Scottish Blackface Breeders Union
by Graham & Margaret Phillipson of Littledale Farm, Richland Center, WI
The Scottish Blackface Breeders Union was established in 2008 by a group of progressive breeders and is represented by the website: www.SBBU.org. The website has a comprehensive description of all aspects of the breed, provides educational information and lists members who are happy to answer any questions. SBBU also provides a registry for Scottish Blackface sheep in the United States with searchable pedigree features and maintains a Facebook group page.
Scottish Blackface sheep in North America are mostly the prodigy of the importation made from Scotland to Canada in the 1970’s.
Scottish Blackface are ideally suited to grass-based farming. The breed has been developed over centuries to utilize rough and coarse grazing ground and to produce grass fed market lambs of the highest gourmet quality. They are extremely hardy and thrifty and thrive in areas where other breeds struggle to survive. Breeders benefit from easy keeping, productive ewes that produce premium market lambs on grass and with a lamb crop of 150% or better.
Many breeders have found a niche market for their lambs, and sell to local restaurants and private buyers. The smaller Scottish Blackface lamb, at about 75-90 lbs live weight, is typically sold into the ethnic market – a market made up of immigrants who have settled in the USA from other countries where the lambs are traditionally processed at much lighter weights. The lambs are lean, tender and free of superfluous fat.
Flock size of Scottish Blackface in the USA range from a handful of ewes to over 100. Although several breeders breed their ewes to the Bluefaced Leicester to produce Mules, it is not prevalent, and consequently there are not many Mule sheep in North America.
Numerous Scottish Blackface breeders use herding dogs to handle their sheep and there is a growing trend for several dog trial/handlers to acquire Scottish Blackface sheep for use in training in order to challenge their dogs.
Scottish Blackface semen was first imported into the USA from Scotland in 2005/2006 and more imports have been made in the last two years. These new genetics are greatly enriching the breed here in the USA.
Scottish Blackface sheep are a notable feature of at least two US golf courses. Flocks of Scottish Blackface sheep roam the Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wisconsin, and the Hermitage Golf Course, Old Hickory, Tennessee.
New interest for the breed has recently developed with the introduction of the Valais Blacknose up breeding project. Valais Blacknose were first imported into the UK from Switzerland in 2014/15 with their semen being imported into North America in 2016. The closest and most commonly used recipient is the Scottish Blackface ewe, as her characteristics are most similar. The up breeding project requires 5 year inseminations to achieve as near possible Valais Blacknose.