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Lone Star Farm | Barbados Blackbelly Sheep
We have been raising Barbados Blackbelly Sheep for twenty-one years. Why not take advantage of the work we have already done culling the sheep that do not have desirable traits, honing our sheep to a fine-tuned flock. The "Lone Star Standard" calls for each sheep being bred to measure up to the "ideal" of the breed standard set forth by the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association International. That not only includes the looks of the sheep (conformation), but also the inherited traits such as being good mothers with plenty of milk for raising strong lambs, ewes being able to give birth on their own without intervention, tolerance to internal and external parasites, resistance to foot rot, good temperaments, a tolerance of hot or cold climates, open estrus (meaning they can be bred any time of the year), the ability to survive on their own as long as they have water and forage, though I would highly recommend some sort of protection from predators to keep down your losses. They will be able to successfully gain at a much more rapid rate when you start with stock that has already been picked through and culled for not having the traits you need to be successful with your breeding stock or your market lambs.
When we started in this breed, we brought sheep to Texas from the northern United States. Very few of them were able to survive the harsh heat and overload of parasites native to this area of the country due to our lack of winter freezes to kill off parasites. We have decided, after years of selection and survival of the fittest, if the sheep we breed can survive in the Houston area climate, they can survive just about anywhere successfully.
Some traits that have been forgotten in the push for success are stamina, and good meat flavor. We have paid close attention to both traits in our sheep. They must be able to survive most of the year on grass alone, or hay when the grass is sparse or unavailable. Our ewes and rams are raised in the same manner except that the ewes are fed grain along with their hay when they are close to lambing and throughout the time that they are lactating. They are all given a protein block while they are on the grass diet, since our grass seems to be deficient in that aspect. Lambs, on the other hand, are fed a grass and grain diet up to about six months of age to give them a boost and to start them off gaining rapidly. We breed our stock for size, the bigger the better, because we believe that a rare heritage breed must have a purpose (meat) if it is going to survive extinction, and since they can hardly compete with the size of the Katahdins and Dorpers, they must make up the difference in some way, which is the flavor of their meat. We recently got a call from a customer who had butchered one of our wethers that was about two and a half years old. She said "this was not just the best lamb I've ever eaten, it was the best meat I've ever eaten, so tender and delicious".
You will never get a strong mutton flavor in the meat of the Barbados Blackbelly, no matter what they are fed, though what they eat does influence the taste of the meat somewhat. Customers often ask us if it makes a difference in the flavor of the meat if a ram is banded (castrated) before butchering. In our opinion, yes it does. Barbados Blackbelly rams can be butchered at any age, but after about twenty to twenty-four months of age, Mike and I can tell a distinct difference in the taste if the ram has not been castrated. Maybe it's just us, but you decide after you have tasted one. Anytime you are crossing a Barbados Blackbelly ram into a terminal flock to improve it, the meat will always be more flavorful if you butcher a three-quarters Barbados Blackbelly versus a one-quarter Barbados Blackbelly. So, use your Barbados Blackbelly crosses to your advantage in selling your product to certain markets be it grocery stores, restaurants or the ethnic community.
We also pay close attention to what is called the "Inbreeding Coefficiency". This tells us how many ancestors in the pedigree are related to an individual sheep. Some people are totally against inbreeding of any kind, but if you plan to set certain traits, inbreeding is a necessary evil. Besides, the Blackbellies have a relatively small gene pool available when you consider how few there are in the United States. Some of our sheep are in the range of about twelve percent of being related. You can keep track of that in your own flock by going to the BBSAI website and using the equation that is needed to project what the COI actually is. A good rule of thumb is to keep your COI (inbreeding Coefficiency) under twenty-five percent. If you will do that, you should succeed in raising a healthy flock with plenty of stamina.
Haphazard breeding doesn't yield much. Breeding for a purpose is paramount. By keeping your goal always in the forefront focusing on the traits that are relative, your flock, be it purebred to use for breeding, or terminal, you will be moving in a successful direction when you are breeding for size, meat flavor, and overall quality.
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Benefits of Owning Lone Star Sheep
Take advantage of the twenty-one years we have put into breeding these sheep.