A Good Forager and Producer of High-Quality Wool
Looking for a new breed of sheep to raise on your farm? From Icelandic sheep to Dorset, you will have plenty of options to choose from.
One of the most popular breeds – and one that has been particularly prevalent over the years – is the merino.
The Merino sheep breed is known for its excellent wool quality and although it has been around since the 1100s, it has recently grown in popularity as interest in more natural clothing has increased.
Here you need to know about the breed of Merino sheep, so that you can decide whether it is right for your farm or not.
What is Merino Sheep Breed?
Merino sheep is known for its excellent quality of wool, which is the best in the world. It first came into existence in Spain in the early 12th century. A wild breed of sheep, a descendant of Mouflon, it was later imported into Australia where it was refined through intensive selective breeding.
There are many different varieties of medium-sized sheep, farmers to choose from. These include:
- Burola merino
- Delene Merino
- Pol merino
- South African Mutton Merino
- Strong wool merino
- South African Merino
- Medium-wool merino
- German Mutton Merino
- Futanil merino
Merino sheep are known to be the softest, finest wool of all the sheep. They can be found polluted or horny, with horned rams having spiral horns that grow close to their head. They differ in terms of size and confirmation, some of which have larger skin layers that become smaller by age.
Most merinoes are of medium size with white legs and face. Most have some wool that grows on their face as well.
The history of Merino sheep is quite old – and in fact, some historians disagree on the true origin of this breed. Most agree that it probably originated and reformed in the Extremadura region of southwestern Spain, sometime in the 1100–1200s.
However, its characteristic soft, fine wool did not develop until several centuries later through selective cross-breeding. It was also raised extensively in Morocco and Italy and Spain. This breed was known to graze the southern plains in winter and the northern highlands in summer.
Genetic studies suggest that the Merino breed was probably formed as a result of crossing the Churu Ives, with several breeds, including the Italian Rams, the English Rams, and the North African Rams.
Its wool was widely exported to make clothes and other textile goods, with many merino herds owned by the church and nobility.
Merino sheep from the US were first introduced in Vermont in 1802. He was sent to Australia in 1788.
Causes of raising Merino sheep
Here are some of the best reasons to consider raising merino sheep on your farm.
1. Excellent wool quality
Merino sheep are some of the best wool producers you can raise. The wool is famously soft and fine, with staples about 2.6–3.9 inches long.
In fact, ultra-fine versions of this wool are so soft that they are often mixed with other silk-smooth fabrics such as cashmere and silk.
The wool is dense and even each ram shears about 25 lbs of wool and women up to 20 cm.
2. Using capabilities
This breed is also known for its exceptional ability. It is very adaptable and hardy, something you will come to know when you notice that these sheep are raised as hot as Australia and as cold as Vermont.
The adaptability of your merino sheep depends on which type you decide to raise. For example, Delaine sheep is adapted to limit sheep production in the western and southwestern parts of the US.
3. Long Productive Life
Although merino sheep do not live longer than other types of sheep, they are still more productive for longer periods.
Ives often provide good wool production for up to 12 years.
4. Friendship and decency
If you are looking for a sheep that is easy to handle, then the Merino is also a great option for you.
These animals have been domesticated on a large scale and bred to be friendly towards people.
Special Considerations When Raising Merino Sheep
Some considerations should be taken when growing Merinos on your farm.
1. Regular shearing required
Unfortunately, because merino sheep have been bred primarily for their wool production, you will probably find that you need to shear them much more often than other breeds.
It is not a breed that can more or less take care of itself.
Twice a year is necessary not only for the quality of wool but also for the welfare of the sheep.
2. Not the best for meat
Although some merino sheep are raised for mutton such as South African mutton merino, this is not a breed of sheep that you would like to raise just for meat. It is actually a wool breed and nothing else.
The carcass is small in size and the flesh is unmistakable in taste. Ewes usually weigh only 120lbs, while rams can be 180lbs. The lambs are, of course, very small.
3. Udaan Khatola
There is a particular controversy surrounding the Merino sheep that is worth noting. Especially in Australia, the prevalence of mules is common to reduce the possibility of flystrike. Mule is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the back end of a sheep. This reduces the chances of wool growing, which can retain feces and urine and thus attracts flies.
As you might think, this process is unpleasant and highly controversial.
Fortunately there are other ways by which you can prevent flystrike in your merino sheep, which are more susceptible to flystrike due to their heavy wool.
Cutting hair several times per year is an obvious requirement. During periods in which the flystrike may be overcrowded (eg hot, wet weather) you can go a step further and crush your sheep.
It removes wool (not skin, as with mules, but only wool) around the tea and back end.
How to raise merino sheep
Raising Merino sheep is not unlike raising any other type of sheep. They require a solid diet of grasses, pastures and topical grains.
You will need to consider some additional considerations regarding shelter. Because these sheep are generally raised for the production of wool, you should keep them out of the elements as much as possible. This will ensure better quality of wool.
You provide them with a barn or three-sided shelter when the weather is foul. Try to keep out of the rain as much as possible in those weeks and months and take to the shear.
Of course, they require constant access to fresh, clean water and regular veterinary care, especially around the lamb.
Are Merino Sheep Right For Me?
While merino sheep may not be the best option for everyone, if you want to raise sheep for wool production, you will not find a better option than merino.
You will really need to pay extra attention to wool care and shear, especially if you want to avoid problems like flystrike. All in all, this is not a difficult breed to raise in any way.
Also, there are many benefits to raising Merino sheep!
This sheep breed is vibrant, hardy and absolutely stunning. Also, you can’t ignore the silky smooth wool yield, either!
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