California Red Sheep

It took only a couple of days working on a goat ranch for us to realise that we wanted to raise sheep.

 

20140412_181342It took a few more years and a lot more goat herding, carrot digging and chicken wrangling before we made it on to the ranch here in the Capay Valley and began our search for a starter flock of sheep. 2011, we were quickly learning, was a great year to own sheep but not such a good year to be looking to buy them -the grass was tall and the lamb price was high, so after several embarrassing phone calls and a lot of time searching the ‘For Sale’ boards at the local feed20140412_181509 stores we pretty much gave up the hunt. But, as the old Scots saying goes, “Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye” (What’s meant for you will not go past you). We received a timely phone call from some folks a few miles up the road letting us know that a friend of theirs was looking to sell off his entire flock of California Red sheep and would we be interested in going up to see them and have a cup of tea (he’s an Englishman). Naturally we jumped at the chance and thanked the Shepherd Fairy for helping us find the sheep that were to become the heart of everything we do.


California Red sheep are the result of a relativelyIMG_0366 recent attempt to
create a large-framed wool-less breed by crossing Tunis and Barbados sheep. The resulting cross is a breed of sheep which has both mild-flavored and delicate meat and a highly desirable fleece. More information on the breed can be found over at the California Red Sheep Registry website.

The California Red has proven to be a great choice for our climate, rotational system, and desire for having both meat and wool available for our markets. Our sheep have proven themselves to be able to thrive on our dry annual summer forage, and although they require yearly shearing, they are also adapted well for the heat of the Capay Valley Summer having been bred from two hot-climate breeds. They are also fairly docile, friendly,  and, although Peat our Border Collie may disagree, they are also quite amenable to being moved frequently from pasture to pasture around the ranch. Other traits we have noticed within our own flock are a great natural mothering instinct meaning little intervention is usually required during lambing, and, again adding to Peat’s frustration, they are also very protective against any potential threat to their lambs. Like their red bovine counterparts the inimitable Highland coo, the California Red is slow to mature which produces a tender, succulent and flavorful meat unsurpassed by other grass-fed and finished lamb breeds.

20150521_151648The fleece of our California reds is of a very high quality and produces yarn, roving, batting and raw fleece desirable for home craftspeople and professionals alike. The fleece has been tested to be ~27.1 microns ensuring a soft skin feel and non of the scratchy-itchies associated with lesser quality wool garments. Our California Red wool is featured in the recent Fibershed ‘Bioregional Book Of Wool’ publication.20150521_152756 (1)

We shear all of our sheep ourselves  which ensures our sheep and their fleeces are handled with the utmost respect and care. By doing the work ourselves we are also able to control the timing of the clip to best match the seasons and the quality of the resulting fleece. After shearing, our fleece is sent to the Yolo Wool Mill for processing. There it is washed, carded and prepared as roving, batting, or spun into yarn which we bring to market as skeins of single-ply, or 2-ply yarn.

Please contact us with any questions regarding our California Red sheep or the delicious lamb or warm, cozy yarn that they produce.

 

 

 

 


 

Dorper Sheep

 

20150126_083306 (1)At Skyelark Ranch we are also developing a flock of white-faced Dorper sheep to add diversity and greater availability of our lamb products. The Dorper sheep is a 100 year-old South African cross between the Persian and Dorset breeds giving a hardy, and easy rearing wool-less breed of sheep. We brought Dorpers into the Skyelark Ranch flock to increase or our annual availability of lamb due to their year-round breeding ability. They also produce a predictable quality of lamb desirable for restaurant and butcher shops finishing a little heavier than our California Reds. The lamb produced by our dorpers is succulent and tender with a similar flavor as our Reds due to their grass-and forage -based diet.

 

Whether California Red or Dorper, you can be assured that all lamb produced here at Skyelark Ranch is from happy, healthy, grass-fed and grass-finished sheep of no more than 1 year old.


 

Security

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Our flocks are protected by a crack squad of security agents. Firstly, we have a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) called Bean who looks after the sheep wherever they go. Bean moves around with the sheep as they graze the various pastures and rangelands. Bean is an Akbash dog which is a breed which originated in Western Turkey as protection against predators for sheep and goat herds. She can be heard barking throughout the night at coyotes, bobcats and, quite often, her own echo.

 

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Our other Livestock protection comes in the form of Michelle O’llama. Michelle is  mostly in charge of protecting our poultry flocks and generally making sure the orchard close to the house is safe. She is usually very alert to newcomers to the ranch and lets us know whenever there’s a strange dog or unusually shaped object lying in the yard by braying at it in her unusual chuckling bark.