From the Bay to the Baa-a-a-ck Country
Hill’s Hobby Farm is not easy to find. Located many miles off the pavement on the east side of Bull Shoals Lake, Glenn and Sheryl Hill and family share their home with 26 sheep, two Charolais heifers, one black steer, three dogs and some chickens.
This is quite a change for the family, transplanted in 2001 from California’s Bay Area. With little or no knowledge of the farming life, they chose this remote area on the Arkansas/Missouri border, to bring up their children in a better environment. Glenn and Sheryl covered three states in 11 days, searching for the perfect place. When they saw this land, they loved everything about it. The only thing the farm needed was some animals.
Glenn said, “We started doing this [raising sheep] because we wanted animals on the property. I wanted a breed that looked natural and wild. Not being an experienced farmer, not being a vet, I didn’t want something that was heavy maintenance. And this breed, they take care of themselves 90 percent.”
The breed they ended up with is Barbados Blackbellies. First introduced from the island of Barbados into Texas in 1904, the Blackbellies were bred with Mouflon and Rambo. The breed is hearty. Glenn said, “I have friends that raise meat sheep. They have hoof problems, they have to worry about tail cropping, they have to worry about shearing—even the ones that are hair sheep. They have a lot of other problems—parasites—that our sheep just don’t experience.”
Glenn and Sheryl don’t have to worm often, either. “If we do, it’s extremely rare, and then we won’t sell them for human consumption,” said Glenn. Once a week they’ll mix up grain with diatomaceous earth, which Glenn believes cleans out their innards of any worm larvae.
The Hills raise their sheep for many uses: consumption, as 4-H projects and hobby lambs and pets. But their main desire is the conservation of the breed. Sheryl said, “Most people will start bringing in other breeds because they’re too small to sell for meat sheep.” But the Hills prefer to retain the hearty characteristics of the Barbados Blackbellies, rather than have larger sheep.
Their Blackbellies are bred naturally, with their rams doing all the work. They control the breeding, however, trying to keep the ewes birthing only once a year.
Initially, Glenn and Sheryl had several problems with predators and neighborhood dogs. They decided to acquire herd dogs. “Zeus” is a Great Pyrenees, and “Sheila” is a Border Collie/Pyrenees mix. Together, they have done their job and there are no longer problems with predators or neighborhood dogs.
The Hills are certified members of the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep Association International. Many sheep in their flock are registered.
The Hills will soon have a star in the family. Last year they received a call from the new Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson. The producers needed one more sheep for “Noah the Musical,” and they had heard about the Hills’ Blackbellies, so they bought one. Beginning May 24, Glenn and Sheryl will have raised a star.