Getting This Project Ramped Up

This project has been officially going for five months.  The objective is to build interest in and awareness of the rare breed sheep that are in Australia in order to create a better financial stream for the breeders of these important sheep.  

 The distinctive locks of English Leicester staples.

The distinctive locks of English Leicester staples.

These breeds are not only important historically, but they are also important for the future.  The diversity their genetics provide to the world can not be overstated.  Each of these breeds have their own unique qualities that are still valuable to us today including multiple births, early maturation of lambs, long fleece, durable fibre, amongst other things.  Of course, no one knows what genes they have that we have not even discovered as useful (e.g.  resistance to hoof and mouth).

 A black English Leicester sheep.

A black English Leicester sheep.

The first part of the project was to begin to understand the rare breeds that are in Australia, get to know the breeders and begin to build an environment that financially supports these sheep.  Initially, the approach has been to build awareness around the beautiful fibres that these sheep have, connecting fibre enthusiasts with the people who breed these rare sheep and sell the sheep fibres in Australia.

The initial list of breeds for this project to support has come from a report in 2005 which showed the status of certain breeds (found on this website under "The List").  I have found that many of these breeds have no association supporting them here eight years later.  And they are impossible to find simply through the internet.  Therefore, the focus has initially been on the breeds where the breeders are more active and have formed societies that encourage the continuation of the breed and its standards.

English Leicester, Shropshire, and Gotland sheep have been posted with some detail about the breeds.  Fiber enthusiasts now have sources via the website to find these sheep fibres if they desire.   But there is some education still required help the Australian breeders become more successful selling these fibres.  There is no point in building interest in the fibres, if the fibres or the quality of the fibres required can not be attained.

 English Leicester can be hand carded into rolags and spun long draw to make a fluffy, soft yarn.  Notice the sheen on the rolags typical of English Leicester.

English Leicester can be hand carded into rolags and spun long draw to make a fluffy, soft yarn.  Notice the sheen on the rolags typical of English Leicester.

Facebook gets more attention when sheep are pictured in a post, particularly lambs. And a close up photo of Ethel's English Leicester fleece went viral rapidly got the highest hits of all.  This suggests to me that there are fibre enthusiasts out there sharing.  Getting more high quality photos from the breeders will be most useful.  I live in Sydney and can't take many photos of these sheep unless I am at a show.

I feel that I now understand the steps that need to occur in order to ensure success of the project. The interest is there by all parties.  Now we simply need to connect the dots and ensure we keep the interest up through positive experiences.