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Q: What are the major characteristics of Barbados Blackbelly sheep that differentiate them from American Blackbelly sheep?
A: The primary difference is that the American Blackbelly rams have horns while the Barbados Blackbelly rams are polled (i.e. they don’t have horns).
Q: When do you shear your sheep?
A: Barbados Blackbelly sheep are hair sheep, not wool sheep. Consequently they do not need to be sheared. Typically the adult sheep shed their winter hair in the early summer — months of May and June.
Q: What are some of the positive characteristics of Barbados Blackbelly sheep that differentiate them from other sheep?
A: The following describe what I see as the top five positive features:
- Hardy and disease resistant. I do de-worm my sheep about two times a year and typically vaccinate the ewes with covexin-8 annually. These sheep do have the ability to carry a moderate worm load while thriving.
- Hair shedding rather than wool shearing. We have raised wool sheep (Hampshires and Polypay) for many years. Currently wool prices are extremely depressed such that wool sales do not cover shearing costs. It is a relief with Barbados sheep not to worry about the work and expense in getting sheep sheared. Our Barbados Blackbelly sheep typically shed their outer winter layer of hair beginning in April and often are completed by mid May.
- Productivity. Our ewes typically birth twins. Occasionally we will see either a single or triplets. Many individual Barbados Blackbelly ewes (maybe 80-90%) are polyestrus and will ovulate throughout the year. This makes it possible to obtain three pregnancies every two years.
- Nurturing mothers. Most of our ewes are easy birthers; we very seldom need to assist a ewe in labor either in the birthing process or ensuring that the newborn lambs obtain their initial colostrum. Most of our ewes tend to be “good milkers” and have adequate and even abundant milk supply for their young.
- Beautiful sheep. The markings and body forms of the Barbados Blackbelly sheep are unique and distinguish them from other sheep. They are simply beautiful creatures!
Q: What are some negative characteristics of Barbados Blackbelly sheep?
I think of two:
- Skittish nature. Barbados Blackbelly sheep are high-strung, not docile, and easily spooked. When one sheep darts away, the whole group quickly follows, even those that are tame and normally docile. Thus it requires more effort to tame and gentle these sheep.
- Smaller size. In comparison to many other sheep, the Barbados Blackbelly sheep are a little smaller. Thus it takes longer for a young lamb to reach 100 pounds (live body weight).