Hair breed sheep bring a new look to a classic show

Livestock shows are a classic part of the North Carolina State Fair, so it’s only fitting that the fair’s return in 2021 would bring with it a new show for people to enjoy.

The junior market lamb show will add a hair wether breed division this year, bringing in a new and popular breed to the fair for the first time. Bill Sparrow, junior market lamb superintendent, said that haired sheep have grown in popularity recently.

“I wouldn’t say they’re new, but in the last 20 to 30 years haired sheep have increased in numbers dramatically and significantly as a proportion of sheep in North Carolina,” he said. “Since the popularity has grown, we felt like it was incumbent on us to work with that and try to create a show at the state fair.”

That increase in popularity is due to several unique characteristics that set haired sheep apart, Sparrow said.

“They are more heat-resistant than other types of sheep, so they do better during the hotter months in North Carolina,” he said. “They’re also more resistant to parasites, so you don’t have as much issue with internal parasites as you might otherwise, and in general they’re just fairly easy sheep to keep.”

Getting the show ready followed the same guidelines as other sheep shows, Sparrow said. Blackface and mixed-breed sheep have been shown at the State Fair for years, which helped give Sparrow and other planners a structure for starting up the hair breed contest. The process was mostly a matter of writing rules that defined what made a haired sheep a haired sheep – which as you can guess largely comes down to the animal’s coat.

Now, all that’s left is to see how popular the show is. While it may take a few years to really take off, Sparrow said he is optimistic that the first year will be a good one.

Sparrow credited Neil Bowman, State Fair livestock show director and N.C. State University’s Dr. Andrew Weaver with helping him make the show a reality.

“Both of them have been instrumental in making sure this got done, and have provided information and leadership,” he said. “I would be remiss if I didn’t credit them for all that they’ve done.”

Sparrow said that the hair breed show is part of an overall effort to put more eyes on North Carolina livestock.

“We, along with the Agriculture department, are working to create more opportunities for livestock raised in North Carolina to be shown,” he said. “With the rising number of hair breed sheep in the state, it made sense that this would be our next step.”

For more information on livestock shows at the state fair, visit http://www.ncstatefair.org/2021/Competitions/Entering/LivestockCompetitions.html.

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