This is a fascinating and beautiful breed of feral sheep of true kiwi heritage. Like other island breeds, they were abandoned onto offshore islands like Arapawa island in the Marlborough Sounds as a food cache for returning sealers and whalers in the early days of pioneering exploration and exploitation of New Zealand by European interests. The origins of the founding stock is obscure, and there are as many tales and assertions as there are sheep! However, what we do know is that the animals which survived adapted themselves to their harsh island home by becoming hardy and resilient. Like many sheep in harsh climates they have a super-fine fleece, as fine as merino, which is produced in an array of beautiful natural colours and hues from pale cream through apricot, silvery grey, russet, chocolate brown to almost black. The fineness of the fleece appears to give protection from strong winds and driving rain, and for humans has many potential uses in spinning and felting and in speciality fibre mixes.
The other feature from their island past is that they will lamb in early winter if allowed to do so, an adaptation to their dry & barren rocky island homes where feed would have been sparse in the summers & autumn. So lambs are already well-grown and independant by the time summer arrives, and will even breed readily in their first year. They are bright, alert and agile animals, and can become ‘flighty’ if they don’t see humans very often. However, they are easy to habituate to your land and way of managing them, and can be readily hand-tamed with a bucket of sheep nuts! They are also quiet and easy to handle in the sheepyards, being quite a bit lighter than white woolly sheep.
They have clever ‘anti-fly’ behaviours and a thick skin, so although they are susceptible to flystrike they are also pretty good at resisting it. They do best if given access to bush and/or constant mineral supplementation, as due to their origins they need a higher mineral element in thier diet to maintain their robust health. Being an animal from the NZ bush, they do need to always have shade provided in thier paddocks, otherwise they get too hot and sweaty, which attracts flies. Unlike the Wiltshires they don’t shed their fleece and and so do need shearing, but only once per year, best done in mid to late spring.
Arapawas make very rewarding and attractive additions to your farmlet. They make superb paddock mowers as coming from a bush environment they particularly relish all those pasture weeds that other stock will leave behind. They are especially useful for cross-grazing with horses as they just adore dock (unfortunately though they don’t eat enough penny royal to control that weed!). Arapawa meat is a great way to utilize your wethers, as like wiltshire meat it is fine-grained and lean, and particulalry good at hogget age. They are also just great to have around and make lovely pets.