Not so long ago, I bought a livestock trailer from a sheep farmer a few hours ago from where I live. Upon arriving at his farm, I learned that he was raising sheep that looked very different from my Icelandic herd.
His sheep were alert, their ears were straight, making them look almost like rabbits. It was a sharp contrast to my Icelandic people’s ears, which lay flat against their heads.
These sheep were friendly and alert, bouncing around their paddock as they ate their food.
I asked him what they were, and he told me, “Cheviots.” Cheviot sheep are distinctive looking sheep that are difficult to confuse with any other breeds.
There are many reasons to consider increasing them.
Like any breed of sheep, there are some special things you need to keep in mind for this peculiar breed.
- 1 What is the breed of Cheviot sheep?
- 2 Breed History
- 3 6 reasons to breed Cheviot sheep
- 4 Special Considerations When Raising Cheviot Sheep
- 5 How to Raise Cheviot Sheep
- 6 Is the Cheviot Sheep Breed Right for Me?
What is the breed of Cheviot sheep?
Cheviot sheep are known for their hardiness.
They handle both the cold winters of Australia as well as the foggy, windy conditions of Scotland. They have the ability to forage easily during hot, dry summers, when forage is more scarce.
These sheep are not picky eaters.
A rapidly maturing, resilient breed, Cheviots have distinctive white faces that are free of wool. They don’t even have wool on their feet. They are generally white and hornless, prized for their long, soft wool.
Cheviots have dark faces and black legs and keep themselves alert and lively. However, what is really unique about these sheep is their prickly ears. The upright position of the ears makes Cheviot appear as if he is always listening carefully to everything you say.
A mature Cheviot Ram will weigh around 180-200 pounds. Eves will come in at 130-160 pounds.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the Cheviot breed originated in an area of the same name. It was on the border of Scotland and England: the Cheviot Hills. This breed of sheep provides a lot of benefits to farmers, especially those located in the US or Australia.
Cheviots were first introduced to America in 1838 from Scotland.
However, they were long before then, as early as 1372 they were recognized as one of the hardiest sheep breeds.
Developed in the gloomy mountains of Scotland, Cheviots were originally called long sheep or white sheep. The Cheviot is a mountain breed of extreme hardiness.
They were known for producing excellent quality of wool and meat in the cold mountainous country. Today, Cheviot sheep are most common in northern Northumberland and the Scottish borders of the United Kingdom.
However, they are also commonly found in Ireland, Wales, southwest England, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, and the Americas.
A dual-purpose breed, Cheviot sheep can be bred for both meat and wool. There are several types of Cheviot sheep that have been brought into existence. These include the Border Cheviot, Brecknock Hill Cheviot, North Country Cheviot, and less commonly, the Wicklow and Western Hilly Cheviot.
6 reasons to breed Cheviot sheep
There are countless reasons to raise the Cheviot sheep breed – beyond their attractive appearance!
1. Wool Quality
Cheviot sheep offer the best wool quality of all the breeds around. It is not necessary that you will use the softest wool in your spinning and weaving.
However, it does have a distinctive quality known as a helical crimp. This crimp gives the wool remarkable flexibility and durability. Because of this, Cheviot wool is often blended with other yarns to give it a stronger and more long-lasting quality.
Dense and long staple, this fleece is springy to the touch. The average ewe will produce a wool that is about 5-10 pounds. Its micron measurement is about 27.0–33.0.
Its spinning count will be 48-56. The core length of each wool is 3-5-inches, with an average yield of up to 75%.
2. Resistance to Flystrike
As I mentioned, Cheviot sheep have ruffled wool that appears to spring back when you touch it. Because of this, they are more resistant to flystrike and flea rot, two issues that affect the sheep industry in almost every part of the world.
Not worrying too much about flystrike in particular means you can keep these sheep with fewer dewormers and antiparasitics. This reduces your time involved in management and improves the health of your flock.
3. Environmental hardness
The Cheviot sheep breed is one of the few breeds that can be raised practically anywhere. These tough sheep can handle both hot, dry summers as well as cold, wet winters with no problem.
While you will still need to provide the sheep with suitable shelter and feed during these difficult times, they can more or less protect themselves. They are rugged animals with the ability to find their own feed and meet their own needs.
4. Meat Quality
In addition to producing excellent wool, Cheviot sheep can also be reared for meat. Cheviote’s lamb is known to be luscious and mild-tasting, and like wool, is not particularly greasy.
Carcasses are fleshy and grow at a moderate pace. Although they are slightly smaller than other meat breeds, the quality of the meat speaks for itself.
5. Maternal Traits
A Cheviot sheepdog is independent and hardy – but that doesn’t mean Cheviot mothers don’t deserve respect for their abilities.
Cheviot ewes are excellent mothers, so even first-time moms know what to expect during and after lambing. Most of the time, you will have few problems to worry about when lambing with these animals.
Although Cheviots are not typically raised for milk production, you don’t have to worry about the sheep being able to feed on their lambs, as they come into milk quickly and easily.
6. Requirement of minimum adherence
As I mentioned, the unique quality of Cheviot’s wool means that keeping these sheep healthy requires less work on your part. You won’t have to worry about getting wet, crutches or other tasks frequently.
Not only that, but the Cheviot Sheep sheepdog is easy-going and has strong maternal instincts, so there’s less need for you to intervene during lambing.
They also have hard black feet that do not succumb to footrot as easily as other breeds. You’ll still need to trim the hooves and make sure you’re keeping them generally healthy, but ultimately, foot problems are no less of a concern.
Another advantage of raising Cheviots from a management point of view is that, despite producing a substantial amount of high-quality wool, they do not grow wool on their faces. This has the advantage that unlike other wool breeds, Cheviots do not suffer from wool blindness.
Special Considerations When Raising Cheviot Sheep
Cheviot sheep are active and agile. They are highly intelligent and while this is certainly another benefit to add to the list, the downside of this level of intelligence is that they tend to do what they want, when they want to.
Although often raised by hobbyists, if you choose to raise Cheviot sheep, it is a good idea to become familiar with the basics of sheep handling. They do not have great herding instincts and, therefore, can be more challenging to herd (even if you are lucky enough to have a herding dog).
That said, if you are trying to train a herding dog to have more advanced skills, Cheviots are the perfect challenger. They are also wonderful for kids in 4H who are interested in raising these sheep for show purposes.
How to Raise Cheviot Sheep
Raising Cheviot sheep is not unlike raising sheep of other breeds. You’ll just need to make sure you provide them with enough forage and a little bit of shelter during peak weather.
However, you don’t need to worry too much about the extent of this shelter, as Cheviot sheep can more or less fend for themselves except in extreme situations. A three-sided barn is usually sufficient.
Cheviot sheep have no known health issues and ewes are seasonal breeders with an average of 90% lambing even in harsh conditions.
One thing to note about Cheviot sheep care is that, since they do not have strong herding instincts, they will not graze in the typical V-shaped herding pattern. They often do not even graze together, instead preferring to spread out and graze across the landscape.
Because of this, if you plan on rotational grazing, you may need to be more cautious about setting up separate fencing for different paddocks to keep them contained.
Is the Cheviot Sheep Breed Right for Me?
If you are looking for a breed of sheep that produces quality wool while still being hardy and frugal on feed, the Cheviot may be what you have been waiting for.
They are known to have excellent temperament with great mothering skills. This is perfect for those who want to raise their kids with animals or simply enjoy keeping them as pets.
So while Cheviots have their fair share of challenges and considerations to take into account, if those characteristics sound like what you are looking for in a flock of sheep, you may want to consider raising this breed on your farm!
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