5 things you might not know about Valais Blac­knose sheep

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

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.

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