Events will begin with registration and arrival of Navajo-Churro sheep at the San Juan County Fairgrounds on Thursday October 9. That evening the key note address, “The History of the Navajo-Churro Sheep,” will be given by Jim Keyes, Associate Professor of Extension at Utah State University and founding member of the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association.
Friday October 10 and Saturday the 11 will be days of workshops and discussions at the San Juan County Courthouse. Topics will include animal health, wool production, sheep dairying, and rug weaving. A lamb barbeque will top off Saturday night.
Sunday October 12 will feature hands on demonstrations of different types of sheep shearing, as well as a wool show. The conference will wrap up at around noon that day.
The Navajo-Churro Sheep Association was organized in 1986 in an effort to preserve the original breed of sheep that the historical Navajo sheep culture was built upon. From its humble beginnings in Chamah, New Mexico, the N-CSA has expanded to hundreds of members throughout the United States and Canada.
Despite the widespread membership, the focal point of the group is still the windswept landscape of the Navajo Nation. Currently, many Navajo sheep growers are taking a step backwards in history to begin raising flocks of these old type sheep.
During the early part of the twentieth century, well meaning governmental programs designed to improve the variety of sheep raised by Navajo farmers brought the original Churro Sheep to near extinction.
An effort headed by Utah State University in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s brought the Navajo-Churro breed back to life, and to the attention of many small flock sheep breeders. Since that time the breed has continued to grow.
Navajo ranchers are finding that the old type sheep, known for its hardiness and ability to survive in tough country, fair much better in the Southwest than the so called improved breeds of sheep.
To top it off, the Navajo-Churro wool is much more suited for making Navajo weavings because of its length and coarseness. Hand woven rugs from this type wool are more valuable in today’s market.
For more information on the Navajo-Churro Sheep Conference contact Sam Cunningham at 435-259-5386 or the San Juan County Extension Office at 435-587-3239.