Baa Baa Black Sheep

Ric PatricioMore than a year ago, the Goducate Training Center (GTC) in San Miguel, Iloilo received a rare gift.  Six white bundles of joy and meek as lambs! Indeed they were! Because they were hair sheep donated by Manny Delleva, a successful agri-entrepreneur from Campuestohan highlands in Negros Occidental.

The ram is of Katahdin breed while the ewes are of St. Croix’s.  Manny imported the parental stocks  from the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2010.

These sheep are excellent breeders.  If you let them fall in love unrestrained, each mature ewe can lamb twice a year with twins and occasional triplets and quadruplets.   They have sweet faces and disposition, don’t jump on you, over you, and over the fence.  They eat practically anything, even Gmelina seeds (which should be restricted as these cause their stomach to bloat), so they are excellent weed eaters and lawn mowers. And as pets, too!

They taste good and are excellent source of lean organic meat.  Being hair sheep, they have more hair fibers compared to wool sheep that have more wool fibers.  They do not need shearing and have their tails docked. They adapt easily to tropical environment and are resistant to parasites and diseases common to small ruminants.

On their first day at GTC, the hierarchical “leadersheep” was immediately evident.  The eldest ewe took charge and being accustomed to range management, it led the flock in exploring the hillsides where they liberally took bites of whatever greens they found.  We went after them, roped the leader, and towed it.  Sheeps have a strong instinct to follow the one in front of them so it was easy to bring back the rest of the flock into the open field.  And so it came to pass that every day, until a sheep house was  built for the “cut-carry feeding scheme”, the eldest ewe had to be harnessed to a rope with the other end secured to a stake to avoid a repeat of the “wandering” incident.

The sheep population at GTC has doubled since they first came in.  Last May 28, however, we were stunned to see a newly-born black lamb amidst the all-white flock.  We surmised that this had to do with the lamb’s parents both carrying a gene for color.  It’s really not uncommon for black lambs to be born in a white flock to white parents.  Different genes control the fleece color and pattern, whether it is solid or spotted.  A black fleece comes from recessive genes, so when a white ram and a white ewe are each heterozygous, there is a 25% probability that their progeny could be a black lamb.

Since only a few white sheep are heterozygous for black,  that is where the expression “black sheep in the family” originated from.  Black sheep is an idiom that describes a disreputable or an odd member of a group.

The flock dynamics in sheep is quite impressive.  When you see the sheep grazing together in the open field, the serenity and beauty that they exhibit are, indeed,  a sight to behold.

Come, visit GTC with your family.  Your children will have that rare chance for close encounter experience with the black sheep and hand-feed it together with the other sheep.  While they are busy, you and your spouse can enjoy the dipping pool with Jacuzzi, zip line, vertical wall climbing, leisure fishing, horseback riding, and other amenities while also learning from the organic garden and hydroponics showcases at GTC.