Kempen Heath Sheep Netherlands
The Kempen Heath Sheep (Kempische Heideschaap) are predominantly white with an elegantly shaped, pigmented head covered with short silky hair and no horns. A rustic breed, which spends their days outdoors grazing, playing and thriving on heathlands and other natural areas year round. In fact, heathland grazing has a vital role in preserving this valuable ecosystem and results in an excellent, tender meat with herbal flavors. This breed is only found in the Kempen region of southeastern Netherlands and in adjacent parts of northern Belgium. Evidence of sheep on the expansive sandy soil plateau of the Kempen area dates back to the Bronze Age from sheep bones found by archeologists. From the Middle Ages on, the unhorned sheep was renowned. Its importance was demonstrated through paintings, etchings and drawings from the 19th century. The Sheep have been a determining factor in the creation of the landscape and the biodiversity of the Kempen area, providing indispensable manure to arable farming on the poor soils. The pattern of varying farming and grazing resulted in a richly diversified landscape with many rare plant species. In addition, the presence of large numbers of sheep stimulated the development of the wool and textile industry in some towns in the Kempen area, like Tilburg and Helmond, far into the 20th century and led to a specific culinary tradition, which has now been largely forgotten. At the beginning of the 20th century the number of Kempen Heath Sheep in the region was about 40,000 whereas the breed was almost extinct in 1965 because of agricultural modernization, which included the invention of chemical fertilizers, and the decline in the heathlands. By 1965 the heath area was reduced to 10% of its former size and became protected as a nature reserve. Only then did conservationists begin to realize that sheep grazing was the only way to save the biodiversity in the reserve. Thus the Stichting Het Kempische Heideschaap (foundation) was created in Heeze in 1967. The last remaining sheep (less than 10 animals were left at that time) were traced and used for a well-managed breeding program. Currently, about 3,000 Kempen Heath Sheep are registered in the herd book. Kempen Lambs are 100% pedigree and goes only in the Kempen region were the season starts in October and gues to February. Reared on food which is 100% from the region, the meat is processed and sold in the Kempen region to small-scale butchers and restaurants under the brand Kempen Lam.
The Presidium began as a Food Community formed by various organizations and individuals involved with the Kempen sheep, including shepherds, sheep farmers, the Kempen Heath Sheep herd book, the Brabant landscape organization, a local butcher, a chef, the Southern Farmers Union, The Provincial government of North Brabant, and the Slow Food Convivium Kempen Meierij with the aim to reintroduce the Kempen lamb meat as a regional gastronomic product. The goals of the Presidium are to preserve the breed and restore old grazing methods for conservation of the heathlands, to restore the gastronomic tradition of eating lamb meat, to promote the brand
Kempen Lam (Kempen Lamb), and to involve more producers, restaurants and butchers in the effort.
Kempen Region, south of the Netherlands
Foundation het Kempische Heideschaap
Heath of Strabrechtse in Heeze
Schapenheld SZN, Heath of Regte, Strijbeekse and Galderse
De Wassum, Venlo
tel. +31 135771008