Meet the Breeds: Sheep

Over 40 breeds of sheep can be found in the U.S. today. Each one has their own characteristic strengths and weaknesses meaning there is likely a breed (or breeds) best suited for your particular production system and goals. Listed below are several of the country’s most popular sheep breeds categorized into six breed types – fine wool, long wool, meat, dual purpose, hair, and dairy. There are also many excellent breeds that didn’t make this list, and more information on those can be found at their respective breed association websites.

Fine Wool Breeds – These breeds produce the most desirable high-quality, uniform fleeces. They also tend to be heat, cold, and drought tolerant and are more likely to breed out of season than other wool breeds.

Long Wool Breeds – These breeds are known for their long staple length which is most desirable for hand-spun yarn applications.

Meat Breeds – These breeds may also be known as medium wool breeds. They produce wool of average quality and are valued more for their carcass characteristics. They are commonly used as youth 4-H and FFA projects and are suitable for small family flocks.

Dual Purpose Breeds – These breeds are the product of Merino or Rambouillet crosses and successfully balance both high-quality wool production and lamb production. They are prolific breeders and are specially suited for U.S. range conditions.

Hair Breeds – These breeds produce little to no wool but rather have a hair coat like goats. They are particularly hardy, well-muscled, and easy breeding. They are excellent for hot climates due to their parasite resistance and ability to breed year-round compared to wool sheep.

For information on our sheep feeds, click here.