AND THEN THERE WERE NONE...............Today was an end to an era. For the first time in 35 years, there is no livestock at Canaan Farm. It was a good run and I was proud to develop the Canadian Polwarth breed here but it is now time to let younger shepherds carry on. No more climbing ice mountains to get in and out of the barn! I have really good memories and this journey has taken me to many new places and I met many sheepish people. I am proud of the quality of the spinning flock I have raised. The hardest thing today was loading Bailey, the uber friendly llama but I know he is going to a great Shetland farm.
The Polwarth is a dual-purpose sheep, developed in Victoria, Australia in 1880. First cross Lincoln x Merino ewes were backcrossed to Merino rams to produce "comeback" progeny (3/4 Merino: 1/4 Lincoln) and then interbred to produce the Polwarth animals. Polwarths are well suited to areas with improved pastures and are mainly found in the higher rainfall districts of southern Australia. They have become popular in areas previously considered too wet and cold for Merinos, and also to provide a dual meat / wool option. The breed has been successfully exported to many countries, particularly South America where they are know as "Ideals".
The Polwarth breed contains both polled and horned sheep with the polled types predominating. It is large framed, robust, and produces a high-yielding, soft_handling fleece of 22_25 micron fiber diameter. Much of the emphasis within the breed has been directed towards developing and improving the wool aspects.
The fleece is bright and often almost chalky white, and is second only to Merino for fineness and softness. Staples are blocky with well defined and even, rounded crimp.
• Fibre diameter: 23 _ 26 microns.
• Staple length: 75 _ 110 mm.
• Fleece weight: 4.0 _ 6.0 kg.
• Uses: High quality worsted fabrics, knitting yarns and apparels, baby clothing and fine fibre blends. Also excellent for felting.
For the spinner, Polwarth has become a popular fleece type, easier to prepare and spin than Merino, yet with a similar softness and handle.
Polwarth is beautiful to spin, especially when prepared for a worsted type yarn which will enhance its brightness and give drapeability to the knitted or woven fabric. This will involve flick carding, or preparing on wool combs, an easy task with the length of staple available. The smooth worsted type yarn enhances stitch definition in patterned knitwear and
gives a "classiness" to woven fabrics.
Being a waxy fleece type it will need a hot scour (wash) in preparation for spinning. I have discovered that Power Scour by Unicorn is the best de-greaser.
Polwarth is a good fleece choice, because of its length and fibre diameter, for fine fibre blends with the likes of angora rabbit, silk, baby alpaca (cria) and fine mohair. Remember though that for ease of spinning it is wise to blend fibres of similar length and diameter, the aim being to enhance the qualities of each fibre.
After visiting the foundation Polwarth flock at "Tarndwarncoort", home of the Dennis decendents of the breeders in 1991, I worked with them to develop a Canadian strain that would best represent the breed within the confines of the Canadian climate. The Canadian Polwarth follow the same lines with the exception of the CorriedalexMerino. As the corriedales were very Merino-like, it was decided to backcross them to the Border Leicester to remove this trait and then backcross to the Merino ram.
I will be breeding colour into the flock this fall so in 2012 there should be coloured lambs. Keep coming back for updates.