The Black Sheep of the Family

20150223 Blackie Ram
20150223 Blackie the Ram with the black tongue. The reason his wools looks a bit brown/black is from sun damage and weathering (UV rays) on the wool which causes discolouration on the tip of the wool. Blackie, blackie Jnr have the badger gene which is why they have the white on their forehead’s and tails.

We thought it would be a really fun project to select a superfine black merino flock – specifically for growing black superfine merino wool as a luxury commodity.

In the superfine wool industry and wool producing merino sheep world, black sheep are ostracized. They must be shorn separately as if there wool gets mixed in with the white wool it ‘contaminates’ it and makes it ‘unsalable’. Black sheep are usually the first to be culled (killed) and have little to no value in the wool industry.

20150225 Blackie Jnr the sheep wool
20150225 Blackie Jnr’s wool in close up

So we decided that we would attempt to change this and open the world to the possibility of change. Pete wanted to genetically select sheep for a blue black fleece. There are a range of colours in merino sheep including white white, yellow white, brown, badger – a combo of black, spots, brown and white, brown-black, black-black, and the possibility of blue-black, and many other colour combinations.

When Pete discovered a ram lamb with a black tongue he felt he was onto something and indeed he was (the black tongue is important as it is more likely that the animal carries dominant black wool genes). Any ewe with traces of black wool or the potential of carrying the black wool gene were also selected. This included small black spots on the face, badger or spotted sheep or any who had produced black lambs in the past.

Jim Watts who developed SRS sheep (more information can be found on Jim’s website: http://www.srsmerino.com ) has classed sheep with Pete for the last 20 years was keen on the project also. He said that the likelihood of a black wool progeny on the first cross was pretty much zero, so how excited were we when a little black wool ewe popped out. And then a little ram lamb in the second cross.

20150225 Blackie Jnr the sheep. The reason his wools looks a bit brown/black is from sun damage and weathering (UV rays) on the wool which causes discolouration on the tip of the wool. Blackie, blackie Jnr have the badger gene which is why they have the white on their forehead's and tails.
20150225 Blackie Jnr the sheep. The reason his wools looks a bit brown/black is from sun damage and weathering (UV rays) on the wool which causes discolouration on the tip of the wool. Blackie, blackie Jnr have the badger gene which is why they have the white on their forehead’s and tails.

The little flock was growing.

So when we decided to disperse the flock we were concerned for the future of the selected black wool sheep as their future did not look very bright. But thank’s to Jim we were introduced to another couple of graziers who had had a similar idea to ourselves.

They own a small spinning mill and spin their own fibre and plan to spin black wool into yarn and cloth. They brought some of the black wool flock and so the project will continue.

We feel it is exciting that there are people with the desire to do things differently in the world and challenge the status quo. We are also excited that Blackie and his family will live out their lives in luxury and care with people who like sheep (we heard that one particular sheep where Blackie has moved to eats the occasional Jatz cracker for morning tea*, and turns it’s nose up at any other brand).

If you are interested in finding out more about the black wool sheep Hansie and Gary Armour are contactable at: http://www.milkymerino.com or at the following email address: hansie47@hotmail.com (They also spin milk into fibre, and Alpaca fibre as well as merino wool/wool at their mill).

* sheep LOVE salt.

20150225 Jnr badger
20150225 Sheep with a badger facial marking.
20150225 Daughter of Blackie
20150225 Daughter of Blackie

Our Experience With Sheep, Lice & God

A Law of Attraction in Action Post

20150505 Lice sheep & shedding
20150505 Sheep with lice coming into the yards to be sorted

We have had some pretty cool Law of Attraction events happen lately.One in particular stands out.

Lice in sheep is not something that is openly mentioned in the grazing industry. Usually people would rather get rid of it and not mention that it exists in their flocks than be honest about it.
When I first arrived at Kyabra Station, Pete prided himself on having no lice in the sheep and being a ‘closed flock’ who didn’t get lice. He had a lot invested in this and if we did have lice or problems with the animals they were kept quiet and not openly mentioned. I have noticed there is a lot of shame in having ‘problems’ with livestock and so it often goes unmentioned.
How things have changed, smile. We are in the midst of working through a lot of ethical issues to do with keeping animals for financial gain and we are in the process of selling the entire flock of sheep as we cannot continue to justify what we are doing.
So when Pete discovered that we had a mob of lousy sheep  (Sheep with lice) he was not impressed. There is an emotional reason why we attracted this event and interestingly enough it coincided with some people wanting to buy some of the sheep also.
20150505 Lice sheep
20150505 Sheep showing signs of lice

So Pete had a couple of choices: he could say nothing and say he had no sheep to sell. Or he could tell the truth. Pete told the Truth.

He called our livestock agent and said, ‘We have discovered signs of lice in the sheep. We are happy to sell them, but we want anyone desiring to purchase them, to know that they have lice and be open & upfront about it’.
We had fear that no one would buy them along with various other emotions. We felt some of this and low and behold people still wanted to buy the sheep, even with lice.
I feel the Law of Attraction is awesome, I reckon it was a way of showing Pete that when he is Truthful, has integrity and is ethical he is harmony with God’s Laws and so wonderful ‘surprises’ can happen, which in the past we never thought possible.
Over the last couple of months over three thousand commercial ewes (sheep) with lice have been sold (to graziers who were okay about purchasing sheep with possible lice. Most of the sheep do not have lice.) We have never experienced this before.
20150505 Lice in sheep wool, close up
20150505 Lice in sheep wool, close up

Lice is just like head lice in humans, except it is a sheep specific breed. It is curable by shearing and dipping or back lining the sheep in/with a chemical solution, just like you would treat lice in humans.

It causes sheep to feel itchy and irritated which then causes them to bite, chew and rub their wool in an attempt to ease the itching. This causes mass cotting of the wool in extreme cases.
20150505 Lice sheep biting
20150505 Lice sheep biting

We found out some previously sold sheep had also showed up with lice so we have paid for the treatment of those sheep, as we were not aware at the time of sale that they had lice.

20150505 Lice in sheep wool, pulled wool from biting. The first signs of cotting
20150505 Lice in sheep wool, pulled wool from biting. The first signs of cotting

Then the coolest part of this story happened. We were contacted by an animal research centre who wanted 120 sheep who were ‘as lice-y as possible’ to try out a new drench on. (I am not sure how I feel about them being tested with chemicals) But the fact that we were being asked for lice-y sheep was pretty cool.

We got a call a few days later saying that 20 were not lice-y enough and could they come and get some more as we were the only lice-y sheep in the district. This of course is not true but due to the fact that pretty much everyone is not truthful or downplay’s any disease or imperfection in animals no lice-y sheep could be found.
So really I feel that the moral to the story is to honour Truth, Love, be Humble, Ethical and upfront always and feel the fears within yourself, then God’s Laws can work with you rather than against you and amazing possibilities become realities.
I feel delighted in being given the gift of seeing the positive results of being Truthful,and living in harmony with God’s Laws, when you do good things always happen.

20150505  sheep with lice biting it's wool to relieve ittitation
20150505 sheep with lice biting it’s wool to relieve ittitation