Icelandic Sheep, a true triple purpose breed!
Icelandic sheep is one of the oldest breed of sheep. It has been around for well over 1000 years and has been used for not only fiber, but meat and milk as well.
Icelandic sheep are a short tailed breed of sheep. This means no tail docking! Our Icelandics will wag their tails when we give them scritches just like a puppy!
These sheep are meduim sized breed . Our ewes are around 150lbs and our herd sire ram is a little over 200lbs. They tend to be short and stocky.
They are open faced meaning their face is free of any wool. They are dual coated and generally grow out their fleece very fast!
We shear ours twice a year. Once in the spring before lambing and again in the fall. Even being sheared in the fall they have plenty of time to grow out their coats for a northern Ohio winter.
Icelandics generally have multiple births of triplets, quads, quints and even sextuplets. This is caused by the Thoka gene (named after the first ewe known to carry it) Icelandics are seasonal breeders, ours start going into season in October. They will continue cycling until spring if not bred. Rams are sexually active year round. They do not go into "rut" like out goats.
Ram lambs can breed as young as 5months old! Ewes mature early as well and our ewes generally have their first lambing at 11-12 months of age.
It is common for Icelandic ewes to be bred as lambs, and most remain productive for 10 years or more! Their gestation is around 142 days, which is a little shorter then most sheep breeds. This allows for the birth of multiples with very few complications. Since triplets are not uncommon, most Icelandic ewes are capable of nursing multiples without additional assistance.
When born the lambs are small, only about 6lbs pounds. Lambs are vigorous at birth. The first lamb born will commonly be up and nursing before the other/others arrive. Lambs are generally strong enough to suck out the wax plug, and are rarely lost to pneumonia.
Icelandics have large rumens and are very feed efficient. They have been bred to survive on pasture alone. They are very cold hardy and have a strong immune system.
We do supplement our pregnant ewes with additional protein to ensure healthy lambs and ewes come spring. On a good quality pasture, lambs for meat are ready to be butchered directly off the pasture with no additional feed around 5-6 months of age.
The thing I like best about the breed is the of colors and patterns they have. Genetically, Icelandics are, either black or moorit (brown). They have different pattern combinations: white, gray, badgerface, mouflon and solid. Their colors vary in shades from white to pure black and all the colors in between or cream to a very dark brown and again any shade in between. That, coupled with a spotting gene in the breed, leads to some very interesting looking sheep!
Why Icelandic Sheep?