Iowa family raises rare breed of sheep for wool

Mary Pieper
Globe Gazette/AP
The Benson family of Titonka raise a rare breed of sheep for their wool. Pictured from left are Tara Benson; her son, Tyler, 5; and her daughter, April, 7, with Hope, one of the sheep.

TITONKA, Iowa (AP) — A Titonka family raises a rare breed of sheep for their wool, which is prized by fiber artists for its softness.

Jeff and Tara Benson founded Buffalo Creek Fibers eight years ago on their acreage.
They have 60 head of Romeldale sheep, the Globe Gazette reported.

"We thought it would be a good way to keep the breed going," Tara Benson said.

They are registered breeders with the National Romeldale-CVM Conservancy (NRCC).
There's only a few of these registered breeders in Iowa. Buffalo Creek Fibers is the only one in north Iowa.

Romeldales are on the American Livestock Endangered List.

The breed produces soft, fine wool, similar to Merino sheep.

What makes Romeldale/CVM sheep stand out are non-fading wool that gets softer with age, and color that doesn't fade but only gets darker over time, according to the NRCC website.

Colors in this breed include white, taupe, gray, chocolate and black.

Buffalo Creek Fibers sells most of its product online.

"We sell our wool raw," Tara Benson said.

However, she does some of her own spinning of the wool so she can make crafts to demonstrate what can be done with it.

In 2018 she entered some of the yarn in the Handspun Yarn division of the Fabric and Threads contest at the Iowa State Fair, where she won the Sweepstakes Award.
It was only the second time she had entered this particular contest at the fair.

"I was surprised by how well I did," she said.

Buffalo Creek Fibers typically enters the Wool Show at the State Fair. This year they won both Grand and Reserve championships in the show. The Bensons don't have to take their sheep to the fair.

"You just shear them and show the wool," Tara Benson said.

The wool has to be perfect, so the Bensons keep their animals extremely clean, she said.

The Bensons are teaching their two children, April, 9, and Tyler, 5, about raising the sheep. April and Tyler help bottle-feed the lambs.

"It's fun because they are cute," April said.

"You become their mom almost, don't you?" Tara Benson said.

April also names all the lambs.

The human members of the Benson family aren't the only ones who love the sheep.

"The cats sleep on the top of their backs," Benson said.