Why Shetland Sheep And Kinder Goats?

| 8/6/2020 4:47:00 PM

brown Shetland sheep
My Shetland ram, Marcus

My first experience with sheep was raising Corriedales for 4-H. I enjoyed 4-H immensely, even though I had the only sheep projects in my club and one of the few (I may have been the only one) with Corriedales at the county fair. Being in junior high and high school, I’m pretty sure I didn’t internalize as much sheep-rearing information as I probably should have, but when I decided to get a few sheep for the farm, I discovered that just about everything I remembered regarding Corriedales was woefully outdated. Yes, they were still a natural white/cream-colored sheep and reasonably friendly. But beyond that, I learned after I brought four of them home that they were no longer the right sheep for what I wanted to do. That had a lot to do with my nostalgia, and nothing to do with the breeder of those sheep.

To my dismay, the breed had been “improved” in the intervening years, was now taller and heavier, had absolutely no personality at all, and did not do well on pasture. Again, the breeder was not to blame for this, and I was so stuck on getting Corriedales (based on my remembrance of them) that I wasn’t seeing the current sheep clearly. Once the sheep were on my farm, I realized that this was not going to work, and set about looking for another breed that would be of a manageable size, do well on pasture/hay without needing much (or ideally, no) grain, and had interesting personalities.

And that’s when Shetlands came to the top of the list. I had considered them before getting the Corriedales, but again, I really wanted the Corries to be what I remembered. When they weren’t, I found that the Shetlands should have been my first choice all along. Everything I read and the several breeders I messaged with all agreed – as heritage sheep that have not been “mucked with” genetically, Shetlands are thrifty, good on just grass and hay (although grain is a good bribery tool!), only grow to about 28” at the withers, and have personality. So I talked with a breeder in the next county and made the arrangements to pick up three ewes and an unrelated ram. In short order, I discovered just how well these pint-sized beasties would fit our plans for the farm. They are friendly, a perfect size for me to work with solo (shearing, hoof trimming, any needed shots/meds), eat just about everything (including honeysuckle – yay!), are easy to train (when they want to be trained...haha!), come in a variety of natural colors, and are just plain interesting to be around.

sheep and goats in pasture
Some of the 2020 lambs mowing the grass for me!

All of the above also applies to the Kinder goats we now have. Before we got any of the sheep, we had some full-size Nubians and Boers – all does, as we didn’t want to breed. They did a great job of clearing out overgrown areas, and made my job of trimming trees and removing deadwood a lot easier. The full-size goats we had were all very friendly, but several of them were used to a grain ration and had a hard time transitioning to a grass-based diet. As they aged and we thought about replacing them, it became harder to find goats that weren’t bred for the show ring or breeding/meat production, so this got me looking to find a goat that would “match” the Shetlands. Enter the Kinders.

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