Why do we now breed VBNs?
We recently changed from having a small flock of Shetland sheep, known for the exceptionally soft and fine fleece with a micron that matched our finest alpacas, as well as a herd of Angora goats that produced “the diamond fibre”. The two different styles and elements of fleeces blended so beautifully with the alpaca fibre and we are immensely proud of the products this blend produced.
However, as time has gone on, we have gravitated more towards rare and unusual breeds, rather than focussing on fibre.
When we started our journey into fibre farming, we did not realise that the fibre was only useable at a commercial level on the sheep and angora goats until they were 4-5 years old. With them living until they are 10-12, some even older, that was a lot of years to continue feeding, medicating, housing and caring for an animal that is no longer able to cover its costs. They all still needed to be shorn on welfare grounds, however their fleece was not useable. This posed an ethical dilemma for us and of course none were sent for meat, however it made us reassess whether being a specialist Fibre Farm as a vegetarian household was viable, so all our Angora goats and Shetland sheep were rehomed as pets.
We have realised over time that our passion is with rare and unusual animals, rather than being “farmers”. We found the Shetlands to be quite flighty and timid, whereas the VBNs are similar in personality to the Angoras, docile and friendly. They are hardier than the Angoras because of their thicker, warmer fleeces that contain lanolin, providing a waterproof element that the Angoras didn’t have.
We also need to breed animals that have a good market for castrated males, and we have found that the three species we have settled on all have that – miniature donkeys, alpacas and VBNs all have a very high demand as pets and males are just as in demand as females.