Yankeys’ samples of Coopworth draw visits

Staff Writer

WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. (May 16, 2016) — The displays of wool, yarns and wool products at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at the Howard County fairgrounds each year, always attracts the attention and the awe of many those attending the festival.
The beautiful and colorful yarns at Hope and Bev Yankey’s booth across from one of the show rings,  attracted a great deal of interest during the 2017 event.
The wool displayed for sale at the couple’s booth, comes from their Wild ’n’ Woolly Farm in Mathias, W.Va., where the Yankeys raise Coopworth Sheep and Scottish Highland Cattle.
Coopworth wool is tightly curled.
The Yankeys’ wool is dyed to a large selection of colors and is used for crafts, spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, felting, and much more, Hope said.
Her background in chemistry has given her the knowledge to experiment and develop the many beautiful and extraordinary colors and color combinations she dyes her wool.
Starting at first with commercial sheep in the early 1980s, the Yankeys soon bought some Coopworth sheep.
“Our Coopworth are white,” she said. “We have never used colored genetics in our breeding program. The ewes are narrow polled, deep, but not broad chested and long bodied. Coops are heavy muscled and stout. The ewes weigh 130 to 160 pounds and the rams 200 to 250 pounds. The rams look like Tanks.
The Coopworth breed of sheep was developed at Lincoln College, now Lincoln University, in Canterbury, New Zealand, to increase the lambing percentages of Romney ewes when mated with Border Leicester rams. The breed makes up the second largest flock in New Zealand.
They are a medium-sized, dual purpose, longwool breed used for both meat and wool, Hope said.
They are a bit taller than the New Zealand Romney from which they were developed, and more heavily muscled than the Border Leicester. The first Coopworths were imported from New Zealand, into the U.S. in the early 1970’s by Jonathan May of Virginia and Don Gnos of Oregon and subsequently by other breeders.
“Coopworth are excellent mothers, have a strong ‘get up and go’, are excellent foragers and are easily worked. They adapt well to different environments and their meat is mild”, Hope added. And they are a recorded production breed.
Married for 33 years. the Yankeys have a 200-acre farm, 30 ewes, a couple of rams, 15 Scotch Highland cattle and two sheep dogs, Hope said. She has been shepherding for more than 50 years and has experience with fibers, as a seamstress and designer, textile dyer/dryer, and has been dying wool for the past 25 years.
Bev is a retired master machinist, a farmer, heavy equipment builder, hay maker, logger, supporting shepherd and dying assistant, he said. He also runs his mother’s 103 acre farm, making only hay there and also makes 35 acres of hay on their home farm.
The Yankeys have a helper in Shofhana Serxner, who helps them at the shows.