Wool & Bone

sheepskin

Here at BOTL Farm we have a deep commitment to nose-to-tail use of the whole animal. When we harvest lambs and goat kids for meat, we save the hides for tanning and sometimes the heads/horns for finished skulls (sometimes they’re in the bone broth). In addition, we shear the wool from our sheep twice a year, so we can make socks or perhaps eventually rugs or dryer balls or other products out of wool.

As an Animal Welfare Approved farm with Certified Grass Fed (both by A Greener World) sheep and goats, these products are raised to the highest humane and welfare standards, and you can be proud to display and use them.

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Sheep and Goat Skins

Sheep and goat skins are some of the nicest products we make from parts that, on a lot of farms, get thrown away.

Like many things these days, there’s an industrial way of tanning and an older, slower, more expensive, natural way. The first uses caustic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene, while the second uses tannins from tree bark. We’re happy to have paired with Vermont Natural Tanning (VNT), located (unsurprisingly) in Vermont.

We get the skins back from the slaughterhouse, add salt to dry and preserve them, pick out plant parts and burrs, and then they’re ready to be transferred to a professional tannery (we haven’t tried tanning at home since the one time we made postage-stamp-sized, scorched rabbit hides).

sheepskin on table

We’re so pleased with the quality and craftsindividualship that VNT puts into tanning our hides that the extra time and cost associated with them vs. conventional tanning is totally worth it. In addition, they don’t complain when we bring them skins from our Icelandic sheep that are much longer staple length than other sheep breeds. They also work with our goat skins. Since relatively few people raise goats for meat in the US and even less of them want their goat hides tanned, it’s relatively rare to find a tannery willing to work with goat hides. Go VNT!

Dog in Sheep Skin

We get asked what sheep and goat skins are good for/can be used for. The variety of purposes that we hear about is vast, including:

  • throw rug
  • wall decoration
  • sleeping surface for human babies
  • blankets for humans
  • blankets for companion animals
  • floor mats
  • excellent Halloween costumes
  • disguising dogs as wolves in sheepskin

Wool

We often imagine ourselves, contented but satisfyingly tired farmers, arranged in rocking chairs in front of our woodstove at night, quietly spinning, carding, cleaning, and whatever-else-words apply to wool, but this is wildly false. We mostly don’t have the time and interest to do justice to the idyllic picture this invokes. But, we do shear our Icelandic sheep herd twice a year, so we have a fair amount of wool on our hands.

Wool socks

Socks

When the fancy strikes us, we take our wool to a local fiber mill, Still River Fiber Mill in Eastford, Connecticut. There it is processed into yarn on boutique fiber machines by people being paid a living wage. The yarn is turned into crew-length socks in medium and large size. The resulting socks are delightfully warm, wicking, and fashionable. When you buy socks, we will hopefully remember to tell you not to put them in the dryer. If we don’t, read the label. If you don’t read the label, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t, under any circumstances, put the socks in the dryer. 

Close up sheep skin

Raw Wool

We have bags of it. It’s raw in all the right ways, still smelling of sheep and lanolin, with a bit of hay or plant matter mixed in. It’s a variety of colors (Icelandic sheep colors are impossible), from butterscotch to grey/silver all the way to black. It’s wild. You should buy some and knowledgeably do wool things to it.

Skulls

We offer two types of skulls, Icelandic sheep and Kiko goat. They’re quite different, each having their own unique characteristics. They also are a variety of sizes, depending on the age of the animal when it was harvested. We work with Three Arrow Taxidermy in Ludlow, Massachusetts to help process the raw skulls into beautiful, mountable specimens.

Icelandic sheep skulls are magical, mostly because for animals with certain genetic coloring, their horns will change color twice a year on the solstices. When we first saw signs of this, in a ram whose horns went from black to cream color, we worried about mineral deficiencies, feed changes, disease, and general unhealthiness. After looking into it further this is completely normal. We were able to go back in time in photos of previous years and see the same pattern, just not as extreme.

As they grow, Icelandic sheep horns curl into magnificent circles. The growth rate is usually a half curl or less per year.

Ram Skull
table of skulls

On the other hand, Kiko goats have long backwards-facing, pointy horns. The goat skulls are typically smaller than lamb skulls, so when we sell yearling goat skulls, they can seem a bit less impressive than yearling ram skulls. However, we occasionally harvest an older goat buck and they have truly impressive horns, curling and twisting out, and with a span of almost two and a half feet, they’re wider than most cow horns!

Bones and Horns

If you’re on this page but looking for loose horns for your pets to chew on, look over here.
If you’re on this page but looking for bones for pets/bone broth, we sometimes have those in stock.

Pup in grass

Last Updated on 2023-10-20

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