CVM Sheep Information, History & Facts

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The California Variegated Mutant or CVM, is a multi-colored version of a Romeldale sheep. CVM sheep have unique color and pattern variations, and wool that changes color as they age.

They are one of the rarest sheep breeds native to the United States, yet the softness of their wool and meat production potential is unrivaled.

Where Does The CVM Sheep Come From?

The history of the CVM sheep begins in the early 1900s, when A.T. Spencer purchased a flock of New Zealand Romney rams at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco. These prized rams were paired with his flock of Rambouillet ewes.

He wished to use the best qualities of both sheep to create a new breed with better wool characteristics and meat quality. After several years of selective breeding, the Romeldale breed of sheep was born in California.

These Romeldale’s caught the attention of a family called the Sextons, who wished to further refine the best qualities of these sheep, breeding for softness of wool, mothering and lambing abilities of the ewes, and off-season reproduction.

Their flocks became the best example of the breed and produced wool of such high quality that all of it was pre-purchased by a manufacturer for over a decade.

Glen Eidman, a close associate of the Sexton family, became interested in breeding these sheep when he saw a few colored sheep being born into the formerly all white stock.

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He selected all the sheep that had this color pattern variant, and after several generations of linebreeding, the CVM was created. He was intent on keeping the bloodlines pure, keeping a flock of only 75 CVM sheep who had all the desirable traits he was looking for.

Years later he split this flock and sold them to a handful of California farms. A few of these farms kept these purebred CVM’s pure, but most of the others were crossbred with other sheep.

The American Romeldale Association handles registrations for the Romeldale and CVM breed. They only register CVM’s that are purebred and they claim the CVM is the most rare breed in the United States.

While these sheep were never numerous, they are considered endangered according to the Livestock Conservancy. The ALBC also added the CVM to their conservation list in 1990 as “critical”, meaning there are less than 2000 of them in the world.

CVM Breed Characteristics

CVM’s are known to have a longer than average lifespan and can live between 13 and 16 years.

CharacteristicsDescription
OriginNew Zealand/California
AppearanceCVM sheep, unlike the standard Romeldale, have a light colored body that darkens as it moves down the belly of the sheep, with a dark-colored head and a badger-face.
The myriad shades of color blend beautifully on a single fleece which can have any combination of gray, moorit, brown, and black. As the CVM sheep ages, these colors darken, deepen, and soften.
Aside from color, both Romeldale/CVM sheep are much the same in terms of body composition and capabilities.
CVM rams and ewes share an open face, while occasionally having tufts of wool on the cheeks and forehead. They have large, bright eyes and medium, horizontally-oriented ears.
Originally a dual-purpose breed, these sheep have strong musculature and a long, straight back with stout legs, and well-sprung ribs.
Both genders are polled.
WoolMicron range from 22 to 25
USDA wool grade between 58’s to 62’s
Staple length between 3 to 6 inches
Grease fleece weight of 6 to 12 pounds
Yield’s are generally around 65%
WeightRams weigh between 225 and 275 pounds
Ewes weight between 140 and 175 pounds
FertilityEwes make excellent mothers and can breed off-season
MeatLight and tender
EnvironmentArid climates. Does not do well in snow.
Common UsesMeat and wool

Ewes are also known for plentiful milk and will protect their lambs from predation.

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What Kind Of Fleece Does CVM Sheep Produce?

The fleece of a CVM sheep is unique and creates fine wool that fiber artists love. The variety of colors is particularly appealing, but the wool itself is soft and luxurious, perfect for hand spinners, and crafters who enjoy felting. The wool is crimped and has no hair or kemp in it.

Why Should I Raise CVM Sheep?

There are many reasons why you should consider raising CVM Sheep on your sheep farm:

  • An opportunity exists to join breed conservation efforts
  • Dual-purpose sheep with fine wool and light, and tender meat
  • This breed is known for twinning and ewes have excellent mothering abilities
  • A CVM ewe lambs easily and can be bred off-season
  • Rams are virile and have strong breeding drive
  • Easily tell sheep apart as each sheep will have individual markings
  • Selective breeding over a hundred years has produced a hardy sheep with no known health problems
  • CVM sheep do well in different climates
  • Docile temperament and suitable for beginners

Christina

A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Sheep Care Taker in 2022.

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