St. Croix Hair Sheep – Breeding Lines
Lines of St. Croix sheep at Ebenezer Farm
We started with our flock by trusting that the seller would honor our agreement of selling us 5 of the most distantly related ewes and an unrelated ram that they had. The agreement was that they would be bred to another new ram that was not closely related. As it turned out, the papers were almost never transferred and when the papers came the ewes and ram were all at least half siblings and some ewes were ¾ sisters. And the new ram – they did not expose the ewes until a week or less prior to our planned pickup date. Only one ewe was bred. So we learned immediately how not to treat potential buyers! These are referred to as the “Original Sheep”. The lines based on them are Line 1, Line 2 and Line 3. They are based on ewes and what I call “matron lines”
The ewes did well and I was inspired by a book printed by the then American Livestock Breeds Conservancy about breeding in a very limited population. The 5 ewes were set up as three lines and we went from there and used a son of the one ewe bred to the new ram and off we went. We had paid for health work on these sheep prior to purchase and wanted to increase the foundation animals with more health sheep. We were coming out of a drought and found a flock in AL that had kept rams but sold the ewes and a ram to a family in FL with the understanding to buy back some after the drought. The ram with the ewes was tag 330. It is a long story but we ended up with the ewe flock and ram 330 from FL and used the owner’s advice and pedigrees to select five more rams which were still in AL. The rams from AL were tagged 17, 24, 181, 190 and 250.
The 330 ram, all but one of his paternal half-sisters and most of his lambs had little to no parasite resistance. They were all culled. Rams 17 and 190 never grew well and were culled. Ram 24 was a poster child of the St. Croix breed. He had a great flight zone but was not wild. 181 was the most average looking ram I ever used but had strong maternal traits in his daughters. 250 was an older ram that was a total outcross from what was known from his registration paper. He was long and tall. So the “Florida sheep” are in lines designated as 24, 181 and 250. These lines are based on the rams so they are what I call “patron lines”.
We still breed in these lines. The stability is based on repeated use of animals from the same line but outcrosses are made (line crosses) and the resultant animals can either be designated back to either of the lines used in an outcross. Some outcrosses are necessary to deal with limited space or to limit the number of breeding groups each year.
Current breeder rams on the farm by line: Pictures will be provided later as available
976 – used in 2020 for 2021 Line 1 lambs. Has one bent ear tip. Sired by 720 which is now used in a commercial flock in SC.
650 – used in 2019. A stout built ram with more hair than most but superior in growth.
1040 – a 650 son out of 820, a superior Line 3 ewe. Polled.
760 – a triplet from 2016
859 – a son of 707. 707 was sold after the breeding season.
772 – used in 2019 and will be culled. There are younger 24 rams which are now superior.
616 – a direct son of 24. A nice tall ram. Scurred.
805 – a 616 out of ewe 311 which has had several sons which we used
G12 – a ram that was out of a ewe lamb. He had good growth. Scurred.
1005 – a son of 779 which is a current breeder in NC. Out of the 820 ewe. I call this one “The Escapee”. When he as a weaned ram he had intense interest in an adjoining pen of ewes. Used in 2020 for a few 2021 lambs.
773 – a direct son of 181. Born in 2011.
703 – a direct son of 181 and out of the first ewe born on the farm.
G09 – a triplet ram from 2018. Scurred.
747 – a grandson of 250
938 – a grandson of 250 by a different sire. I call him “big ears” as he has a different look. Used in 2020 for 2021 lambs from 24, 181 and 250 ewes.
1036 – a 650 son out of a 250 line ewe. This ram had growth and muscle and is polled.