sheep have come back from the brink of being endangered, and we love the opportunity to keep supporting this ancient breed.
In addition to wool, Shetland sheep can also produce milk and meat, making them a versatile addition to a small farm or homestead. Ok, trying to milk the sheep to feed an abandoned lamb has been a hilariously unproductive endeavor, but in theory we could milk them... Say no more!
What about meat? We do occasionally have lamb available. We do not raise our sheep for meat, but if male lambs exhibit undesirable horn growth, we have them humanely and calmly put down and processed. Unfortunately Shetland horns can curl around and grow into the heads of the lambs, which is just awful. Raised vegetarian, this is a very hard part of raising animals for me (Erika) and one that I am conflicted about, but it seems a terrible waste to bury an animal when the meat is highly sought after. People appreciate locally sustainable raised meat, reared on grass without chemicals and not stressed at the end of its life. Shetland lamb is highly sought after as it has less fat and more protein than other sheep, particularly when raised on pasture like ours. On balance, it seems the humane and sustainable thing to use all of the sheep than to waste it.
With all that said, at the end of the day, we picked Shetland Sheep because our first 6 sheep needed a home! The property they lived on had been sold and the old owner (a friend of a friend) was very concerned that the sheep go to a good home. We had space available and wanted a way to keep the grass down and return nutrients to the soil through grazing animals. Win win!
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