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Frequently Asked Questions

Farm & Fiberworks


Frequently Asked Questions about Jacob Sheep

Wool, fiber 
How do I sell the wool?
We get this question a lot. First off, you need to know what you've got.  Not all Jacob wool is the same.  If your fibers are harsh, kempy or badly contaminated with hay or dirt, you may have a tough time finding a buyer. Selecting Jacobs bred specifically for fleece quality will increase your likelihood of being able to sell your wool at premium prices.
Handspinners are your best market, if your fleece meets their standards. They will want to feel the fiber before buying, so be prepared to send samples. You can also process your fleeces into roving, yarn, or blankets.  We use Ozark Carding Mill for our roving, Blackberry Ridge for yarn.  Several Jacob breeders have sent wool to McCausland Woolen Mill and had them make blankets. 
Can I "reshape" horns that are growing in the wrong direction?
We have heard of people doing this but have never heard that it was successful. In most cases, this is attempted with rams that have forward-tipped horns.  We discourage this sort of manipulation because an animal with problematic horns will pass that along to his offspring. Even if you could fix the horns, you can't change the genes. With the number of Jacob rams now available, replicating inferior horned Jacobs is a detriment to the breed. 
Can I trim the tips off horns that are growing into the face?
We occasionally see this problem with the lower horns of 4-horn rams curling into the cheek at 1 to 2 years.  The tip of the horn is just keratin - no blood supply or nerves.  That can be trimmed, just like you would trim your fingernails. Just like fingernails, though, if you trim to deep, it'll hurt and bleed.  Trim conservatively. 
What tools do you trim with?
We have had the most success with lopping shears - the kind you would use to trim branches off of trees. They give you enough leverage to quickly remove the tips.  We have tried hack saws with less success - they take a lot longer and the vibrations aren't very pleasant for the animal.  We have heard that surgical "cable" saws work well but haven't used them ourselves.
Can I trim a 2-horned rams horns that have curved too tightly to his face?
 This is a much more difficult situation that typically occurs at 2 to 3 years in rams with insufficient "sweep" to their horns.  As the horn thickens, the curl grows too closely to the jaw.  The problem is that the portion of horn blocking the jaw is quite thick and has a bone/blood core. Cutting the horn off before that point would be a bloody mess and quite traumatic for the ram.  Some breeders report limited success with cutting a section out of the length of the horn parallel to the horn's growth. With the current excess of 2-horn rams in the Jacob population, a better alternative may be to replace that ram with one with a better horn sweep. 
Do you dehorn Jacobs?
No.  Jacob is a horned breed. Removing the horns would make the animal unregisterable.  
Where can I get a 6-horn ram?
While 5 and 6 horn Jacobs do exist, they are not common and the horns are not often well developed.  The Jacob skull rarely has enough room to support the 5th and 6th horns, so if they grow, they are weak, scurs, or fused to the other horns. 
My ewe lambs' horns broke off.  What do I do?
This is not uncommon with 4-horn ewe lambs.  In most cases, the horn will grow back stronger. The break will bleed a bit, but probably shouldn't be a big concern.
What should I feed my Jacobs?
That depends on what's available in your region.  Like all ruminants, Jacobs have certain nutritional requirements but those can be met by any number of feeds.  You should talk to your local county extension office or nearby sheep breeders for specific recommendations in your area.   
What do YOU feed YOUR Jacobs?
We feed exclusively alfalfa, which is plentiful in our area and is the most cost effective feed value in our region.  Alfalfa provides more than enough protein and energy, so we do not feed grain of any sort.  This works for us but may not be the right combination for others.  (See the previous question.)  We also provide free choice salt/mineral blend for sheep/goats.
Sales practices
Do you sell to "shooters"?
We do not sell rams to "game ranches" for the purpose of canned "hunts."  Aside from the ethics of this practice, we believe that the best horned Jacob rams should be used for breeding, not shot and mounted on a wall. 
I just want some pretty lawnmowers. Do you have any cheap Jacobs?
We often have wethers (neutered rams) that would make perfect lawnmowers. In most years we wether any ram lambs that aren't exceptional quality.  These are generally available in May and June.  They make fine lawnmowers as long as you have adequate fencing to keep them in and to keep dogs and other predators out.  Before taking on "lawnmowers," you should have a plan for what you'll do when the grass runs out.  While Jacobs are adaptable, they will need some sort of feed in summer droughts and winter cold.
What does "registerable" mean?
All Jacobs sold as breeding stock are registered or registerable. Registerable means that the animal should pass all registration requirements.  In most cases, if an animal is not already registered, we will send in the registration paperwork as part of the sale.  If for some unforeseen reason that animal fails the registration, we will refund the purchase price less the market value of grade sheep. 
Fences & other facilities
What kind of fences work best for Jacobs?
Sheep are among the most challenging animals to fence. No fence is perfect, so you will need to balance effectiveness against cost.  Jacobs typically try to go under rather than over fences.  The are more intelligent than most sheep, so you should expect them to challenge whatever fences you erect.  In general, if you follow the guidelines for fencing goats, you should be fine for Jacobs. We use many different types of fence and haven't found the single best solution yet. 
What sort of hay feeders do you use?
Hay feeding is a challenge with wool breeds.  You want to keep the hay out of fleeces as much as possible, especially if you feed alfalfa.  Jacobs complicate matters because their horns can get stuck in many types of feeders and cause a lot of wear on those that do work.  Our current favorite feeder is the "Hay Saver" type which we make ourselves, modeled after a concept sold by Carolina Homespun.  These put the hay at a good level and minimize the amount of wastage.  
Do you have a big barn?
In the Pacific Northwest, we don't get much cold weather, so we are able to make do with less shelter than in other areas.  We have one main barn and a set of open-sided sheds.  We have also experimented with a variety of other temporary shelters.  We strongly recommend setting up a "catch area" in a barn or other shelter.  This works best if you put your feeders in to an enclosed area that you can shut down whenever you need to work with the sheep.  


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