The first sheep have arrived at Hostile Valley Farm! We are so excited to welcome home Caesar and Nero, a pair of adorable Southdown Babydoll Sheep.
We’ve discussed sheep a few times before but we’ve never brought any home. Originally we had concerns about keeping them with our goats - goats require copper in their diet, and copper is toxic to sheep. Once we were able to set up a space separate from the goats, it was just a matter of finding the right sheep for us.
Our new boys are a breed of sheep known as Southdown Babydolls. These sheep originated in Sussex County, England and reached the United States in the early 1800s. They were known to be diminutive, extremely hardy, and were prized for both their meat and their fleece. ‘Babydoll’ sheep fell out of popularity as farming changed, demanding more meat on a sheep and no longer considering hardiness as a factor in breeding. The breed nearly went extinct, but farmers started to bring them back in the 1980s and their popularity is climbing again today. Thanks to multiple breed registries, tracing the breed can be a bit confusing - Olde English Southdowns (no ‘babydoll’ in the name) are much larger.
The Southdown Babydoll is a homesteader or permaculture farmers’ dream sheep. Despite looking like a teddy bear, they’re very hardy, can withstand winter and summer weather, and are resistant to many common sheep ailments. They are calm, sweet, and docile, making them easy to handle. Their fleece is prized as similar to cashmere. Even more than other breeds of sheep, Southdowns prefer grass to other brush. Utilized correctly this is a huge asset, they can mow around gardens, orchards, and other areas without damaging your crops, eating your fruit or debarking any trees.
Caesar and Nero are a brown wether and a white ram. When the opportunity came to get sheep, only males were available. But that’s turned into a bonus for us. Since the primary purpose of sheep is for their fleece and their mowing skills, keeping girls for milk isn’t necessary. Male sheep don’t stink like male goats, although they can sometimes be aggressive. We may add some ewes in the future for breeding, but we’re very happy with the idea of a small flock of male sheep.
Nero does happen to be a particularly desirable little ram. Personality is often genetic and he has the most kind and sweet disposition. He has excellent genetics and is dual registered, so if the right ladies come along we might use him as a stud.
The sheep have been a fantastic addition to the farm. We adore their personalities, they have done an amazing job at mowing an area of our field already, and we’ve had no difficulties. I would definitely recommend sheep, and this particular breed, to anyone interested in adding a sweet, hardworking animal to their farm.