Prized for their unique beauty, enduring hardiness, and lean meat, American Blackbelly are some of the most practical and rewarding sheep one could choose to work with. The breed was developed in the 70's by Texas ranchers looking to produce larger sheep with bigger horns, and is the results of crossing hornless Barbados Blackbelly with horned Mouflon and Rambouillet sheep. As far as ruminants go, ABB are about as low maintenance as it gets. They are a breed of hair-sheep, which means they shed their wool on their own each spring without human assistance. Though ABB are technically domesticated, they retain many of the favorable traits that their wild ancestors possessed when it comes to genetics, instinct, and behavior. This makes them more difficult to 'tame', but also makes them much easier to care for in many ways. They are extremely parasite and disease resistant, almost completely eliminating the need for vaccines, antibiotics, and deworming. They thrive on pasture that would starve out most other breeds of sheep and require little to no dietary supplementation. Their hooves rarely need trimming and their tails do not require docking. ABB have strong herding instinct, making them difficult prey for most North American farm predators and prime candidates for herding-dog training programs. Despite their wild tendencies, they are easy to contain and are not hard on fencing or housing like other larger livestock. One of their most valuable attributes is the reproductive capacity and maternal fitness of ABB ewes. Most will lamb twice per year often throwing twins or triplets, and they almost never require assistance giving birth. Lambs are usually up and running before you get the chance to go check on them, and the strong maternal instinct of ABB ewes almost completely eliminates the need for hands-on lamb rearing. This makes lambing season, as well as the rest of the year, significantly less demanding when compared to other livestock. All in all, American Blackbelly align well with the Grateful Akers' focus on self-sufficiency and sustainability, and are a great option for anyone looking for a low-input/high-output niche in livestock.
Though we've only been raising ABB since 2018, we have fallen in love with them for all the reasons listed above and many more. It took almost a year of research before we decided on this breed of sheep, and thus far they have exceeded our expectations in almost every regard. We're still in the process of slowly growing our small flock, which currently consists of 2 rams and 5 ewes. Our registered breeding ram is Romulus and our 4 registered ewes are Apollonia, Begonia, Daffodilia, & Vera. Our flock also includes an additional unregistered ram (Remus) and an unregistered ewe (Maggie), both born on our farm in January 2019. We expect our ewes to lamb again this summer, so if your are in the market for sheep and are interested in this wonderful breed please let us know! Most of our fall 2019 lambs were sold before we even listed them, so let us know ahead of time if you think you're interested.
If you'd like to learn more about this unique breed of sheep, check out the BBSAI website. There you can find the international registry, breeder directory, BBSAI newsletter, and many other resources that can help you learn more about American Blackbelly.
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