5 things you might not know about Valais Blacknose sheep
THEY may look small and cute, but Christine says everyone is surprised at just how big the animals are in real life. Males: 80-130kg, 75-83cm at shoulder Females: 70-90kg, 72-78cm at shoulder
THE breed has been mentioned in the Swiss Alps since the 1400s, but was only officially recognised with its own breed standard in the 1960s. In Switzerland, the Valais are used for wool and prized for their lean meat.
“I don’t think you’d want to overplay them (as a meat breed in NZ) because they are too cute,” says Christine Reed. “No-one is going to eat these things, and they’re way too expensive anyway.”
THE colouring on a Valais is quite specific. All the spots must be in the right place on the knees and hocks. Females have black bottom spots, and both sexes need the right amount of black on their face.
MOST sheep breeds are suspicious by nature, and it usually takes a lot of familiarity and food bribes to tame them. The Valais have a temperament more like dogs, with a natural curiosity about humans, says Sally.
“There are lovely Youtube clips of hikers up in the alps, eating their lunch, and all of a sudden there are Valais lined up in a semi-circle, gawking at them.
“They don’t like being on their own, they like being with you, and each other. They’re quite trainable as well, because they’ve got that gentle nature.
VALAIS grow up to 30cm (4kg) of fleece and need to be shorn twice a year. The wool is thick (38 microns) compared to the best quality wool sheep breeds, like the Merino (13-15 micron).
“You can’t turn it into garments,” says Sally. “It’s too coarse unless it’s an outer overcoat, so it would be like wearing a hair shirt."
However, the curls in the fleece are highly prized for felting, as the wool takes dye well, and retains its shape. It means crafters can use it to create lampshades, and containers.