Breed Spotlight: Suffolk


Mountain Meadow Wool (MMW) Highlights the Breed Suffolk, Surprise Co. a Suffolk Breeder and a Cooperative Project with Gist Yarn and Fiber and Weaver Liz Gipson using MMW’s Suffolk Yarn in a Weave Along!

Suffolk sheep are a hardy breed of sheep that have a big body and produce quality meat.  The wool from a Suffolk sheep can contain some black fibers since they have a black face and legs, and ranges in the medium range for coarseness with a fiber diameter of 25.5 to 33 micron.  The coarseness and the black fibers are the general reason why most Suffolk wool is put into the wool pool, if it is sold for wool at all. 

Mountain Meadow Wool began processing Suffolk wool several years ago because Suffolk is a common breed of sheep to our area.  Many ranchers receive a very low price for their Suffolk wool and would drop it off at the mill hoping that something could be done with the wool.  MMW processed the wool and marketed it on-line drawing attention to its outstanding qualities of being a very strong wool that is great for outer wear. 

Gist Yarn and Fiber, described by its founder Sarah Resnick, as “a little shop dedicated to providing beautiful + unusual yarn and weaving supplies to inspire the community of weavers” began carrying MMW’s Suffolk yarn.  Suffolk fit well into Gist’s categories 1) unique, 2) great for weavers and 3) when MMW dyes the Suffolk yarn, the black fibers give it a heather type appearance which is quite beautiful.  Gist began stocking more MMW Suffolk wool and making weaving kits with the yarn.

Mountain Meadow Wool traces wool back to the ranch of origin, with the increase in demand for Suffolk MMW needed a rancher who could supply the quality and quantity of Suffolk wool to the mill… And along came Lisa Keeler and Erasmo Garcia of Surprise Co!   

In conjunction with our highlight of Suffolk wool, MMW highlights Surprise Co. to give our crafters a connection to the origin of the wool they are using for their art creations. 

Keeler and Garcia chose the Suffolk breed for several reasons, the primary reason being that they are tough.  Wyoming is not a place for the faint of heart and that pertains to animals and livestock producers.  See clip.  Keeler and Garcia are proud of the ewes that they have created over years with ram selection and culling ewes that were not suited to the terrain or management practices of the ranch.  Surprise Co. produces ewes that have big bones, massive bodies, great maternal instincts, long life span and produce a lamb that does well in the feedlot, producing a large, lean, lamb chop.   A longer stapled wool has also been a primary consideration in their herd.

While the price of inputs, referring to vehicles, feed, fuel, etc. to run the ranch continue to increase, the price received for lambs and the wool has remained steady at best.  Becoming Entrepreneur Extraordinaires (see clip) is how Keeler and Garcia are able to survive in the ranching industry. 

As stewards of the land, Surprise Co. takes everything into consideration when making management decisions.  Considering what effects those decisions made will have today, tomorrow and 10 years from today.  Keeler says “if you are a steward of all your resources, they will be there for you in the future.”  Some practices they have put in place include controlling weeds by being careful to purchase hay that is weed-free, and by grazing weedy areas when the weeds are young and green and will be eaten by their livestock, planting a lot of trees, and taking care of their wetlands.

While there is no doubt that Lisa Keeler is a tough, Wyoming rancher, when asked what it meant to her that the wool she produced was going into a cooperative project between Gist Yarn and Fiber, Mountain Meadow Wool, and author of many weaving books, Liz Gipson of Yarnworker, her response showed the softer side of her love for producing sheep (see clip).

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