heritage sheep breeders.
It's almost Spring.
Stay tuned for updates
on our farm.
Historic Flock comes
to Swayze Inn Farm
Swayze Inn Farm Purchases Half of Jacob’s Ladder Flock
From Maizie Hescock
Maizie Hescock and Bob May.
(Photo taken by Royal Unzicker on June 27, 2021.)
One of the earliest breeders of Jacob sheep in the US is Maizie Hescock and her son, Todd. In the mid 1970’s, Todd Hescock came across the Jacob breed while working on a sheep farm in Scotland. In 1976, Todd, with his mother’s approval, selected a group of Jacobs and had them shipped to Canada. At that time, sheep from outside of the US could not be imported directly into this country (primarily because of a fear of Scrapies.) Accordingly, the Jacobs that Todd Hescock purchased were quarantined in Canada for a period of 7 years.
On May 27, 1983 the flock of Scottish Jacobs (with many descended sheep from the initial imported flock) arrived at Trade Winds Farm in Shoreham, VT. (A detailed account of the 7-year quarantine process was written by Todd Hescock and appeared in the July/August 1984 edition of Sheep Production magazine.)
After her son, Todd, passed away, Maizie continued as the steward of the Jacob’s Ladder Flock, and it has remained “closed” for the last 45 years. No “outside” ewes or rams have ever been introduced into the flock. For being a closed flock, I am impressed with the strength of horns—all rams and majority of the ewes are 4-horned. Face and muzzle markings are also predominant and the color pattern is in the 30-35% range of (black to white spotting). While there are Jacobs that have split eyelids, they are not widespread throughout the flock and certainly not uncommon for four-horned Jacobs. Truly, Maizie kept only the best of her lambs for her breeding program.
In the mid-1980’s, Maizie participated in discussions with other Jacob Sheep breeders and representatives of the (then) Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which eventually led to the formation of the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association (JSBA), including a breed registry. In 2005 JSBA presented Maizie with a Lifetime Achievement Award and awarded her lifetime membership in the organization.
Over the last decade or so, I, along with fellow Jacob Sheep breeder and good friend, Royal Unzicker, have visited Maizie Hesock on a number of occasions and purchased several Jacobs from her for an infusion of pure Scottish Jacob genetics in own flocks. A close friendship and a mutual admiration has developed between us.
In late-June, I received a phone call from Maizie in which she stated that her health was starting to slip and that she felt that she was no longer able to care for her flock. She asked if I would help her with the dispersal. My immediate response was to tell Maizie that Royal Unzicker and I would gladly purchase her Jacobs. Subsequently, on Sunday morning, June 27, Royal and I arrived at Maizie’s farm where three of her sons (Jonathan, Joe and Tim) were on hand to help with catching, photographing and loading 16 Jacobs: 13 ewes and 3 rams into Royal’s trailer—the remaining “members” of the Jacob’s Ladder Flock.
Photos of Ewes in Jacob’s Ladder Flock (Hescock Family Collection.)
After loading the sheep, Royal and I went inside her home to visit Maizie. I wasn’t sure how stressful parting with her flock of Jacobs would be for Maizie, after 45 years of caring for them. (Two years earlier—in 2019—Maizie asked me to write an article for the Jacob Sheep Breeders’ (JSBA’s) Newsletter to disperse her flock. However, after writing the article, Maizie called me and said, “Bob, I know that I should disperse my flock, but my heart won’t let me.”) Much to my surprise and relief, Maizie seemed perfectly at peace with her decision and equally pleased that Royal and I would be the new stewards of her Jacob’s Ladder Flock.
Maizie is truly a remarkable individual and her mind is as sharp as ever! She even helped identify several ewes with missing ear tags by looking at photos Royal had taken on his I-phone. We left her farm with a folder full of sheep pedigrees and a flock inventory. As well as the mounted head of “Crumply”—the last of the original Scottish Jacob ewes that were imported from Scotland in 1976. I assured Maizie that I would “hang” Crumply on the wall in my home office until some day in the future, when the next steward for the Jacob’s Ladder Flock might be needed at which time I would pass Crumply on to them.
“Crumply” the last of the Jacob Ewes Imported
From Scotland in 1976 now displayed in Bob’s home office.
(Photo taken by Rachel May on 7/11/2021.)
Royal and I have divided the Jacob’s Ladder Flock between us, thinking it would be the safest way to assure their survival. We intend to use several of the rams on ewes in our own flocks to produce lambs with 50% Scottish bloodlines; in addition to pairing the “Scottish” rams and ewes for pure Scottish Jacob descendants. We are appreciative and grateful of the trust that Maizie Hescock has in us and will do our utmost to assure this treasure of Scottish Jacob genetics can be shared with other dedicated Jacob breeders for years to come!
Post note: sadly, on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, Maizie Hescock passed away at age 93. In speaking with one of her sons (Tim), after his mother’s passing, Tim indicated how pleased his mother was with her decision to disperse the Jacob’s Ladder flock to Royal Unzicker and myself.