Beautiful Barbados Blackbelly Sheep

Barbados blackbelley sheep may be an ideal breed for the small acreage or beginning farmer.

| September/October 1980

When my family moved to our small California farm four years ago, I enrolled in a sheep husbandry course at the local community college. The final class meeting consisted of a field trip to a nearby sheep ranch, where I first encountered exotic Barbados blackbelly sheep.

Having spent a semester learning how to handle small flocks, I was excited to discover how (relatively) easy this particular breed is to raise. I was so impressed, in fact, that I purchased five ewes and a ram and started my career as a shepherdess then and there!

Since that day, I've come to believe that the Barbados is an ideal sheep for small-acreage or beginning farmers ... because of the beasts' ability to shed their wool, their capacity to adapt to a wide variety of climate and terrain, their high resistance to parasites, their willingness to come on command, and their unique ability to lamb twice a year. (Furthermore, the animals are in my opinion, at least the most beautiful sheep in the world ... and perhaps the most intelligent.)

Few Requirements

In order to maintain a flock of these lovely creatures, you merely have to provide good pasturage ... keep a covered salt block in the field ... supplement the animals' feed during the winter months ... administer anthelmintics (to control internal parasites) twice a year ... and disinfect the navels of newborn lambs.

I feel that it's best to worm Barbados regularly, even though the beasts seem to have a natural resistance to such parasites as stomach and intestinal worms. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Field trials conducted by the Department of Animal Sciences at North Carolina State University have confirmed this fact, showing an average of 236 mixed infection parasite eggs per gram of Barbados feces as compared to the 1,490-2,300 found in the excrement of other breeds and crosses.]  

My flock has also had a very low incidence of the usual sheep diseases: pneumonia, arthritis, sore mouth, and mastitis. Nor do the rams and ewes seem to be susceptible to foot rot, a common disease among domestic sheep that causes lameness and requires time consuming footbath treatments. However, I've been told that disease resistance is not necessarily a characteristic of the breed ... so maybe I've just been lucky.

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