Here at Tranquil Morning Farm we are committed to working to preserve rare breeds from The Livestock Conservancy priority list. Our focus is to not only grow our own flock, but to grow it to a point where we can put starter flocks in the hands of new farmers so the breeds can continue to prosper. In order for that to happen, there must be a market for their products, whether it be wool or meat. To develop a better market for rare breed products, there needs to be awareness of the breeds. We are working to expand the awareness of these special breeds of sheep to not only spinners and other fiber artists, but also to other consumers such as restaurants, niche farmers and future farmers, such as FFA members and 4Hers.
So first, why did we choose the breeds we are working with. We have raised many different breeds over the years, most of which are found on the Priority List. Most of them we have truly enjoyed working with. Our favorites, though, are the three breeds we currently keep.
Shetlands, which have moved from Threatened to Recovering, are a delight as they are cute, colorful and very social. While Shetlands are now recovering in numbers, some of their many diverse colors and patterns are becoming more rare, and thus, are a concern. We are trying to keep a variety of colors and patterns on our farm, and are always looking for new stock in some of the less common patterns.
A few years ago we added Santa Cruz Island Sheep to our farm. This was really exciting because they are such a rare breed and in such desperate need for preservation. To put our efforts into raising a critically endangered breed of sheep was putting our land to good use. Over the last few years we have shown these sheep in 4H and local fairs to help bring awareness to the breed. It isn’t easy for children to walk into a showring with such a different looking breed, but they knew how important it was to promote the breed.
The following year we added a starter flock of Gulf Coast (Gulf Coast Native) sheep, another critically endangered breed. We really like the fleeces on these sheep as they felt nicely, as well as spin. Being a landrace breed, we found a large variation in fleeces, some soft and fine and perfect for yarn, others coarser and ideal for all sorts of felting projects. Being a larger sheep than the Santa Cruz, they were easier to bring into the showring with all the large breeds that are shown in our area.
We hope to continue to grow our flocks and get others interested in raising the breeds. There is a market for rare breed wool, there is a market for rare breed lambs. You just need to work a little harder to find those markets.