Bizet and Noire du Velay

Yes, more sheep breeds today but I need to finish yesterday’s blog first! I left you at the cathedral in Bourge. We even found some sheep inside – a painting of St. Solange who lived in the 8th century with her sheep.

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Outside, near the cathedral, is a monument to a nobleman of the 18th century. Nobleman were not popular during the French Revolution but the town pleaded to spare his life as he had been responsible for introducing a new sheep breed (a cross) to the area to replace one that was not doing very well in an area that depended on the sheep for their economy. His life was spared (see what doing good things for sheep can get you!)

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A detail from this monument’s surface may provide me with another felt inspiration.

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And now, on to the sheep (cathedrals and history are fine, but we know what we are really here for!)

We left Bourge and headed for Brioude to visit a coloured Bizet breed flock.
They had arranged for us to see the sheep moved from one pasture to another. Here they wait.

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You might ask “What are those white heads peaking out of the flock?” They have a few sheep of another breed, the Ile de France. So, your French words for the day are: “Noir et Blanc” (black and white).

Here they are crossing.

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And finished. Good job, dog.

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Lambs with ewes and just lambs.

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And, yes, always one who needs a snack no matter how many people are visiting.

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We got to see some wool from this breed (the lighter) and one from a breed we will see later in the day.

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Here is this morning’s lesson:

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* they have 900 ewes (80 are Ile de France)
* the breed began in 1905 with 300,000 ewes in the 1930’s; 50,000 in the 1960’s and 8500 today
* fleece should be creamy on body, no wool on face and legs
* fleece weight 2 kilos or less and 30 microns

The woman in this photo has started a new business where she goes to the farms during shearing and collects the wool to process it. I requested a short interview with her (and our tranlator/guide Amelie!) and asked her about her criteria for choosing fleeces. No surprise, it was much as ours: no (or little) vegetable matter, the best wool possible from each animal. She also has trouble with farmers who do not understand about keeping the vm out of the wool!

Before leaving this farm, I was intrigued by these fence posts and how they used them to create their fences. Remember yesterday when “the shepherd is the fence?” Today, the fence is the fence!

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Dona, of course, found lots of good subjects for her photos (you can see some of them if you go to Ravelry and under the group Meridian Jacobs, look for the thread for the Congress). Part of the fun of the trip is seeing which things catch both of our interest for photographing!

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At yet another wonderful lunch, we were welcomed as “sheep men to sheep men” ( we got him to correct it to include “sheep women”!)

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Much note taking

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…included information about their wolf problem. They have been re-introduced and are moving in closer and closer. They have 5000 ewes killed per year and hope that as the wolves move closer to Paris (they are at 100 km now) the government will do something about the problem. It has cost the government 14 million Euros/year with 9 million of that as compensation to breeders.

On a happier note, we visited another flock after lunch, the Noire de Velay.

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This may give a whole new meaning to “black sheep gathering!” These lambs loved this wall and jumped on and off it.

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This was one of the most colorful shots I got so far! The bred ewes are marked with colored collars for their projected order of lambing. Those with yellow and orange collars will go first, those with purple will go second and those with green, third. When we asked, but what about the blue collars?, with much laughter we did not even need to understand French to realize that these are the ones that they don’t know when they will lamb! Some things are universal with sheep breeding!

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Our final sheep event of the day – we got to see the dogs move the sheep to new pasture. It was so much fun to watch two dogs work as a team and successfully complete the job.

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After a long, sheep (and food) filled day, we headed for Millau where we caught a glimpse of the Viaduc de Millau, the highest viaduc in the world (you can see it a little from the hotel window.)

Long post, good night. See you tomorrow as we head to Roquefort – and cheese tasting!

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Published in: on May 24, 2014 at 10:20 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great blog. Love all the photos! It seems like a lot (most?) of these sheep are not docked.

    • Great observation! The Noire du Velay ideally have last 1/3 of tail white but can be docked (although not as short as we are used to seeing). The Bizet cannot have their tails cropped per the breed standard (but that may be just for the rams – there was so much information to tske down in such a short time!)


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