vendredi 13 avril 2007

FAQ about Ouessant Sheep - Questions Fréquemment Posées

Frequently Asked Questions on caring for  Ouessant sheep  - This is by no means an exhaustive guide to caring for Ouessant sheep  and if you are in any doubt, advice should be sought from additional  reputable sources.

Do Ouessant Sheep need special care?
No more than any other breed of sheep and in reality attention to detail as with any animal is more about knowing their usual habits and recognising when anything is wrong.

How much space do they need?
The all important question and not always easy one to answer. A couple or pair of Ouessant sheep can be quite happy on 3000m2 of land but this is dependatnt on the type of terrain they are on and the exact amount needed will vary.  What is needed is enough to allow some ground to be rested and provide grazing for most of the year, otherwise it may be necessary to top up with hay during the winter or in dry summers when the grass gets burnt off.

Are they high maintenance?
No, it is important that are wormed regularly or if you prefer, that worm counts are done to make sure you don't get a build up of parasites.
Shearing once a year to removed the previous years fleece.
Foot trimming needs to be done reasonably regularly three to four times a year depending on the ground and how much exercise they get.
Its important to bear in mind this breed of sheep were bred to survive in harsh conditions with little attention, over feed them and you will make more problems so watch the treats and granular feeds. Daily monitoring of sheep is necessary, keeping waters topped up and ensuring they are not caught up in fencing means that they should not  be left longer than 24 hours without checks.

How long do they live?
As far as I know about the same as any other breed of sheep. 10 to 12 years would be good going for most sheep although I have heard of exceptional cases where they have lived as long as fifteen years..

Are they agressive?
No,  the rams can charge if allowed to become over familiar with people but a ewe and wether ( castrated male) will live quite happily together and make ideal pets.

Will they keep my grass down?
Yes, they will happily munch through good grass but they tend to leave thistles and nettles. With the nettles if you cut them they will eat them once they have been cut. They fertilise as they go and provided the ground isn't overly wet in winter will not poach the ground or leave muddy areas.  In fact  with the right conditions they are excellent for conservation grazing.

What can you do with their fleece?
 Fleece that isn't full of bits of vegetation and is relatively clean can be shorn and used by hand spinners. Ouessant wool is high quality and with the right care and attention in preperation is sought after. It can be used in a number of fibrecrafts including felting and for weaving.

Can you eat them?
Yes, Ouessant sheep were originally kept by the islanders for both their fleece and meat there was little room on the island for pets and the Ragout of mouton was a popular dish. Their meat is reported to be dark and similar in texture to some of the darker gamier meats such as venison. In terms of productivity the carcass is obviously very small and there is no real commercial return on raising Ouessant Sheep for meat.

Where can I get one?
Ouessant sheep are still a relatively rare breed. There are some breeders who may sell but few if any are kept on a commercial scale. It is important to go to a recognised breeder of registered stock. Only this way can you be sure you are buying quality sheep that are healthy and not likely to cause problems or run up expensive vet bills.

Do they make good pets?
Very much so, they are a nice size and provided they are reared and kept correctly they will give you and your family hours of fun and fascination. Not to mention giving the grass a good trim.

Can you spin their wool?
Ouessant sheep are an ideal addition to a spinners flock, They come in a variety of colours and are one of the most productive sheep breeds in terms of the amount of fleece they produce for their size.

Do they need to be sheared?
Yes, for details see shearing ouessants but you will need to arrange for them to be shorn once a year. If you don't this happens! Poor Dod hasn't been shorn for two years:-(. In some cases they will shed their fleeece and can be rooed by hand rather than shorn with electric clippers.

Do they need any supplements or extra feeding?
As a rule they do best on relatively poor grazing or at least not to rich. Hay should be accessible, if the grazing is very low then you may need to provide sheep pellets or other concentrates but they  are not generally ideal as a main diet. As with all sheep you should provide a mineral block to make sure they don't lack essential nutrients in their diet.

Do I need to register my sheep?
Yes, in  France, you should declare your holding to your local EDE who will provide you with a  Numèro de Cheptel - Holding number. All  of your sheep should be tagged and registered to your holding. 
In the UK your holding should be declared with the rural payments agency who will give you a CPH ( county parish holding ) number. The same rules apply for tagging and registration of individual sheep as in France

The Ouessant Sheep originates from the island of Ouessant, part of a tiny archipelago just off the north coast of Finistere, Brittany. The island of terror as it was known to some, was swept by the full force of the atlantic’s weather, the hardy sheep adapted to survive on poor grazing from salty clifftop meadows. It was the women of the island that raised the sheep, renowned for their black wool to weave into cloth known locally as berlinge and their meat with its sweet and delicate taste.

La race "Mouton d'Ouessant" est originaire de l’île d’’Ouessant qui fait parti d’un petit archipel au large du Finistère, Bretagne. L’île de l'épouvante comme c'était connu par certains était balayé par les intempéries de l’atlantique, ces moutons rustiques s'adaptaient à survivre sur les pâturages pauvres des falaises salées. C’était les femmes de l’île qui élevaient les moutons réputés pour leur laine noire à tisser « la berlinge » une étoffe régionale et leur viande avec un goût doux et délicat.

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