Our reassuring voices did not seem to make much difference as we loaded our first two Gotland ewe lambs into the back of our van. As we drove down the long driveway, the lambs stood at the back window of the van looking out as if to say goodbye to their home and family. They had a 7 hour ride to Vermont ahead of them.
Last spring, a friend told me about a book by Sue Blacker called Pure Wool. Her book features different sheep breeds and pure breed yarns which she produces at her mill in England. Within days, the book sat on my coffee table. I poured through the pages at night with my cup of tea, intrigued by the various breeds she describes. Soon the book had sticky notes through out marking the different breeds that I wanted to further research.
The two ewes settled down in the hay bed we had made in the back of the van as we headed north on the interstate. They did not get up until we stopped at a rest stop where they stood to look out the windows. I assured them that this was not their new home, and that we would be on our way again soon.
The Gotland breed caught my eye. Their clean black faces peer out from silky, lustrous gray curls. Originally from an island on the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden, these sheep are known for their hardiness, strong mothering characteristics, and their friendly personalities. Gotland lambs are described as vigorous and active. Slightly smaller than my Romney sheep, ewes weigh between 120-150 and rams weigh 160-190 pounds.
|Enjoying Vermont Grass|
Our two new Gotland ewes would join our flock of Romney sheep. I had spent the summer reducing my Romney flock, selling our lambs and some of our quality breeding ewes so that I could make room for the Gotland sheep. We will run both breeds in our flock. I kept some of my most reliable, calm, and stable Romney ewes in hopes they will help the Gotland lambs learn the routines here on our farm.
After some research, I learned that in 2003, Gotland semen had been imported into the United States. Foundation ewes were selected and artificially inseminated, beginning the process of building the Gotland breed in the U.S. I located several breeders on the east coast as well as the west coast. With phone calls to other farms raising Gotland sheep, I found other shepherds excited about the breed and confirming all that I had read about them.
After eight hours of driving, we arrived back in Vermont with our first two Gotland sheep, one 90% Gotland, and the other 81%. They would spend the first few weeks on our farm in quarantine away from the Romney sheep.
The decision was made, I would add Gotland sheep to our hillside Vermont farm. I would sell some of our Romney sheep to allow me to purchase Gotland ewes and a ram. Grand View Farm would be the first farm in Vermont to own Gotlands. The summer would be spent reducing our Romney flock, making room for a few Gotland sheep.
I found downsizing my flock and bringing in new sheep challenging. It required taking a hard look at my flock and making difficult decisions. I found the process exhausting and a bit stressful. Purchasing new sheep has its own set of challenges as well, but with perseverance, patience, and the encouragement of one dear friend, most of the hard work is done now. The excitement builds as we have just found the rest of our Gotland flock. In another 4 weeks, all our new sheep will have arrived, and we can begin the process of settling in.
|Our 90% Gotland Ewe Lamb|