Ovchepolian Pramenka Sheep
Breeds and animal husbandry - North Macedonia
This strain of sheep gets its name from area where it is bred, the Ovchepolian plateau, in the eastern central part of the Republic of Macedonia. This sheep typically has a fully or partially black or brown pigmented head. When mixed with splotches of white, this pigmentation is called kalesha (“pretty”), or called karabashi when it is entirely dark. The strong legs may be black or spotted with white patches. Most rams have well developed horns, which the animals have used to defend themselves against wolves, but some individuals may be polled (hornless). Ewes are always polled. The average tail length is 16 or 17 vertebrae. Rams have an average weight and height of 45 kg at 64.5 cm at the withers, and ewes are usually 36 kg and 61 cm at the withers. The lactation period averages 191 days with a large range of milk yield averaging 72 liters. Average milk fats are 5.4%. The meat, milk and cheese from this breed are particularly well known for their slightly salty flavor, obtained from the salty terrains called solenchaci where Ovchepolka sheep traditionally grazed and which today still exists. Today, this sheep population is mainly is present near Stip, Sveti Nikole, Kriva Palanka, Pehcevo and Berovo cities and surrounding villages. In Ovche Pole, the most of the herds spends the winter in the valley, and products such as white cheese and lamb meat are sold to locals and visitors to the area. Small amount of these products are also kept by the farmers for personal use. A good portion of today’s dry and sparse Ovchepole was once forested with oak trees, where many herds were grazing at the time, but much of these forests were cleared in the early 1800s. Today, the main threat facing the Ovchepolian Pramenka sheep is it being crossbred with other sheep breeds, resulting in a loss of genetic identity and productive breed traits. Its main reason for breed disappearing is unplanned mating with other sheep breeds resulting with loss of genetic identity and breed productive traits. Shepherding has long been a main souce of income, especially in mountain regions of Macedonia, with many household or family farms maintaining herds of 50-200 (rarely over 500) sheep. Two to three centuries ago in Ovche Pole there were an estimated 250,000 heads of sheep. In 1924, 25,000 were raised just in the village Nemanjici. Today, though, that number is the total number of sheep in the whole Sveti Nikole area.