The Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Consortium is a group of dedicated breeders committed to the conservation and protection of the polled Barbados Blackbelly sheep breed, as originally found on the Island of Barbados and as described in the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association International (BBSAI) breed standards.
Barbados Blackbelly sheep were first brought to the United States from Barbados in 1904. However, during the past 100 years, the numbers of the original polled Barbados Blackbelly breed have decreased rather than increased. The genetics and phenotypical attributes of the breed have been mostly lost, mainly due to extensive crossbreeding with horned breeds and other wooly and hair-type breeds. This crossbreeding has become the norm, both in the United States as well as in central America, other surrounding countries, and sadly, even in their native country of Barbados.
In late 2004, an updated American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) census of rare and endangered breeds revealed that there were fewer than 110 registered polled Barbados Blackbelly sheep in the United States (approximately 60 registered ewes and 40 registered rams). The actual number of living mature polled registered rams was calculated to be fewer than 12. This alarming information prompted a small group of polled BB breeders to take serious measures to protect the living genetic pool of Barbados Blackbelly sheep and to attempt to restore and increase the numbers of these lovely sheep to a level where they will be less endangered. As a result of our efforts to increase our flock sizes and to create starter flocks for new breeders, in 2013, the ALBC and the BBSAI reported that there were over 1400 registered sheep. Although encouraged, the Consortium is aware that this is an inflated number that doesn't accurately represent the actual number of living mature BB sheep. Because the registry has no provision to track the death of registered sheep, that number is more realistically reset to 700 when you remove the sheep that have died.
That means that we must remain in "conservation" mode for quite awhile longer. We invite all serious and dedicated breeders to share in this challenging and noble quest to recover the breed from near extinction.
It is not necessary for a breeder to have longstanding experience with raising sheep in order to be in the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Consortium. Rather, it is important that breeders have a certain dedication and love for the breed and a sincere desire to preserve these sheep, which should take precedence over any desire to make a profit on the breed.
There are many fine and dedicated hair sheep production breeders who have much to contribute to the hair sheep industry, and they are to be commended for their efforts. But the Consortium's immediate goal is not to develop a successful commercial sheep breed. Instead, the Consortium's goal is to pull an endangered breed from the edge of extinction. We want to use all knowledge and tools available to take advantage of the limited amount of genetic material available and to restore an acceptable genetic base for this breed through conservation breeding techniques.
Breeders in the Consortium will be able to consult and work together to determine optimal breeding plans to best diversify and broaden genetics within individual flocks and for the breed as a whole. The Consortium intends to help each individual breeder maximize the quality of his or her flock while benefiting the breed. The Consortium does not intend to tie anyone's hands or prevent anyone from finding a market for his or her stock. The Consortium asks only that members give the Consortium first choice when selling registerable Barbados Blackbelly stock and work collaboratively to evaluate the best use of the available genetics.
Members of the Barbados Blackbelly Consortium should be willing to
The Barbados Blackbelly Consortium uses the following procedures for lamb/sheep sales:
In summary, Consortium members must be willing to first offer their sheep for sale at a reasonable price to other Consortium members who may have a great need for them to genetically strengthen and diversify their flocks. If no Consortium member is interested in purchasing the sheep, then the breeder may sell to anyone outside the Consortium.
All lamb sale discussions, as well as any disagreements or problems that might arise, should be addressed to the entire Consortium via group e-mail so that no one is left out of the discussion. The viability and success of the Consortium depends upon the good will of its members; therefore open discussion and an atmosphere of trust and cooperation are essential.
If you are interested in joining the Barbados Blackbelly Consortium, please complete the Consortium Membership Application Statement below. Someone from the Consortium will contact you to schedule a phone conference to discuss Barbados Blackbelly sheep, explore your breeding goals, and discuss in greater detail the Consortium and its purpose.
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