Beautiful Barbados Blackbelly Sheep

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

| September/October 1980

  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - feeding the flock2
    Although Barbados blackbelly sheep are reputed to be very nervous and skittish around strangers, a bit of hand feeding will soon make them as gentle as ... lambs!
  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - grazing ewe
    The females of this beautiful, carefree breed looks more like small deer than like ordinary sheep.
  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - grazing ram
    The handsome males resemble the wild mountain longhorn, and indeed members of the species can survive in the wilderness very well... as evidenced by the thousands of untamed blackbelly sheep that run loose in Texas.
  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - newborn lambs2
    An ewe can lamb and will usually produce twins twice a year. And, because the little ones' tails are naturally short, you won't have to have the appendages docked, as would be necessary with most domestic species.

  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - feeding the flock2
  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - grazing ewe
  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - grazing ram
  • 065 barbados blackbelly sheep - newborn lambs2

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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