How to Show Your Sheep – Webisode 1

Our host, Tracy Toth, visits Rebecca Gunther of Jersey West Farm who shares wonderful tips about sheep wrangling in the show ring. We learn a lot about the conformation and characteristics of Navajo-Churro sheep in Webisode 1 of this two part program.

The story continues with Webisode 2, be sure to check it out.

My “Blue” Penny

Baw Blue

We bred our ewes to Baw Blue (or Blue as he’s commonly called) last year. Reese, our matriarch, “threw” Penny this past Spring.

Reese and newborn Penny

Penny was born jet-black except for a little patch of white on her nose, crown, and very faint white “tears” (which I didn’t even notice until it came time to note her markings).

Penny Today

As Penny’s coat grew over the summer, she exhibited signs of black and brown in her wool. The color of churro wool will do that. It can change with age and bleach out with exposure to sunlight. Yet, when the shearer came last week??? What a lovely surprise! As her outer coat fell to the floor, her inner coat was a shimmering light gray-blue against her black legs and under-belly…matched with her distinct “tears” means she’s BLUE. English Blue to be precise.

Blue is the genetic color designation (which does not change) and will be noted on her registry paperwork. Her wool color will change with age and will also be noted on the paperwork — which will accompany a fleece sample from her shearing at one year of age.

[The following “Genetic Color Terms” courtesy of]

Blue – Born black but in first year develop silver/charcoal inner coat while outer remains brownish/black. May develop white on eyes and muzzle but keep dark points, legs, body and belly are dark. Hips, sides are greyed.

English Blue – Must have white tears, may have white in ears or on muzzle. This is a pattern on Black or Brown.

Texel Blue – Resembles Badgerface. There is a dark bar over each eye, dark top of nose, dark under jaw on light face.

Why is this so special? It’s special because of the rarity of this particular color. The table shows, historically, less than one percent of the population of registered Churro possess this genetic color.

Navajo Churro Color Data – Past and Present

Color 1988 1998 Avg. to Date
White 45% 27% 34%
White/Tan 4% 6% 7%
Black 22% 40% 38%
Brown 1% 18% 9%
Dark Brown 2% 2% 1.7%
Grey 12% 4% 4.5%
Grey/Tan 2% 0% 0.6%
Blue <1% <1% <1%
Badgerface 3% 10% 3.6%
Black & Tan 1% 2% 1.1%
Spots 3% 3% 2.7%
Multi 4% 1% 1%


Penny before shearing
Penny after shearing

I’m so thrilled to have this color combination in our flock—and to know it’s the matriarch’s ewe-lamb that has it. I can’t wait until Penny’s of “breed-able” age to see how her very special traits are passed on!


Navajo-Churro sheep need to be shorn twice a year. Their wool grows an inch a month.

Typically, we’ll have the shearer come in September and March (or thereabouts). The shearing happens before they’re bred and then again after the lambs arrive. The timing is good in that it cleans the mamas from the lambing and gets them ready for the warmer months.

Our shearer has been doing this his entire life. It’s something I wouldn’t mind trying but it’s such a delicate job, and I love my flock so much, that I’d rather a professional be at the helm of this task.

He’ll trim the hooves, de-worm (if we wish) – which just means he administers a “drench,” that is a liquid – and shear.

His technique is one that many spinners like because he doesn’t take “second cuts.” He takes one long pass along the sheep instead of going back to cut again (resulting in smaller “bits” of wool left in the fleece).

Another good thing about having him do the shearing is that he’s an “outsider” to our flock – he’s a valuable objective observer as to the overall health and well-being of everyone.

Sheep almost look like different animals after a shearing. It just has to feel good to have that “haircut” every six months or so –  just look at how relaxed they all looked that next morning.

Ram Swap

This week was special for us; we hosted a “ram swap”!

Our dear friend, Linda Cummings ( from whom we purchased our first Navajo-Churro ewe and ewe-lambs came to our place to meet Shelly Gaines, a breeder from New York. They were to exchange ram-lambs (these li’l guys were born this past Spring). The swap occurred at our place—sort of a halfway point.

Now, these gals are pretty savvy when it comes to the breed. I sure learned a lot from them, such as: “clean” legs, face and belly are desirable (not “wooly”). And as much as we all love the four horns the Churro can possess, ready yourself for some bloody heads when they, inevitably, square off. Of course, the fleeces are truly important too; many breeders are picky…and rightfully so. When it comes time to market your wool, spinners seek out the best. It pays to begin to concern yourself with many of these traits at breeding time.

After the necessary paperwork was exchanged, “Ottawa”, the stunning white ram-lamb went home with Shelly to New York and handsome little “Newman” made the trek back to Linda’s Shepherd’s Loft in Pennsylvania.

We’ll have to keep those guys in mind for the future (wink)…

Blog Post About Our Wool Webisodes

The Navajo-Churro wool is beautiful! Just look at the colors of the sheep I was able to photograph before everyone came charging into the barn last week. I’ve been fascinated by their coats since we first purchased Reese and her twins, Lovey and Clara (Clara Barton Angel Of The Battlefield, so named by my history-loving son) years ago.

Attending sheep and wool festivals is always a treat because you get to see how spinners are using the wool and wool blends. I couldn’t wait to visit Loch’s Fiber Mill to “fill in the blanks”—I see the wool when it’s fallen from the sheep after shearing and I’ve seen the finished product in skeins, ready for knitting or weaving, but didn’t know exactly what went in to processing wool.

The morning we spent at the fiber mill was fascinating and informative….so much so that we couldn’t do just one quick segment—we had to break it down into parts! Jamie and Randy were so hospitable they invited us back to their maple syrup festival next year.

For more information, visit

Wool – Webisode 1

Our host, Tracy Toth, tours a wool processing “fiber mill” in Wool Webisode 1.

Blog Post About Our Sheep Webisode

Our Navajo-Churro sheep herd started with a phone call to Linda Cummings at her Shepherd’s Loft Farm. After two trips to the farm (first to meet our ewe and her lambs—then to pick them up at a later date), we were on our Churro way! 

“Daisy,” pictured in our Sheep segment is the daughter of “Reese” and 2010 was her second year of lambing. I’m holding “Petal,” her ewe-lamb, and Petal’s ram-lamb twin, “Warloch” is in the jug as well.

You can learn more about Linda on her Shepherd’s Loft blog. Go to

Sheep Webisode

The Beginning

My husband David and I explored the Four Corners region in the southwest shortly after we were married.

My employer had a pilot base in El Paso and at the end of one of my trips I planned to meet David there to travel around the area. Many dusty, back roads later we found ourselves in Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Nation.We were profoundly moved by the land and the people. I remember stopping at a ravine just to watch a shepherd guiding his flock of Churro sheep down the banks of a river. Little did I know how profound an impact this scene would ultimately have on our lives.

Fast forward, 10 years later. Now we own a farm in Pennsylvania and we raise Navajo-Churro sheep – the count’s at 29.

When we settled here six years ago, we were eager to purchase animals and wanted to make the right decision regarding breed. To be honest? I was looking at the heritage of it all. My husband was closely watching what could be called “the return.” At that time the Navajo-Churro breed happened to be featured on the cover of a Hobby Farms magazine that I picked up at Tractor Supply. The article noted that the Churro had been providing a “return” for the Navajo for centuries: wool, milk, and meat equals “Life.” It brought to my mind the terrain and the shepherd of years before. The primitive setting. The culture. All right there in a breed of sheep.

The following year, I found a Churro breeder in Pennsylvania – at the time, the only one in a very large region. We paid a visit and couldn’t believe the beauty of the Churro: the four-horned rams, the eyecatching variety of the wool colors! We were sold! I think Linda saw it in our eyes – how moved we were. She sold us one of her remarkable ewes with two ewe-lambs “at side” (a mom and her twins). Our herd was born.

Linda sent this NPR link recently. It’s a wonderful story about the Churro. I felt a lump in my throat hearing the Navajo weaver say, “Sometimes, I just sit with them.Watch them.” I will do that too – just go out and sit with them.

There’s something magnetic about the Navajo-Churro. Something undoubtedly special. You can feel it and see it. Is it the centuries-old heritage they possess, the wisdom I believe I can see in their eyes, or are they just glad for the company? Who knows? I’m a sucker for heritage. I’ll take it over “return” every time.

« Previous Page