Pirot Zackel Sheep

Breeds and animal husbandry - Serbia

The Pirot Zackel sheep is an ancient breed raised for ages in the Stara Mountain region. This breed is product of generations of selective breeding in a hard climate and scarce local forage conditions. However, the pastured animals are considered a low production breed. The sheep are rather small in size (averaging 60 cm tall at the withers), but very hearty, and can survive in the roughest, poorest mountain regions of east Serbia. Adults average 36 - 41 kg after three years. The reproductive period lasts from the end of summer to late fall, with lambs often born in January and February. Lambs (weighting 20-30 kg at three months) are traditionally slaughtered for St. George's Day in May, and to meet modern market demands they are also available for Easter. Lamb meat is of high quality and exceptional taste. It is tender, juicy and tasty, without any strong sheep smell. It is prepared in Stara Mountains area mostly in traditional oven stoves made of stone, bricks and mud in a clay dish or over a fire on skewer. The internal organs, such as the liver, heart, kidneys and guts are used for preparation of famous local dish of lamb tissues, while parts of lamb and ewe meat are also used as the ingredients for janija soup. Mutton is used in making Pirot ironed sausage, a famous local dried sausage. 1 - 2 tons of lamb and mutton meat are produced each year from the 200 or so head of cattle currently raised by 3 households in the municipalities of Dimitrovrad and Pirot. The milk production of Pirot Pramenka sheep is an especially important trait, since milk is used for production a hard cheese, kachkaval. Average production of milk in a lactation period of 200 days is approximately 120-130 liters (including the lamb suckling period). After lambs are weaned, ewes give another 40 to 50 liters of milk. 4-5 kg of sheep milk will make approximately 1 kg of cheese. The milk has a fat quantity of 6.86%. Wool is another important feature of Pirot Pramenka sheep, used to make famous Pirot carpets. Today, this breed is critically endangered because of the reduced market for its products and crossbreeding with more intensively raised commercial breeds.