We have a small flock of Zwartbles sheep at Deen City Farm. The sheep can often be found in their large pen on the yard, or our in the fields. Our larger ewes are sisters and were born in 2018. They produce lambs each year, usually around March, just in time for the Easter holidays!
All of our sheep have names, but sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart at a glance, but there are little tricks to be able to tell who’s who! Their bleat – or baa – all sound different and this is one way we can tell them apart. They’re all very friendly, and can often be lured over by the promise of some tasty grass nuts. Because we have such a small flock, we are able to spend lots of time with the sheep – especially with new-born lambs – so you may see them following the staff around like pet dogs!
When you stroke the sheep, you might find their wool feels surprisingly oily, this is due to something called lanolin. It is a natural substance that the sheep produce, and it helps to keep their wool waterproof – it’ll also make for nice soft hands! Our sheep are sheered annually, usually around May, once it is warm enough for them to do without their fleecy coats and they’ve got enough time to grow it all back before winter. It also gives their fleece enough time to grow just enough to insulate them from the summer heat and even protects their skin from sunburn.
Zwartbles are naturally black sheep, but as their fleece grows, the sun bleaches the tips and leaves them with beautiful caramel highlights. Once their wool comes off for the summer, they will appear black again – and also a lot smaller!
All of our sheep are Zwartbles. They can be identified by their blackish-brown wool, white socks on their black legs and a white tip on their tail. They also have a black face with a white stripe, known as a blaze. The name “Zwartbles” means “black blaze” (zwart meaning black & bles meaning blaze). Neither the males or females have horns. We call this “naturally polled”.
Zwartbles are actually considered a rare breed over in Holland, and as such, there are now just as many Zwartbles in the UK as there are over there! They are quite popular for smallholdings as, not only are they a stunning sheep, they’re extremely friendly, good lambers and are multipurpose sheep so are used for meat as well as milk.