COOPWORTH GENETIC SELECTION
**Wild 'n' Woolly Farm has had sheep since 1983; COOPWORTHS since 1984. Four of the original Coopworths were CSSNZ registered Pine Park and Alford Park New Zealand Coopworth Sheep, imported by Jonathan May of Timberville, Virginia, in 1979. (Jonathan May's Maymont Coopworths represented the ONLY US flock recorded as Flock #41 in the CSSNZ registry.) We have bred our ewes to direct sons of New Zealand AI Sires (imported semen), and for two of our 37 years breeding Coopworths, to original Tasmanian imported English Leicester Longwool rams--obtained from the Williamsburg Foundation--to enhance wool luster and crimp definition. Our selection process has centered around hardiness, ease of lambing, and wool quality--softness, yield, crimp, luster, staple length, uniformity, and 'whiteness'. We remained true to the New Zealand philosophy of an "Open Book' registry allowing 3rd and 4th generation outcrosses to the English Leicester Longwood rams to be kept as registrable stock, provided they meet production criteria and represent only the best of the best. For our flock I have ONLY ever retained <30% of any year's ewe lamb crop and <10% of any year's ram lamb crop for breeding stock, either to keep or sell. Often, these were further culled in their second and third years if they did not perform as expected. And only 2 or 3 rams of that <10% retained as lambs were used for breeding.
Our COOPWORTHS are white. We have never used colored genetics in our breeding program. as is the case in all of the New Zealand breeding schemes for registered Coopworth sheep. Any degree of black wool contaminates commercial-use white wool and cannot be tolerated. The COOPWORTH registry-CSSNZ-did not allow the appearance of 'color' or the use of any colored genetics. The occasional, randomly 'natural colored' Coopworth commercial sheep crop-outs and outcrosses that exhibited color were imported into the US via Canada in the 1980's! The American Coopworth Registry permits the registration of both white and natural colored Coopworth sheep. Our sheep were never registered in the US registry.
Coopworth ewes are narrow polled, deep-but not 'broad' chested, and long-bodied. They are built to accommodate ease of lambing. They are heavily muscled and stout. Their bones are thick and substantial and strong. Ewes weigh 130-160 lbs. Rams weigh 200-250 lbs. COOPWORTH rams look like "TANKS". Black noses, hooves, and "eye liner" are the standard. Coopworths may or may not have a top knot of wool on their heads and wool down their legs. It is the breeder's selection process that determines the degree to which their flock exhibits characteristics more like that of the Romney or Border Leicester from which they were derived.
Wild 'n' Woolly sheep have little to no wool on their faces and legs. We have selected for clean faces and clean legs in part because the head and leg wool is short, full of chaff, and dirtier than the primary fleece. It's not particularly fun to shear, skirt, or wash independent of the rest of the fleece...and not as desirable for hand spinning or felting. Also, research has shown that "clean" faces are directly proportional to the "Number of Lambs Born", ewes most likely to produce an average lamb crop over their lifetime >180%. And did I mention I do NOT enjoy blade shearing leg wool! For the spinner & craft market, it's wool I simply skirt and throw aside! For the commercial WHITE wool market, however, it's WEIGHT and that's a good thing if you've 10,000 sheep and hire experienced world champion shearers to do the dirty work of shearing!