We raise single coated, fine wool Shetland breeding stock (ewes and rams) and fiber pets (wethers), some are available for sale. Shetland sheep are a Heritage Breed of sheep with soft, luscious wool with lots of memory. They can be found on the recovering list from the Livestock Conservancy. We are participating in the SE2SE challenge with raw fleeces for sale.
Northern Short-Tailed Sheep
Shetland sheep are very hardy, good milky mothers and easy lambers. When crossed with a suitable commercial ram they will produce a good butcher's lamb. Being ‘browsers’ rather than just ‘grazers’ they have been found highly useful for conservation grazing. Shetlands are small, fine-boned sheep belonging to the Northern Short-tailed group. They have adapted to the topographic and climatic conditions of Shetland for over a thousand years. They are very hardy and have the ability to thrive on low levels of nutrition. They are prolific with a prolificacy of about 160%. They are highly adaptable and succeed well in less rigorous conditions off the Shetland Islands.
Head & Horns
Rams may be horned or polled. Ewes are normally polled but occasionally may develop short horns that curve backward. The horns of the ram can be round or angulate in section, with transverse wrinkles. They rise above the head in an open spiral with the tips directed outwards. They are set well apart at the base, ideally one to two inches. A ram with heavy angulate horns may have a narrower base. Four-horned rams have been recorded and photographed but are rare.
A special feature of the head is the straight facial profile, but with a distinct hollow between the cheek and nose. The eyes are protuberant and set well apart - about three-quarters of the distance between the nose and the top of the head. The ears are small and fine, set well back on the head and carried slightly above the horizontal. Small amounts of wool are normally present on the forehead and almost always on the cheeks. A straight and level back and a well-rounded rump are indicative of the general quality of the sheep.
The tail has 13 vertebrae, much shorter than commercial sheep that have 26 vertebrae. It is fluke shaped, broad at the base and tapering for three-quarters of its length then continuing without further narrowing to a flattened tip. The upper portion of the tail is wool covered, but there is hair at the tip. The tail length varies in keeping with the size of the sheep, but is usually between 4 and 6 inches. This characteristic can sometimes be passed on to crossbred lambs.
The most important attribute of the breed is its wool, which is the finest of all native breeds and which shows an amazing variety of colors and patterns. There are 11 main whole colors and 30 recognized markings. The fleece tends to be shed in spring. At this point, the fleece can sometimes be plucked or rooed by hand.
As a pure breed, they produce very high-quality lean meat with outstanding flavor and fine texture. When crossed with a suitable terminal sire the heavier, faster-maturing lamb is readily acceptable at markets.
The following list summarises the features of the breed and the benefits which arise from these features.
Shetland Sheep - qualities and benefits
Can live and thrive outside 12 months of the year in most locations
Can survive on poor quality grazing, and a higher stocking density can be used on fertile pasture. Useful for conservation grazing
With fecundity rating of about 160% - lambing rates comparable to modern breeds
Intervention is rarely needed
Lambs have a strong will to live, get up quickly and feed - good outside survival
Mature ewes can rear triplets
Easy to handle
Ideal for smaller flocks without complex equipment and housing
Ewes will successfully cross with a terminal sire - produce good medium weight butcher's lambs
Lean with superb flavor and fine texture
High-quality wool, finest of any British breed - ready market for fleeces and popular with handspinners
Wide range of colors and markings
"Shetland Wool, taking all its properties together, is perhaps the completest article of the kind in the universe, possessing at the same time, the gloss and softness of silk, the strength of cotton, the whiteness of linen, and the warmth of wool."
Sir John Sinclair
September 22, 1790