The Wiltshire Horn is a long-legged, attractive sheep breed with horns on both sexes, with the ram’s horns being especially magnificent. Its modern popularity stems from its ability to shed; it has a very short fleece that sheds early in the spring, and it is therefore raised solely for its delicious fine-grained meat. It is a very old and hardy breed that was once the most common type of sheep in the rugged hill country of middle England, where it could roam freely without needing to be shepherded.
Ewes and rams spend the entire year with their faces, legs, belly, and underside to the tail naked, and their lack of fleece prevents them from being tangled in rough vegetation (such as brambles or gorse), making them ideal for grazing rough pasture and hillsides. Another advantage of not having wool is that they rarely need crutching, so tails can be left on.
They are not normally prone to flystrike and do not need to be sprayed or dipped with fly deterrent because they shed their fleece early in the season before it gets hot and then stay clean-shed all summer. Of course, since they are self-shedding, the greatest advantage is that they do not need shearing, making them very low-maintenance sheep, suitable for part-time farmers or lifestylers. Wiltshire horns have a good constitution and natural hardiness due to their age. They’re perfect for organic/biological farming systems, particularly if purchased from a breeder who practices it, since the sheep would have been genetically and physiologically modified to survive without the use of a lot of chemicals.
Twins are common after the first year in this breed due to its naturally high fertility. Lambing issues are uncommon since the breed is torpedo-shaped (narrower at the front than the back), making it easy to lamb. Lambs are born with a small body but long legs, and they quickly gain muscle and height thanks to their mothers’ plentiful, rich milk. Since they are genetically distinct from most other breeds, the rams are sought after as terminal sires for meat lambs. They produce lambs with exceptional hybrid vigour that develop quickly to produce big, well-graded lambs. Wiltshire lamb is a fine-grained, sweet gourmet meat with muscle marbling (intra-muscular fine-grained fat for flavor) but is otherwise very lean, unlike most other modern lamb. Wiltshire hogget lamb (approximately 1 year old) is a superb cut of meat with a lot of flavor and very little fat.
It’s an ideal breed for low-input systems and small farmers who don’t want the hassles of keeping woolly sheep because of its many unique characteristics, especially its self-shedding. Cross-breeding with wool breeds has also spoiled the genetics for shedding and other hardy qualities, making high quality stock difficult to come by in New Zealand. To ensure absolutely clean shedding sheep, we have brought in new pure blood-lines direct from some of the best Australian breeders here at Muriwai Valley Farm. We have some of New Zealand’s finest and hardiest Wiltshire sheep, and we know them well, having been breeders in Northland for nearly 20 years.
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