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Color Recessive Romneys at Black Sheep Farm

Helen Sahadi

Adventure was the theme of the day as we headed to visit Sarah Vining of Black Sheep Farm in Dresden.


Laurel of Shepherds Craft Farm


On our way there, we stopped at Shepherds Craft Farm to look at the Gotland fleeces and the newborn (and birthing!) lambs. And of course, we had to stop and have lunch at Sheepscot General Store which is conveniently located right across the street. The tempeh reuben on sourdough with ruby sauerkraut was amazing - as usual. The ingredients are all locally sourced - even the tempeh!

A newborn Gotland lamb


From there, we drove along Route 194 past rolling farm fields and cape style homes dating back to the late 18th century, to Dresden. Sarah, who is originally from Connecticut, and more recently from Nevada, moved to Maine three weeks ago with her husband, two daughters, and her flock of sheep. She is an adventurer extraordinaire! Sarah is also a veterinarian with a strong connection to her pets - so strong that the family brought their flock of sheep with them in two trailers all the way from Nevada. Along with the sheep they brought two lively border collies named Twig and Zellie. Lucky for them they settled in Dresden, a community with a growing population of young farmers and an Amish community nearby. It is a place that hosts contra-dances as well. They found a saltbox with roughly two acres they could rent for all their animals!

Sarah and her flock!


Sarah grew up with sheep and was given her first sheep at age five. That sheep, named Holly, lived 18 years. Sarah has two legacies from Holly: Ranie (granddaughter or “grandewe") who is now 15 years old, and yarn from Holly’s last fleece. We learned that a sheep can produce good fleece even in old age, even after a few years of producing poor fleece. Sarah is using the yarn to knit a sweater!


A color recessive Romney


The flock is almost entirely Romney with the exception of one Bluefaced Leicester. Romneys come in white, and natural colors of black and various shades of grey and an occasional reddish color called Moorit. These wonderful natural colors and the various telltale patterning that occurs with them, come from recessive genes that have been obscured by a dominant black gene. Armed with a better understanding of how to recognize sheep carrying recessive genes, Sarah is beginning to select for them in order to be able to offer a wider selection of color in her fleeces. Some of her sheep carry this dominant black color that will cause their fleece to fade as the sheep ages, but two of registered Romney sheep (one ram and one ewe) have recessive color genetics. These sheep’s fleeces will not fade as they age so she can produce a more consistent product over the years. The Bluefaced Leicester joined her flock as a wether to keep her ram company. (Currently, she has two rams and the wether.) Sarah keeps her rams and wether penned separately from the ewes, and is expecting lambs within the next month or so.  She sells her fleece raw.  She can be contacted at BlackSheepDoc@yahoo.com


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