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Blackface sheep

Sue Whiteman

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Since this is where training is done/ discussed I am hoping someone can tell me how often Blackface sheep come into oestrus?

I want to keep them unmated this winter to use them for training but perhaps put them to a ram this summer when it is too hot to train and I am off trialling anyway. And little Lucy will have had seven months of uninterrupted early education on them after which I can switch to the ewes that will aleady have lambed and been weaned.

Ta in advance!


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Guest PrairieFire

Hey Sue -


Don't particularly know about generic "blackfaces" - maybe Inci can jump in later with her experience on them lately...


But in my expereince it very much depends on the breed and bloodlines of the sheep.


Some of the "older" breeds, like my NC Cheviots have a very limited breeding period of only around 2-3 months. Some dorset based crosses (and others) can come in season a couple of times a year, or remain in season nearly all year.


When were these sheep last bred?


And can you use "teaser" rams to try to bring 'em into season?


I know folks who have brought spring lambers nearly full circle into fall lambers, but it took them several years...



Bill Gary

Kensmuir, Working Stockdog Center

River Falls, WI






[This message has been edited by PrairieFire (edited 11-29-2002).]

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Most wool breeds are 'seasonally polyestrus' This means they have a limited breeding season during which time they cycle about every 15 days. This tends to be determined by length of daylight and temprature. There has been some programs where breeding has been achieved during the 'off season' by keeping the ewes (and rams) confined to a dark barn and regulating day length exposure plus the use of 'teaser' rams to promote estrous in the ewes. But too much work for this one.



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As a person, who in a former life who used to breed Suffolk show sheep,we used various "not natural" methods to bring the ewes into season. The most common practice was implanting 1/2 of a synchomate pellet (cattle used a full pellet) in the ewes and them pulling after nine dayds so the ewes would come into heat. Of course, the ram had to have fertility shots. Or you could sponge the ewes. These methods are not cheap and but you can justify it---if you are getting about $600 per lamb. It is also labor intensive.


You mentioned breeding in summer. You will have to keep the rams very cool so they are not temporarily infertile from the heat.


If you think it is worth it, go for it. In my old age and since I've "gone to the dogs", the commercial sheep are much less demanding.


If you breed in the August, you end up lambing in January which can be cold but that is another story.



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Ahhh..I thought the idea was too cute!! Seems a lot of bother for a few sheep. I only wanted a breeding to continue the supply of fresh sheep next year without interrupting training for a very keen debutante.


Around us we have a few shepherds breeding three times a year with a breed called Tarasconnaise (Pyrenean mountain sheep but OK in the lowlands). They are kept indoors and of course rotated but obviously two thirds of them are breeding out of normal sync. Wonder how they do it?


Thanks anyway and if anyone else can help I'd love to know more.




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They might be kept indoors for light treatments. There's a sheep dairy that wants fresh ewes coming into the milking string every month, and they have a barn where they can manipulate the photoperiod and bring ewes into estrus when they would not normally be.


There are many breeds that are less seasonal than others. Here in the US, the Finn-Dorset cross is known for a very long breeding season. Purebred Finnsheep and Tunis are also fairly aseasonal. I understand that blueface Leicester can also breed out of season pretty well.





Bill Fosher

Surry, NH

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Here in the states,blackfaces (showline Hamps or Suffolks) are bred for hothouse lambs.

As Pam and Terry mentioned,you could force them to come to estrous by sponge method or the hormone injections followed by vaginal hormone threapies for 10 days, which are 100% reliable on cattle,only 75% reliable on sheep.

I don't think it's really worth it but if it's important,it costs about $25-$50 per head.

I've just got rid of 320 head of blackheads,exposed to ram as yearlings in July 15th for 3 cycles (that's 17 days for each cycle) and during ultrasound,only 93 showed as carriers.

This could be due to grazing two very different breeds and their body conditions.

While Dorset/Dorper crosses were nearly 95% pregnant and in great body condition,blackheads were about #2 scale.

Even about a 1lb of corn per head didn't change their body condidtions whereas the other cross breed began to put on excessive weight.

Also,this is strickly my observation so take it with a grain of salt,working young dogs on blackheads (where most are now strickly show animals)is counter productive.

They are not like what UK counterparts looks or behaves. They (US versions) require constant,steady pressure from dog to move properly. If a young or older dog is unsure at any point,they either hit the ground and lay down or try to graze,making it real choppy and sloppy work for a youngster to keep his/her dignity intact.

Blackhead lambs aren't that bad until they get exposed to the older ones.

Overall,there are better choices of sheep breed to train a young,keen dogs on.



Inci Willard






It's better to be silent and thought the fool,than to speak and remove all doubt.

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