Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sheep are more than sweet storybook images!

So many of us know of sheep by the images we see in story books and children's literature, or perhaps by comical characters created to sell products.  Based on those images, it's hard to take sheep seriously, or to imagine sheep as a major contributor to our nation's economy!  But it's true.  Sheep contribute a hefty impact to our economy, and give us so much more than just sweet images!

In studying the statistics produced by the American Sheep Industry Association, one quickly sees how much our nation relies on sheep!  Did you know that nearly 200 million dollars of wool was sold in 2010?  That's A LOT of wool!!  Did you know that also in 2010, Americans ate more than 53 millions pounds of imported sheep milk cheeses?  WOW!  That's not even counting the sheep milk cheeses produced domestically.  Did you know that Americans gobbled up nearly 300 million dollars of retail lamb in 2010?  WOW!  That's A LOT of meat!  Did you know that in 2012, nearly 30 million pounds of wool was clipped from sheep?  WOW!  That's a LOT more wool than my flock produces!!

When we attend the farmer's market, many people are struck by that fact we are a sheep farm, as though an antiquity brought back to life.  That's not surprising considering our state, Wisconsin, is no where near the top of the list for states with the most sheep.  Which is the state with the most sheep by the way?  According to the ASIA, that would be Texas.  What else besides humans like to eat lamb?  Wolves, coyotes, eagles, fox, vultures, ravens, bears, lions, and your neighbor's dog.

Why do American's eat sheep's milk cheeses?  Why because it's highly nutritious, and makes outstanding cheeses, yogurts and positively scrumptious butter!  It's a great source of Vitamins A, B, E, as well as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium.  In fact, it's more plentiful in those important nutrients than cow's milk is.  And some of the longest living humans in the world come from regions where sheep's milk was consumed from infancy on.

Ever use hand lotion?  Check the label.  You might find lanolin there!  Shampoo?  Yes, many shampoos, conditioners and other body care products use lanolin for it's moisturizing and softening abilities.

There are many other things we rely on sheep for:  surgical sutures, gelatin (used in ice creams, wine, beer, and vinegar, as well as medicine capsules and photography), glue (used in plywood, paper, matches, toys, picture frames, billiard balls, bookbinding and more!), bone (used for crochet needles, dice, chess pieces, buttons, electrical insulators, feed and fertilizers, and blood (used in cancer research, hair conditioners, fertilizers, animal feeds and buttons!).  Even shoes are made with sheep products (hides, leather, pelts)!  Got a graduate in your family this June?  Check out their diploma cover!  It might have been manufactured with sheep products.  Will you be burning candles to celebrate on their grad cake?  How 'bout those candles?  Yes, some candles have sheep products in them.  Soap to clean up before the big party?  Yep, you guessed it.  Lanolin.  Off to vacation?  Head out the the tennis court and hit a few balls off the racket...yep...the racket strings are sometimes made from sheep products.  Even some violin strings are made from sheep!  Going to be traveling this summer?  Think of all the lubricants that keep you on the go!  Yep.  They may also be made with sheep products!  This is not an all inclusive list...just one to give you the idea of how much Americans (and the world) rely on sheep products.  Sheep flocks out grazing with a shepherd is not a historical image, but one that lives with us today, but perhaps forgotten.

Turns out, sheep are far more useful and important to our health, well-being, and economy than a sweet little lambie image in a story book gives us!  So the next time you pop a pill, light a candle, eat ice cream, button a shirt, wash your hair, pull on shoes, or place your graduate's picture in a lovely frame, think about where those products might have come from.  Did it come from sheep?  lol  I don't know, but it's amazing to think about!

Gosh.  We need sheep!  I guess I've given you all something sheepy to talk about at all your grad parties now! lol

Have a great day everyone!

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