Breeding Issues (Conservation Genetics, Scrapie, et)
Howling Oak Ranch
More information about the St. Croix sheep
The St. Croix are an attractive polled white hair sheep of moderate size. They require no shearing, as they shed their coat in spring. Mature males have a lion-like mane that may fall to their knees. Docking of the lambs’ tails is not necessary.
St. Croix are active and vigorous without being flighty or wild, and do not tend to jump. When combined with their good flocking ability, these traits make them very suitable for the training of herding dogs.
Mature rams average 175-200 pounds, ewes weigh 130-150 pounds, and twin lambs average 7 pounds at birth.
St. Croix are sexually precocious. Rams are fertile as early as 100 days, and are active breeders even in hot weather. Ewes can be bred to lamb at 10.5 months, and have bred back within 14 days of lambing. A mature ewe commonly produces three lamb crops every 2 years, most often of twins, but also of triplets and occasionally quadruplets.
St. Croix as Meat Sheep
Lambs grow at moderate rates and finish without excessive fat. University research has shown that St. Croix meat has less saturated fat than meat from conventional breeds. The meat is mild flavored and tender and has received high scores for sensory acceptance. St. Croix lambs have high feed efficiency and tend to have higher growth rates than Barbados. Carcass composition is similar to that of a Rambouillet, but St. Croix has a 23% larger meat yield due to less bone and fat.
When compared with both wool breeds and other hair sheep breeds, the St. Croix has a remarkable genetic resistance to gastrointestinal parasites. St Croix lambs can develop almost complete resistance to barper pole worms after 4-6 weeks of exposure. The barber pole worm is a nemotode, or roundworm, that lives in the digestive tract and sucks blood from the sheep. It is a major cause of sheep death in the southern US. In addition, St Croix sheep have been shown to have 99% fewer barber pole worms and only 0.5% as many worm eggs in their feces as wooled sheep. Because of this, St Croix sheep have been described as "worm vacuums" that may reduce the number of worms infecting other sheep run on the same pasture.
Despite the breed's inherent resistance to barper pole worms, the St. Croix sheep is vulnerable to lungworms and liver flukes, and so should be wormed regularly under some conditions.
Weed control using sheep
Sheep provide an inexpensive, effective and sustainable way to control noxious weeds such as star thistle. Grazing by sheep can also reduce incidence of wild fire, enhance rangeland and reforestation projects, and improve wildlife habitat. Since St. Croix are less selective and eat coarser forages than other breeds, they are especially suitable for use in prescribed grazing.
St. Croix have a lower water intake and digestible matter intake than wool breeds, making them especially suitable for low-input, sustainable production systems.
St. Croix were imported from the Caribbean island of St. Croix in 1975 by Utah State University in Logan. Small flocks were also started in Virginia, Ohio, California and Florida for experimental purposes. The sheep are most likely descended from African haired sheep; an earlier importation in the 1960s was used in the formation of the Katahdin Hair Sheep.
Last modified 27 May 2008
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