About Cunnington Farms

Cunnington Farms is located in the spectacular Moab Valley, bordered by the Colorado River and the La Sal mountains.  Coming to look at our sheep is often combined with a mini-vacation for a lot of folks, and we love to share information about special local places that you can visit.  We are an hour away from Canyonlands National Park, and a few minutes away from Arches National Park.

We never tire of “talking sheep”, and the first thing people do here is come on a tour of our farm facilities.  We totally reconfigured our ram pens and ewe pastures and corrals last year, and are glad to share ideas for space utilization (we only have 3 acres), feeders (our own design), and breeding philosophy.

Sam Cunningham
photo courtesy The Times Independent

Although I was born a city girl, from the time I heard my first Roy Rogers program on the radio, I knew that I wanted to be a rancher.  (Read more about Sam Cunningham in the Times Independent Generations article)

Over the years, I discovered that I would never learn enough to run a cattle ranch, or breed horses successfully; my friends who did that well had been born into ranching families.  But it seemed to me, after many years of thought, that sheep might be the perfect animal for me.  They were small enough to handle (if I bought the right breeds) without specialized equipment.  And , the right breeds had little health problems that I could not mostly handle myself.  (To earn enough money to keep the ranch going, I work in a hospital during the weekends)  And best of all, they could provide the fiber that I had been using since I was young — wool for knitting, weaving, and other fiber arts.  I learned to knit on the rare night shift that was not busy, when I was working at a hospital in Denver.  The night supervisor was an avid knitter, and soon I had graduated from making afghans and scarves to coats and ski sweaters.  Over the years I learned to weave on a Navajo upright loom, crochet to finish my knit garments, and late in life, fell in love with locker hooking.  Many of my pieces go to treasured friends, but I also sell finished pieces at a number of fiber fairs, and a local yarn shop.  I love working with the wool, and thinking that my pieces may well outlive me as my legacy to my friends!

We started over 20 years ago with Navajo-Churro sheep, and we still have Navajo-Churro sheep.  But we purchased and tried to raise a variety of registered/purebred breeds; some turned out to be too skittish, some didn’t lamb easily, some were picky eaters, and some failed to do well under any sort of management, and could not even successfully raise their lambs. We finally arrived at our present four registered breeds:  Navajo-Churro, Tunis, Border Leicester and CVM.  During these years, I didn’t consider crossbreeding any sheep; I was having enough trouble keeping straight which breeds worked for me, and which did not.  But after we settled on our four main breeds, when the opportunity arose, we purchased one or two of still other breeds, and started crossbreeding them to see if we could achieve the sort of fiber that I loved to work with, and that sold well as roving and yarn.  We will always be in the experimental stage of this plan, but we have made a variety of crosses that have produced reliably good fleece.  One of my great pleasures is to make the time to share with prospective buyers all the mistakes and blind alleys I traveled, to keep them from having to repeat my errors.

Initially, as well as only raising registered stock, I also did not sell animals for meat.  But under those conditions, you can stockpile an astonishing collection of animals that are just eating hay, and not furthering the future of the ranch.  At about the same time that I reached the conclusion that I had to sell the overstock for meat, I hired two Navajo stockmen to help on the ranch. (We are located quite close to the Navajo Nation).  I had worked with the Navajo Nation for years previously, donating small flocks to weavers, and working on water projects through a non-profit I volunteer for.  So it was a great and natural partnership, and my stockmen made and continue to make,  the connections to sell our excess sheep for both breeding and for ceremonial purposes, and of course, for meat.

As I became more involved with different breeds of sheep, I found that much like dogs or cats, people keeping smallholdings with flocks of sheep frequently had to give up their flocks, no matter how much they cared for them.  Illness, loss of land leasing, loss of jobs; a million reasons could cause a panic sale.  Most of these folks really didn’t want to put their flocks to auction.  So over the years, I have “rescued” many a flock.  Sometimes folks just want to donate the sheep quickly, but with assurances that they go to a good home.  And sometimes they need to be paid for their sheep due to hardship in economics;  I try, under these circumstances, to pay as much as I can for these sheep, although I can never pay full price.  (Someday I will win the lottery, I am sure, and then things will be different!)  But when and if I sell these “rescued” sheep, I always sell them for the price I paid; I cannot in good conscience make a profit from someone else’s misfortune.

We are getting up in years at Cunnington Farms, but we will continue to raise sheep until we can’t get around any more.  Sheep just sort of get into your blood, ya know??

We sell a wide variety of high quality Roving, Yarn and Finished Wool Products, as well as Navajo Rugs.

We breed registered Tunis, Navajo-Churro, Border Leicester & Romeldale/CVM sheep.  We have also successfully bred stunning CVM, Merino, Corriedale, Icelandic and Border Leicester crosses, and have roving and yarn from these crossbred sheep, as well as yarn blended with our alpaca and guanaco, but not all products are available at all times.