The Cheviot sheep is a distinctive white-faced sheep, with a wool-free face and legs, pricked ears, black muzzle and black feet. It is an alert, active sheep, with a stylish, lively carriage.
History and development
The Cheviot originated in, and gets its name from the Cheviot Hills, on the border of England and Scotland. Recognized as a hardy sheep as early as the 14th century, Cheviots did well in those bleak, windswept conditions, with their strong constitution, easy lambing, well developed mothering instinct, and fast maturity. Introduced to Australia in 1898, the Cheviot proved its ability to withstand the cold, wet winters of southern Australia and is a vigorous forager through the hot, dry summers when feed is scarce. The cheviot has been steadily improved over the centuries and the present day Cheviot, whilst retaining these qualities, is bigger, meatier, with a heavier and better quality fleece. The Cheviot is a versatile, multi-purpose sire, both for a finer, dense woolled first-cross ewe, and for fast maturing, lean prime lambs.
Cheviots need less husbandry. They have less lambing problems due to an ease of lambing and strong mothering instinct. Cheviots have hard black feet. Their wool-free faces mean Cheviots never need wigging. Worm resistance means less drenching, less crutching and less fly strike. All this means less labour, lower costs, and more profit. The Cheviot is renowned for its hardiness, activeness, will to survive, high fertility, mothering ability and low maintenance.
The true multi-purpose sheep
Cheviots produce fast-maturing, lean prime lambs which put on muscle, not fat, and have a high dressing percentage. The cheviot ram weighs 75-85 kg and the ewes 50-75 kg. The high shoulder, giving agility and suitability for hilly terrain. Cheviot lambs’ rapid growth rate and fast maturity means earlier sales, fewer carryovers and higher returns.
Cheviot wool is finer than other British Longwools, and is ideal for crossing with fine wool breeds. It crosses particularly well with Merino and Comeback wools giving a highly productive finer-woolled first-cross ewe. The long history of the breed gives it genetic stability conferring maximum hybrid vigour when crossed.
Cheviot wool has a characteristic three dimensional helical crimp which gives it a highly desirable resilience. The fleece is dense and long-stapled, of 26–30 micron quality, springy to the touch with a chalky appearance. The length is 100-150 mm and ewes cut around 3.5 kg and rams around 5 kg. Cheviot wool is often blended into other yarns to give resilience and durability to the finished article. Its special properties also help reduce fleece rot and fly strike problems. Originally renowned for producing ideal durable tweed, the fleece has been used as a speciality fibre in carpet making.
Cheviots are renowned for their high fertility. Ewes have a high twinning rate. Cheviot rams are vigorous workers, and can be run with large numbers of ewes. Easy lambing is due to the low birthweight of lambs, yet they are soon on their feet to seek milk. The ewes have an exceptionally strong mothering instinct, which means a higher lamb survival rate. The result is more lambs marked, and a higher return.