Florida Native Sheep Today
The present day Florida Native has evolved into a “Landrace.”
A type especially suited to our warm, wet environment.
They can thrive without medication even with our year round parasite challenge.
Florida Native sheep are similar in size to Katahdin. Their coarse
wool is often a red honey color or white with speckles on the face
and legs. The face may be grey. They are usually polled. The head,
legs and often the belly are hair coat.
Florida Native breed year-round and the ewes are wonderful mothers.
The lambs show a strong instinct to stick (literally) to their mother’s
side and remain quiet. Historically, the lambs were the primary
protein source for feral pigs. Mature ewes with adequate nutrition
often produce twins.
Florida Native Sheep - A Landrace History
Florida Native Sheep were brought to Florida when the Spanish founded St. Augustine in 1565. They were probably Churro – the common sheep of Spain at that time. The contract with the King of Spain called for 200 cows, 200 horses, 200 pigs and 400 sheep. Their descendents became our famous “Cracker” livestock. The almost feral animals roamed woods and scrub for 450 years until Florida ended the open range at the end of WWII. Various “improved” sheep were added, but there is only a hint of Tunis left showing in the face and reddish color. Mother Nature is a merciless selector. Parasite resistance, good health and the best reproductive behavior have persisted. A group of Florida Native eyes and lambs are noticeably silent because the lambs stay so close to the ewes that no one is lost.
Florida Native Sheep are similar in size to Katahdin. Adult ewes are 100 to 125 pounds. Rams are 125 to 175 pounds. They have white to honey red wool, of little value. Head, belly and tail head are preferred to be hair. Both sexes are usually polled. They have small horizontal ears with thick hair, good for insect and sunburn protection.
We are making progress selecting for growth and carcass conformation. We had good grass in 2006 and half of the ram test lambs gained 25 pounds in 12 weeks (June, July and August). Of the 40 rams competing and the five best rib eye ultra sounded were pure Florida Native. Our hot, wet summers present a parasite resistant Florida Native that we can cull any ram that needs worming and still have lots of good rams left to consider.
Use Florida Native:
- To improve parasite resistance,
- To improve lamb and ewe behavior, and,
- For organic farming.
Florida Native Sheep at Fairmeadow