• Madison Wynne

The Breakdown on Southdowns

Southdowns, to me personally, are THE BEST breed of lambs in the entire world! I raised them in the FFA in high school and, as you can see on the front of my blog page, they are THE PRETTIEST breed around (I mean, my lamb, Lilly, is SO CUTE in that picture). I could argue that they are the best breed because they are so sweet, gentle, and have the best personalities, but obviously, that doesn't bring home the dough for ranchers at the end of the day. My professor came to me and asked me about my personal preferences on the Southdown lamb and asked me the "why" question. Why are they so great and why do we show them? What makes these animals SO special?? I didn't have a confident answer that connected to pure facts, just my personal opinion. So I dug into some research and thought it would be a fun topic to share...

If you didn't know, Southdowns are a breed that reminds me of Mary's little lamb, white as snow. They are one of the oldest breeds (I'm talking early 1800s), originating in England, specifically Sussex. Come to find out, they have always had many beneficial uses, some being their docile character and their quality production purposes that possessed qualities consistent enough to use in developing other breeds (familiar with the new Hampshire and Shropshire? You can thank the Southdown for that). They would be used in crossbreeding due to their fantastic genetics within meat and, surprisingly, wool production (read on....I'll explain it below for that shocked like myself).

Southdowns have many great characteristics that make the breed so amazing for ranchers. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  • Southdowns are economical when it comes to feeding and efficient foragers. The economical part is something that I KNOW is true....a saying I like to use is that if a Southdown even breathes, it'll gain 5 lbs. My Southdowns were great when putting on weight, and the resources I've found mention they can feed on little and put on more than what other breeds may get out of it. Just like dawn dish soap, just a little goes a long way!

  • Great maternal abilities=great lambing seasons. Southdown mothering abilities are fantastic! From personal experience, they stick to their lamb 24/7 and are very caring of their young.

  • Calm disposition, great for kids! This breed is a popular show breed within the livestock world, one of which is because they are so good with younger kids compared to larger Hampshire or Suffolk. If you're seeking something for the family to love on, or simply an animal that is easy to work without the hassle, Southdowns are the way to go!

  • Easy to manage and doesn't require much space. These medium to large size sheep are manageable for many farmers, with rams weighing in around 190-230 and ewes coming into about 130-180 typically.

  • Historically known high-quality carcasses. There have been many Southdowns that have been award-winning across national shows to this day, reflecting the history of its meat quality. Being in the UK, the Southdowns were the go-to breed for meat....

  • Wool: When I mentioned wool being decent from Southdowns, I was shocked! From my experience, I've always known the breed to be primarily used for meat; however, it is stated otherwise in some other resources. On Domestic Animal Breeds and from the Dapkus Southdowns website, the Southdown breed has been ranked for having quality wool compared to other breeds. In Dapkus Southdowns, it was said in the Banner Sheep Magazine, Southdowns ranked 12 out of 37 breeds for wool. Although it isn't their primary use, Southdowns can make some extra profit off of their wool. Their fleece weight comes out to 5-8 lbs, fiber diameter being 23.5-29 microns, and its length is a good 1.5-2.5 inches. Although it isn't the first choice for wool, the Southdown is a good alternative if you are looking for additional profit from your flock.

  • Southdowns are extremely adaptable to different climates. According to the resources, Southdowns are supposed to be hardy and versatile to varied and damp climates.

  • Many ways to get involved!!! Especially for the youth, there are multiple ways to get involved with learning more about the breed through the American Southdown Breeders' Association or the Southdown Sheep Society. Depending on the state, there might be state associations too! I know for Texas, there is the Texas Southdown Breeders' Association, where they get involved with many state shows and hold special breed shows annually. With these groups, there are ways to get involved on boards or as a youth ambassador, earn scholarships, and so much more!

Showkids....always remember, banners and ribbons can make a day great, but it's the people you surround yourself with that make the experience the best.

Useful links and information provided by:

American Southdown Breeders' Association

Dapkus Southdowns

Domestic Animal Breeds (Southdown breakdown)

Domestic Animal Breeds (Top 18 Breeds)

Modern Farmer (Sheep for Wool Production)

The Livestock Conservancy

Oklahoma State University

Roy's Farm

Texas Southdown Breeders' Association

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