What are Heritage Breed Sheep?

Heritage Breeds are traditional livestock animals that span many species.  When you consider the animals our grandparents and great-grandparents raised, they were likely heritage breeds.  They were disease resistant, perfectly suited to their environment, and thrived under their local conditions.  They were raised to fill an immediate and local purpose - food, eggs, power (plowing and pulling), protection, and fiber. 

The advent of the industrial revolution changed agriculture substantially, and livestock specifically.  Decisions were made on what could be raised en masse efficiently, fed and fattened quickly, and delivered to market profitably. 

History is never well understood when removed from its context, and it is easy to look back and judge the decisions made by eager industrialists responding to population booms.   These decisions certainly raised the standard of living and nutritional security for many urban-dwelling poor and immigrant persons, an important thing to consider.

While much was gained from efficient, commercial farming, some things were lost.  Animals lost their ability to fend off disease and parasites and thus required more medical treatments.   Prophylactic antibiotics and other environmental protocols became necessary to keep animals healthy under factory conditions.  Instinctive attributes for survival like foraging, mothering, and breeding were suppressed and left animals vulnerable and weak.

Folks who are invested in raising heritage breeds are going against the flow.  They are helping to reestablish patterns of natural, cyclical livestock behaviors that lead to healthy, thriving animals.  It is also said that there is a wealth of genetic code in heritage breed animals.  When allowed to develop and flourish, these animals become disease resistant, able foragers, good mothers, and excellent fiber producers. 

High Country Wool seeks out shepherds and ranchers who are committed to raising their flocks in the most natural ways possible.   We also seek to help promote heritage sheep breeds.  We are please to offer wool products from the following heritage and critical conservation breeds:  Teeswater, Karakul, Lincoln, Romeldale, Shetland, and Navajo-Churro.

The Livestock Conservancy is an excellent resource to learn more about heritage breeds in the United States.  https://www.livestockconservancy.org

December 10, 2020 — Jennifer Guyor

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