Spring at last! Well, it wasn't much of a Winter so we really can't complain too much, except to say that's it's been very dry. As can be seen, we have lots of new lambs ... more blacks and spotted than whites, and more ewes than rams.
What we are the most excited about is the addition to our flock of a whole new (to the USA) breed of sheep from Australia called "Bond". This is the culmination of over a year of correspondence, LONG distance phone calls, faxes and emails.
This has been an ongoing test of patience and determination to overcome all of the obstacles to get the 2 breeding rams and 2 breeding ewes from New South Wales to Lyons, Colorado. The four sheep are all Moorit Bonds from the flock of Mr. Cyril Lieschke of Cora Lynn, near Henty, NSW. Cyril's farm has long been known for the quality breeding of coloured Merinos, Bonds and Corriedales. At one time, his coloured ewe flock was the largest known in the world. His flock seemed the best possible source for the Moorit Bonds, as they are currently unavailable anywhere in the USA.
We have worked to establish a small business selling our hand spinning fleeces. My thinking was, that by introducing the Bond breeding as being strictly for hand spinners, then we could add to our flock even more of the medium to fine, beautiful, long stapled, crimpy wool that we have always tried to produce.
The Bond breed is close to the Corriedale breeding in that it too was a Merino X Lincoln, but with more of an emphasis on a finer, longer staple. From the OSU Encyclopedia of Sheep Breeds: "Bonds evolved in Australia in 1909 as a dual-purpose breed, using Peppin Merinos and imported Lincoln rams. The Australian Bond Sheep Breeders' Association has existed since 1984. It now has 30 registered studs that sell more than 3,000 rams annually. Wool selection for Bond sheep is for big, bulky, long stapled bright 22-28 micron. Bonds are renowned for long, lean, fast growing lambs. Their robust constitution means they are capable of coping with extreme climatic conditions. Bond sheep are mainly found in the southeast portion of Australia. Being a new breed, numbers available for export are limited."
The import process involves a sixty-day quarantine in Australia, with many blood tests and vaccinations. Then they were flown from Melbourne to Los Angeles where they were held in yet another quarantine for thirty days. There they were retested twice for all of the same diseases they were tested for in Australia. It can not be said that our USDA is not thorough. I had asked Cyril to select young sheep for us, hoping they would survive the ninety days of quarantine and then long travel. So, some of them have been in quarantine half of their short lives!
The sheep were released to us on Thursday, May 4th, 2000. We loaded them into our truck and drove the 21 hours back to Lyons. I think they are still afraid of being locked up in yet some other barn and flown or trucked to yet some other destination. At least they now have sunshine and other sheep to be close to. On our Vet's advice, I am holding them off the pasture yet another ten days until the C&D&T shots can take effect.
They are somewhat smaller than most of our sheep, but as with all finer wooled sheep, I expect them to go on growing for at least the next year. As the ewes and rams are unrelated, we expect to use only the Bond rams on the Bond ewes, but will also use the Bond rams on our Corriedales and so, next year will have our first Bond Corriedale crosses.
It will be a many year project to produce purebred Bonds from this small start, but hope that in the coming years other sheep breeders will want to add the Bond genetics to their wool producing flocks as well.
It is safe to say that I am the single craziest shepherd any of you will ever know. It has been financially a project that can never be justified. However, as "you can't take it with you", I am dedicated to using my resources to get what seems to me to be the most satisfying use of my time and energies. Each of us has to decide in our own lives what course of action is best ... no matter how foolish it may seem to the rest.
Here they are: (the Kalmia bloodlines are from a neighboring farm called Kalmia Park)
"Cyril's Kalmia" Bond Ewe born 7/15/99,ear tag: Brown 330, weight: 84 pounds, brown Moorit colour. "Cyril"s Cora" Bond Ewe born 9/2/99,ear tag: Brown 279, weight: 62 pounds, brown Moorit colour.
As they are both so young and born at an odd time, relative to our breeding seasons here, we will just have to wait and see if they grow enough over the summer to handle breeding this fall. We normally breed in October and this would mean that Kalmia and Cora would be just over one year old. It has always been our practice to hold off on breeding ewes until they are one and half years old, so that they lamb the first time as two year olds.
After the stresses of this first year, we wouldn't want to take the chance of an early breeding stunting their full growth. There is always the possibility that they will grow well and make it to 125 pounds before October. We will just have to wait to see how they do.
"Cyril"s James" Bond Ram born 9/8/98,ear tag: White 799, weight: 138 pounds, brown Moorit colour. "Kalmia Nimbus" Bond Ram born 8/21/99, ear tag: Orange 735, weight: 77 pounds, brown Moorit colour. These were their weights as they left the farm in Australia.
This is Nimbus (the younger ram) in the front and James standing behind. The photo on the right is also of Nimbus. He seems to want to be first in all of the photos. The tips of their fleece have been sun bleached, but on parting the wool, it is the same colour as their faces. As shearing in Australia took place in October of 1999, they already have about three inches of wool. It is going into the heat of summer here and we are debating whether to shear them now or not.
It is also very likely that the stresses of the quarantine and shipping will have caused a break in the fleece, so that if we don't shear the fleece would be ruined. So, if we shear now we will not get a year's growth fleece this year, nor next year either. There doesn't seem to be a good solution in any case. There is one line of thinking that believes that shearing actually increases growth rate and weight gain in younger animals. In the end we will most likely follow the Vet's advice and do whatever he thinks will be the best for the sheep.
So we leave you at this time, worn out from this project and all of it's complexities, but really excited at the prospects for our flock.
Joanna & Keith Gleason at firstname.lastname@example.org [an error occurred while processing this directive]