The sheep flock at Observatory Hill Farm consists of white and naturally colored purebred Corriedales, several Australian Bond sheep, and a few Corriedale-Bond crosses. The Corriedale breed was developed in New Zealand from 1868 through 1910 and is now the second most common sheep in the world after the Merino. The Australian Bond sheep, developed during the same period as the Corriedale, is sometimes called an Australian Corriedale, as their body type and fleece are very similar.
Corriedales are known for a fleece of medium-fine crimp and fiber diameter, ideal for handspinning and yet not so delicate a fiber that spinning it results in neps and noils. However, most of our flock has unusually fine and soft fiber for Corriedales, with a tightly spaced crimp similar to Merino or Cormo, and average fiber diameter of 25-26 microns.
Our flock is therefore special among Corriedale sheep, and the fleeces the sheep grow are prized for their exceptionally soft handle. We owe a debt of gratitude to Dick and Gretchen Regnery for their years of careful selection and breeding which resulted in this population of unique Corriedales.
We also have a few sheep which have fleeces that are much more traditional for the Corriedale breed. The crimp of these fleeces is a well-defined broad wave, wider than our fine wool fleeces, but still with the soft handle that Corriedale wool is known for. This “classic” Corriedale wool is often a better choice for beginning spinners. Drafting fine wool fibers consistently is sometimes a challenge even for experts, and the more typical Corriedale wool can be a bit less trying for those who are still learning the art of spinning wool into yarn.
The flock wears jackets year-round to keep the best part of their fleeces clean. Some people have expressed concern about how comfortable the jackets are for the sheep, especially in the summer. In fact, since most of our sheep have dark wool, wearing a bright colored jacket keeps them much cooler on the sunny pasture than they would normally be. Also, sheep cool their bodies not by sweating from their skin, but by panting (like dogs), and by allowing the wind to blow on their undersides which are not covered by wool. Since the jackets do not cover these areas, they do not prevent the sheep from keeping themselves cool.
Our sheep receive a great deal of individual attention, although they are always ready and willing to have more! We would not enjoy breeding sheep if they ran away from us every time we approached. Our sheep interact with us and love being rubbed and scratched, and we enjoy getting to know their individual personalities. Some of those individuals, it seems, want to make sure we understand that they are the bosses on the farm! We admit, we answer to our flock at all times.