Whispering Pines Ranch is a second generation farm in Quesnel, the heart of British Columbia's Cariboo region. Originally a feeder calf operation from the the 1970s until the mid 2000s, it has gone through many changes, including a budding business of raising sheep.
Despite always having a few head of sheep around to train my stockdogs, it wasn't until 2016 that I started getting a little more serious about my little woolies. Growing up on a cattle feedlot, I felt that breeding hair sheep would be easier to dealing with than breeding cows.
This theory has tested wrong for me on several occasions.
This I started my farming life again with 8 Katahdin mix breed ewes, a ram, and what I had strong suspicion was a goat.
I have nothing against goats. I was just pretty sure that sheep and goats can't interbreed. The rest of the herd kind of ignored this weird looking, sort of woolly, badger-faced animal I had named Badger.
My Collie pup (Wendy the Wonderdog) couldn't make her move off the fences and would instead just sit down and lick Badger's face. Wendy is more of a lover than a fighter when it comes to her sheep.
A local stock woman in the area was who identified 'Badger' for me. She was pretty sure my goat/sheep was a Blackbelly hair sheep. With at least a researchable breed name, I started looking around the internet to get some information.
After much Googling, I found out that Badger was an American Blackbelly, as identified by her scur horns. A low maintenance hair sheep, they are raised for meat and for trophy horns, They are also popular with stock-dog trainers, despite Wendy's problems herding her. There was only a handful of American Blackbelly breeders in Canada.
I pondered on what to do with this ewe. She was a good mother and easy keeper. I didn't have to shear her or her lambs. She devoured weeds and willows like candy. Badger was just a undemanding, mellow lawnmower sheep that was nice to look at and was a bit of a conversation starter with people.
As there are few bloodlines to chose from to diversify with, I had to do a crash course in genetics, pedigrees, and bloodlines. With careful consideration, I brought together a little flock of diverse Reg. American Blackbelly ewes and a new ram from the handful of breeders I could find in British Columbia.
Then in 2019, I made the leap from a tiny herd of 10 to a small flock of 56 hair sheep. There was much eye rolling on the farm when I tried to sneak that horse trailer full of lambs past the house.
Welcome to my adventures in sheep farming...…