Source of highly productive sheep
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Shown above is the paddock in front of our 120 year old farmhouse being grazed by our May/June lambing group.

Origin of Sheep

Our current flock of 250 ewes was derived from a purchase of 120 ewe lambs from two different breeders in central New York. Richard had sheared professionally in New York for 15 years which gave him the chance to shear for and therefore observe several successful accelerated lambing flocks for a long period of time. After this lengthy evaluation, we chose the original source flocks based on flock prolificacy and ability to lamb throughout the year. These original sheep were mostly Finn x Dorset cross with a small amount of Romanov breeding also included. To insure superior health status when we started, we selected lambs from ewes that tested negative for Ovine progressive pneumonia (OPP)and were isolated from any animals testing positive for OPP. We then tested all the purchased lambs at 12 months of age. All tested negative, indicating that our selection system against OPP worked extremely well. For those not familiar, OPP is a disease caused by the maedi visna virus that greatly reduces ewe productively and eventually becomes a terminal illness. In order to prevent introduction of this and other health problems, we introduce very few new animals to our flock and quarantine and test the few we do introduce before exposing them to the rest of the flock.

The original rams selected for our flock came from the nearby Cornell University Sheep Program. These rams were all Finn x Dorset rams and were selected based on their maternal production records. After reviewing many records, our final selections had mothers who lambed 5 consecutive times at 7.2 month intervals and who averaged over a 220% lambing percentage over that period. We have since also selected several sons within our own flock for use, whose mothers have had better records than this.

Farm Description

Our farm consists of approximately 85 acres of grassland and 35 acres of woods atop Jersey Hill, one of the highest elevations in Tompkins County. The farm was the original farmstead of a dairy farm and later a beef farm run by the Don Barber family. It is one of the few remaining farms in a township (Town of Danby) which once consisted of hundreds of farms. The farm is bordered on one side by a spectacular gorge and has the the Fingerlakes hiking trail running through it.

The grassland is continually being improved by lime and manure application and intensive grazing techniques. As soil fertility has improved, we have experimented with overseeding with late maturity orchard grass varieties, festolium, and winter hardy perennial ryegrass varieties. We have also frost seeded all the grassland with ladino clover which has greatly improved our forage quality and provided an inexpensive source of nitrogen.