Sustainable Shetlands: Preserving a Legacy
Shetlands are a primitive breed of sheep from the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland. The first Shetlands were probably brought to the islands by Viking settlers about 1,000 years ago. They are extremely tough - the worse the weather, the more they seem to like it! They are the smallest of the British breeds; our rams weigh about 100lbs and our ewes weigh about 75lbs. They are excellent mothers, thrive on pasture, and are dual purpose.
Being fine boned, Shetlands produce a good amount of meat for their frame with a delicate taste unlike many "gamier" tasting sheep.
Shetlands are most prized for their fine wool, typically between 20 and 25 microns. Fleeces generally have a staple length of 2-4 inches. Shetland wool has been used for centuries to produce "wedding shawls" - shawls so fine they can be drawn through a wedding ring. The sheep produce a wide variety of colours and markings bearing their original Shetland dialect names (krunet, gulmoget, katmoget, moorit, shaela, etc.).
Sheep are exceptionally smart! They are great problem solvers and will alert a person if one of them is in trouble or they feel they need something. Whoever said sheep are dumb hadn't spent any time around a flock! While leery of strangers, they will vie for their shepherd's attention.
Molly Malone (f) & Hermione (b)
Molly Malone is a horned ewe out of Shamrock, daughter of one of Ballyhoo's Foundation ewes, Thistle. I'm so excited to have my great-grandsheep as part of the Ballyhoo Flock! Hermione is a niece of Rory, one of my previous rams. We loved Rory so much and Hermione has a similar personality.
Leeloo became an ambassador for the farm when she visited Indiana University Southeast to assist her shepherdess in giving a demonstration speech! She didn't protest at being lifted onto a desk and having a class of college kids shear her! Leeloo's trip to college made her famous - she has been seen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the University's online newspaper!
Carmella came from a 4-H home where she was successful against big club lambs - no small feat for a primitive breed! She and her 2013 wether, Llama, have done very well at Ballyhoo in fleece competitions.
Not all of our ewes are pure Shetland or Icelandic. Cotton and her twins Toast and Popcorn are Shetland/Finn/Cormo crosses. Calamari is a Balwen Welsh Mountain.
Molly Malone is our only horned Shetland ewe. We'd love to get more horned genetics back!
Like Shetlands, Icelandics are a primitive breed developed by the Vikings about 1100 years ago. They are a tri-purpose breed (milk, meat, and wool) with a very fine dual fleece, weighing about 25-50lbs more than Shetlands. Icelandic fleeces have less kemp (guard hair) than other breeds; because of this both the coarse outer wool and downy undercoat can be spun into yarn. We average 6" staple length.
Cinnabon is one of three Icelandic ewes at Ballyhoo and is a true delight. She's a fabulous mother and very friendly, always nibbling at my hands just in case I have a hidden treat.
Some of the Ballyhoo boys
We have so many lovely boys and a few are so special they'll always be with us.
Cake, Llama, Dullahan, and Thunder are our popular and award winning wethers.
Tim and Aillil are our breeding Shetland rams. Morty is the resident Icelandic sire.