RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. — In 2008 a group of interested Scottish Blackface sheep breeders joined together to organize and promote the Scottish Blackface sheep by forming the group – Scottish Blackface Breeders Union.
Scottish Blackface sheep in North America are mostly the prodigy of the importation made from Scotland to Canada in the 1970’s.
The Scottish Blackface Sheep Breeder’s Association registry in the USA apparently registers less than 200 sheep per year, but we believe that there are many more unregistered Scottish Blackface sheep, possibly in the thousands.
Flock size of Scotttish Blackface range from a handful of ewes to over 100. Although several breeders breed their ewes to the Bluefaced Leicester to produce Mules, it is not prevalent, and consequently there are not many Mule sheep in North America.
Scottish Blackface are ideally suited to grass based farming and do especially well in the northern tier of states in an era when grain costs are escalating. Breeders benefit from easy keeping, productive ewes that produce premium market lambs on grass and with a lamb crop of 150% or better.
Many breeders have found a niche market for their lambs, and sell to local restaurants and private buyers. The smaller Scottish Blackface lamb, at about 75-90lbs live weight, is typically sold into the ethnic market – a market made up of immigrants who have settled in the USA from other countries where the lambs are traditionally processed at much lighter weights.
Numerous Scottish Blackface breeders use herding dogs to handle their sheep and there is a growing trend for several dog trial/handlers to acquire Scottish Blackface sheep for use in training in order to challenge their dogs.
In 2005/2006 semen was imported into the USA from Martin Scott, Gilmanscleugh, Scotland and more recently, semen from Mossfennan and Auldhouseburn has been imported into Canada.
Much of the current stock of Scottish Blackface sheep in the USA now carry Gilmanscleugh genetics. In 2016, the protocol for importing semen into the USA was updated, but it is has not been practical to import semen from the UK due to the stringent bovine TB testing requirements and a very long quarantine period. USA breeders are hoping that new genetics will find their way in the future.
Scottish Blackface sheep are a notable feature of at least two US golf courses. Flocks of Scottish Blackface sheep roam the Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wisconsin, where the 2015 PGA Championship was held, and the Hermitage Golf Course, Old Hickory, Tennessee.
In the US, this past year has brought new interest for the breed with the introduction of the Valais Blacknose up breeding project. Valais Blacknose were first imported into the UK from Switzerland in 2014/5 with their semen being imported into North America in 2016. The closest and most commonly used recipient is the Scottish Blackface ewe, as her characteristics are most similar. The up breeding project requires 5 year inseminations to achieve as near possible Valais Blacknose.
Submitted by: Graham & Margaret Phillipson, Littledale Farm, Richland Center, Wisconsin on behalf of the
members of Scottish Blackface Breeders Union. www.SBBU.org
— Scottish Blackface Breeders Union
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