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Why the fibre community is essential to our rare breed sheep

Last summer, I was invited to write an article for the British Fibre Art magazine on what the fibre using community can do to help to preserve our rare breed sheep. I am a member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Cumbria Support Group and have been needle felting my way through the watchlist since 2018. 10% of rare breed sales goes to the RBST. The full article is attached here.

A summary of what we can all do to help is here.

North Ronaldsay needle felt sheep portrait created fo British Fibre Art magazine article
North Ronaldsay sheep portrait

What the fibre art community needs to do

  • Become familiar with the breeds that are under threat (see Watchlist, above)

  • Most breeds have a “breed society” with a Facebook page so once you have found the colour or type of fibre you want, contact the breed society and find out where you can buy the wool. If you don’t find a breed society on Facebook, you will certainly find a breeder.

  • The RBST has farms (normally) open to visitors all over the country. Visit them and enjoy the experience of seeing these amazing animals first hand.

  • Attend the wool-related shows such as Woolfest where you can talk to the breed societies, handle the wool and learn about the breeds. Hopefully there will be some later in the year.

  • Seek out the people who have flocks of rare breed sheep and create a demand for the wool! Finally, a little bit of good news: the Government has accepted RBST’s arguments that native livestock needs supporting.The importance of our native breeds was recognised by Secretary of State George Eustice in his speech to the NFU conference: “Genetic diversity is what gives life itself resilience and we should protect and safeguard the genetic resource that exists in our fabulous native breeds.”

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