St Croix Hair Sheep

HISTORY

Michael Piel of Maine first brought one ram and two ewe “Virgin Island White” sheep into the U.S. in the 1960s, for use in the formation of the Katahdin breed. A second importation from the Island of St. Croix (US Virgin Islands) of 22 bred ewes and 3 rams was initiated by Dr. Warren Foote of Utah State University (USU), Logan UT in 1975. This second group of sheep provided the foundation animals for the modern St Croix breed. Selection criteria for these foundation animals included: white coats, average to above-average conformation, average to above-average body size, and lack of horns in both sexes. Small experimental flocks derived from the USU population were established at Florida State University, Clemson University in South Carolina, Cal Poly in Pomona, CA, and several USDA field stations. USU personnel realized the sheep had useful characteristics, and Dr. Foote founded a breed registry in the 1980s.

The St Croix remains a closed breed; however there have been recent imports of some animals and semen from the Island of St. Croix (USVI). The breed is recognized as threatened by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, with fewer than 1000 registrations per year (categories include: Critical / Threatened / Watch / Recovering). No formal census of inbreeding levels or lineages within the breed has been conducted. The breed association has about 120 active members.

(Info taken from the St Croix Hair Sheep Breeders website)

CHARACTERISTICS OF ST CROIX HAIR SHEEP

The Hair Coat
Their hair coat is smooth in summer and thicker with mixed hair and downy undercoat in winter. They naturally shed their coat and never require shearing.

Size of St. Croix
Mature rams sport a lion-like mane that may fall down to the knees. Mature rams weigh up to 200 lbs and ewes up to 150 lbs. Birth weights for twins average 7 lbs.

Temperament
St Croix sheep are active and vigorous without any tendency to be wild.

Parasite Resistance
They demonstrate greater resistance to internal parasites than do both wool sheep and most other hair sheep breeds.

Reproduction
The ewes can breed back one month after lambing, and ewes can produce two lamb crops per year. Ewes usually bear twins, with some singles, frequent triplets, and occasional quadruplets; lambing rates vary from 150-200%.

St. Croix Meat
Carcass composition of St Croix is similar to that of Rambouillet, but the St Croix have a 23% higher carcass yield due to smaller bone and less fat. The meat is tender with a mild flavor. As an unimproved breed, the St Croix has slower growth rates than many meat breeds, which have been selected for rapid growth and large body size. St Croix are an ideal size, however, for many ethnic markets.

Value of St. Croix Hair Sheep
Caribbean hair sheep, such as the St. Croix, are prolific and breed throughout the year and thus are of value to the U.S. sheep industry. With no shearing costs, strong parasite resistance, no fly strike, high lamb survivability, good mothering instincts and good flocking, the St. Croix Sheep has a lot to offer shepherds in the US .

(Info taken from the St Croix Hair Sheep Breeders website)