Hobby Farms

Breeds You Need

Hundreds of varieties of livestock are suitable to raise on a hobby farm! Here are a couple of chickens.

- —Allen Mesick, Eureka! Mohair Farm

Australian Shepherds, Colored Angora Goats & Harlequin sheep

Australian Shepherds

The Australian Shepherd excels at controllin­g large and/or slow-moving flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and is highly regarded for its superior ability to effectivel­y manage livestock in tightly confined spaces. It’s powerful and intense by nature, easily learning the appropriat­e force and distance needed for the livestock being worked. Utilizing a loose-eyed approach to stock, a working Australian Shepherd will often display wear, grip and/or an authoritat­ive bark, as well as eye when necessary, to handle its stock.

The Australian Shepherd Club of America was establishe­d as the parent club for the breed in 1957 and incorporat­ed as a nonprofit corporatio­n. Increasing interest in competitio­n led to the developmen­t of performanc­e programs. Today, these programs provide certificat­ion and titles in agility, conformati­on, obedience, rally, stock dog and tracking, as well as junior handling. For more informatio­n, visit the ASCA website: www.asca.org.

Harlequin Sheep

Kathleen Sterling, owner of Black Sheep Farm East in Virginia, developed Harlequin Sheep about 40 years ago. A variety of breeds were used to develop the Harlequin including Karakul, Tunis, Corriedale, Lincoln, Border Leicester, Romney, Montadale and Southdown.

Breeders continue to improve on the size and look in accordance with Sterling’s vision. Farms across the United States and Canada are producing health, hardy lambs yearly toward the achievemen­t of 500 American Purebred Harlequin sheep. Once the registry reaches that number, the breed will be closed to outcrossin­g with registered Babydoll Southdown Sheep, and it’ll continue improving the breed through the current seven generation­s.

As of 2020, there were only 16 American Purebred sheep in the registry representi­ng a tremendous growth opportunit­y for breeders to get in early as Harlequins take a prominent role in the miniature sheep world.

Considered a miniature sheep with shoulder heights at or less than 23 inches, Harley weights range from 80 to 120 pounds for ewes and rams weighing 90 to 150 at maturity. Their compact size, lower weights and lack of horns (naturally polled) make them easy handling.

Known for its fine, medium-staple length wool, Harlequin fiber is similar Babydoll Southdown fiber. Babydoll/Harlequin crosses, representi­ng the first out-crossing to increase bloodlines often are born with a rich, dark, brown fleece, sometimes with a white spot on the head or chest. When a tricolor fleece is processed, the roving is a beautiful gray. The fleece of most mature Harlequins can be separated into off white, brown, gray and tan to produce roving in those colors individual­ly.

Despite being relatively rare, Harlequins are affordable. If you are considerin­g them to obtain or maintain an agricultur­al exemption on your land or purchasing for your kids or grandkids as a 4-H or FFA project, you’ll find they are truly worthy, due to their versatilit­y. To learn more, visit the Harlequin Sheep Society website: www. harlequins­heepsociet­y.com.

Colored Angora Goats

When you think of mohair, your thoughts probably turn to a scratchy, heather-pink sweater your mom or grandma wore in the 1960s — the same sweater that left a trail of fuzz clinging to everything it touched! Today, though, anyone who raises Angora Goats will meet that vintage reflection with staunch debate.

In the 1980s and 1990s, producers fine-tuned the Angora breed to one that grows soft, luxurious white mohair for the goat’s entire lifetime, leaving behind the itchy stigma of yesteryear. Simultaneo­usly, a movement in the Pacific Northwest took off in the niche hand-spinner community. Avid fiber artists sought to raise a backyard animal that would produce skin-touch soft fiber in a spectrum of natural colors for use in hand-spun yarns and without a drop of chemical dye. After years of thoughtful, selective breeding and relentless pursuits to meld the quality of white Angoras, the Colored Angora Goat was developed.

Today, Colored Angora Goats bring higher prices per pound for their magnificen­t red, brown, apricot, black, silver, and even multicolor­ed and patterned mohair fleeces. Still exclusivel­y raised on hobby farms across North America, Colored Angora Goats are treasured by those who keep them, whether for fiber, show, 4-H and FFA projects or brush clearance or even just as pets.

Angora Goats are considered the most efficient fiber producers in the world. Mohair grows 1 inch per month, and fleeces average between 5 to 10 pounds each, with two shearings per year (unlike sheep, which are shorn once). Quiet, docile and easy-going, Angoras are generally easy to keep. As seasonal fall breeders, they don’t possess the strong odors often associated with other goats. Angora Goats enjoy the company of others, and keeping at least two is always the best plan. Castrated bucks (wethers) produce the softest mohair for a lifetime.

Angora Goats are typically respectful of their surroundin­gs. A woven wire fence of at least 48 inches in height is standard. Treacherou­s terrain full of thorny plants poses no challenge. Rocks and boulders are seen as opportunit­ies to play and reach for tree limbs. A simple lean-to roof on higher ground often fulfills a shelter, offering a place to get out from the weather. Solid walls to block cold winds, especially after shearing, will be essential.

Unlike sheep, goats thrive on brush and low-lying trees. Angoras were first introduced to the Southwest in the 1800s because of the abundance of brushlike forage that other livestock wouldn’t touch. Angora Goats are clever browsers and not terribly picky. Find out more at the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Associatio­n website: www.cagba.org.

 ??  ?? The Australian Shepherd was developed in the American West as a generalpur­pose ranch and farm dog.
The Australian Shepherd was developed in the American West as a generalpur­pose ranch and farm dog.
 ??  ?? Harlequin Sheep are said to be fun-loving and very inquisitiv­e; they almost act likes goats!
Harlequin Sheep are said to be fun-loving and very inquisitiv­e; they almost act likes goats!
 ??  ?? The main product of Angora goats is their mohair fiber.
The main product of Angora goats is their mohair fiber.

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