Crazy about colour
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
As the country was being battered by the flurry of July storms, Karen Barr of Heatherfield Polwarths, just out of Waiuku, was also coping with a flurry of lambs. Coloured lambs. Karen breeds coloured Polawarths – a breed very similar to Corriedales.
“Their wool isn’t as fine as Merino but it’s still fine,” Karen told Rural Living.
Karen’s flock is registered and bred for their fleece.
“We only sell the very best fleeces though.”
Any fleece with a break or defect is used for spinning of felting and Alpaca breeders like using Polwarth fleece for blending.
Coloured sheep are not a separate breed – rather a coloured version of their white counterpart and when deciding which breed to choose the traits are the same.
“You look at the breed traits and select them according to the breed exactly as for whites. If you put a white ewe and a coloured ram you will get a white lamb.
“If you put that lamb with a coloured mate you have a fifty fifty chance of a coloured lamb. If you put a coloured ewe with a coloured ram, you will get a coloured lamb.”
Part of the attraction for Karen is the markings on coloured sheep makes them easy to tell apart.
“They are more like pets because you can distinguish their personalities. It makes them more interesting.”
According to Karen there is a school of thought which believes that all sheep used to be coloured and in fact it is modern farming selection that has seen the advent of white flocks.
“There is a whole debate around it – but I just like coloured sheep.”