Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lake District preserves rare sheep breeds

Daisy, from Woodpightel Ryelands, Yorkshire, U.K.

England is home to many rare breeds of sheep. For the past 100 years, the efforts of local farmers and breeders in northern England, notably Beatrix Potter, have focused on preserving the legacy of these local breeds.

Britain is Europe's largest producer of mutton and wool. Recent census data for summer 2006 (Defra and USDA) show that the UK estimate in June was some 16.45 million breeding females and 1.04 million other sheep over 1 year old (rams, etc) and 16.89 million lambs less than 1 year old, giving a total population of 34.38 million sheep.
By comparison, the USA had 7.77 million sheep in July of which breeding sheep numbered 4.64 million, 3.14 million 'market sheep' and the 2006 lamb crop was projected to be 4.1 million.

As thinking people we are becoming more aware of the need to preserve our unique human and animal heritage. During our Textile Travel summer trip to the Lake District, we will reach out and meet some of these rare sheep, talk with their human stewards, learn about their unique qualities and how through many trials they are being safeguarded for the future. We'll be able to collect samples of their fleeces and yarn for our own use, and in a small way contribute to the assurance of their survival.

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