Are arapawa sheep good eating?

This is a fascinating and lovely breed of true kiwi heritage feral sheep. Like other island breeds, in the early days of the pioneering discovery and exploitation of New Zealand by European interests, they were abandoned on offshore islands like Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds as a food cache for returning sealers and whalers. The founding stock’s sources are unknown, and there are as many tales and claims as there are sheep! What we do know, however, is that by being hardy and robust, the animals who lived adapted themselves to their harsh island home. They have a super-fine fleece, as fine as merino, like many sheep in harsh climates, grown in a variety of beautiful natural colours and hues from pale cream to apricot, silvery grey, russet, brown to almost black chocolate. The fineness of the fleece seems to offer protection against strong winds and driving rain, and there are several possible applications for humans in spinning and felting and in specialty fibre mixes.

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The other characteristic of their island history is that if allowed to do so, they would lamb in early winter, an adaptation to their dry & barren rocky island homes where feed in the summers & autumn would have been scarce. So, by the time summer comes, lambs are already well-grown and independent and can even breed readily in their first year. They are bright, alert and agile creatures, and if they do not see humans very much, they may become flighty. They are, however, quick to accustom to your land and handle it, and can be easily hand-tamed with a bucket of sheep nuts! In sheepyards, they’re also quiet and easy to manage, being quite a bit lighter than white woolly sheep.

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They have smart ‘anti-fly’ behaviours and a dense skin, so they are also very effective at avoiding it even though they are prone to flystrike. They do better if given access to bush and/or continuous mineral supplementation, as they need a higher mineral element in their diet to sustain their robust health because of their origins. They need to always have shade given in the paddocks as an animal from the NZ bush, otherwise they get too hot and sweaty, which attracts flies. They don’t shed their fleece, unlike the Wiltshires, and so need shearing, but only once a year, best done in mid to late spring.

Arapawas provide your farmlet with very rewarding and enticing additions. They make excellent paddock mowers as they especially enjoy all those pasture weeds that will be left behind by other stocks from a bush climate. As they just love dock, they are particularly helpful for cross-grazing with horses (unfortunately though they don’t eat enough penny royal to contain the weed!). Arapawa meat is a perfect way to use your wethers, as it is fine-grained and lean like wiltshire meat, and nice at hogget age with particulalry. Often, they’re just fun to have around and make lovely pets.

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