Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday Thirteen # 11...13 things about Icelandic Sheep that we like

photo courtesy of Frelsi Farms
Forgive me...I got very little sleep last night due to a thunderstorm and my freakish dog...I'll try not to wander off topic too much..or have too many run on sentences...wait..i think this is a run on sentence..great..nothing like starting off on the wrong that right? or is it on the wrong page? I'm already wandering...*sigh* I said..forgive me..being exhausted does this too me ;-P I've been researching Icelandic sheep. This breed is attractive to me for several reasons which is why I thought I'd share them with you :-)

1. I love the way they look. Ok..this probably shouldn't be #1...the first spot should be about their usefulness or ability to create profits for you..but for me..being able to look out and see attractive sheep grazing on my property is important.

2. They area triple use breed, which means they can be used for fiber animals, meat animals and milk production. They are just good at everything.

3. Their fleece is dual coated, the longer outer coat is called Tog, the finer, softer undercoat is called Thel. These fibers can either be spun together creating Lopi yarn, or they can be spun separately. Which means lots of wool for my inkle loom :-)

4. Their fleece is naturally low in lanolin so the weight loss from washing is significantly less than it is for other breeds. The average adult fleece total weighs 4-7 lbs and the sheep are usually sheared twice a year...because they have a natural wool break (they shed their wool) in the winter. so they are shorn in the fall and in the late winter/early spring.

5. They are awesome foragers and can be raised on good pasture and hay alone. No grain. They are also cold hearty (important for Vermont) and disease resistant.

6. They are one of the world's purest sheep. The vikings brought them with them to Iceland 1100 years ago and there has been very little change in the breed. They were bred to be strong and if they were sent out to pasture and had something wrong..well..what's the old saying..the strong shall survive...

7. They lamb several days earlier than other sheep breeds..which means smaller lambs, but the lambs are vigorous and usually up and eating within a few minutes of birth. Because of their lambs smaller sizes they usually require little intervention from humans when giving birth.

picture courtesy of Frelsi Farms
8. They almost always twin..and triplets are not uncommon. Prolificacy is quite good, on average 175-220%. And they have very little difficulty raising all 3 on their own (the picture above shows an ewe with triplets...note the size of her problems feeding all three of her lambs)

9. They are a medium size sheep with ewes averaging 130-160 pounds, and rams averaging 180-220 pounds (which means I will have less issues handling them). They also grow out really fast, market lambs will start to reach their ideal slaughter weights of 70-100 pounds at four to five months...which means you can usually slaughter them right off pasture which means you don't have to feed them all winter.

10.They come in several color/pattern variations.

photo courtesy of ISBONA

11. Through a thousand years of living hard off the land, this breed has developed a sheep that has helped their flock and their shepherd in times of trouble. The Leader sheep. These sheep are usually colored and horned, their builds are different too, they are more slender and taller than the normal Icelandic. These sheep are very alert and have been noted to refuse to leave the barn if there was a major snow storm coming, and even protect the flock against predators.

12. They come in polled (no horns) or horned.

13. There is a program where you can buy AI (artificial insemination) straws from renowned herd sires in Iceland and thereby expand your bloodlines and reduce the need for a ram.

Well..that's my list..I know there is more.but I'm too tired and spacey (my grandfather used to call me Spacey..he was born to French Canadian parents and never really got the "st" sound down...sorry..just a really random fact about me) to try and figure out what they are :-P Suffice to say..I'm sold on Icelandics..their fleece, their hardiness, the fact that they don't need human intervention in many things...It all just makes them an all around great breed for us.

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Baby Mama said...

They are cute! And the twin thing is really cool!

Pretty Life Online said...

Great list here... Happy T13! Mine's up too hope you can drop by...

Laura said...

I love sheep, too, though we've never had them...maybe someday, after hubby retires!
Great list!

Monday through Sunday said...

I like the way they look as well...the second pic isn't too flattering

~Just Me~ said...

Wow the things we learn on these T13's.

Great list!
Happy T13!!

Jade, Will and Illy said...

Happy TT and thanks for stopping by my page!
First off, I want to tell you that you look FABULOUS for someone with four kids, the oldest being 18! I couldn't believe it when I read that in your About me section. If you have age-defying secrets, please share, because I know I am looking older as each day passes chasing around a toddler!
Second, I knew nothing about sheep at all previous to this, nevermind Icelandic ones. But these seem very useful, and I was surprised to think it, but they are cute, too! Are you going to be getting some?
And yes... I live in NH right on the VT border, and trust me, I know about measuring distance in time. It's much more encouraging than thinking about it in terms of miles when one is considering traveling to somewhere to shop or the like. Have a great weekend!

Alice Audrey said...

All right, you've sold me. Now where do I get the land to put them on.

Laura said...

My mom would LOVE this TT!!!!! Cant say I am too fond of livestock myself but they are kinda appealing!

Gayle said...

Okay, now I have a million questions. Will you do the meat or milk or wool or all three? Do you really have a thingy to spin it? Post of photo! Have you done you know how to clean it and all that? I just cut Daisy's "hair" and throw the mess away. (And I do it the hard way with a pair of scissors because I don't want to invest in expensive shears). When are you getting them? Are they near by? How many? Man, you've got me all excited about these guys! :)

Stace said... first reply got eaten...lets see how much I can remember lol.
We will be using the sheep for mostly fiber..but I'm sure we'll dabble in all 3 uses...I'd like to be able to try cheesemaking and if I have milk available..well..Ill use it :-P The meat is inevietable because eventually we'll have sheep we need to move off the farm and if they dont sell....I've never had lamb but with food prices I'll be happy with any kind of meat in the freezer.
I have a spinning wheel that needs to be brought to someone and be dad tried to fix it before he died but he never quite got it right.
The washing of the fleece doesn't look too hard..because Icelandic sheep are naturally low in lanolin though, the wool felts really easy...ridiciously easy. I will be keeping my top loading washer for washing the fleece. Basically you fill the washer up with HOT water and detergent, gently put the fleece in and let it sit. no agitation at all. then you drain the washer and take out hte fleece and refill the washer with HOT water again (160 degrees I think it said) and put the fleece back in to rinse. usually that is all that is needed, sometimes you have to rinse it twice though if its a particuarally oily fleece.
We will be getting them next year, that gives us time to cut down trees and plant pasture and get a shelter up..although these guys don't need much in way of a shelter.
How hard is shearing with scissors???

Kimberly said...

I'm really glad that you explained photo #7, because I was shocked at the size of it's "nuts" before reading! LOL

I grew up with a billy goat named Henry! He was a real pain in the butt. He ate the shrubs out of the yard, thee bark off the trees, he knew how to open his pen and get out, he also knew how to open up the chicken coop, and he even got loose and blocked neighbors from getting into their garage (that brought the sheriff to our door). The final straw was when he tried to mount and ride my dad while he was on his hands and knees fixing the barbed wire fence out in the back field! LOL I hope you know what you are getting yourself in for! LOL

If you get an ornery ram, consider naming him Henry!

Anonymous said...

Awwww, what wonderful sheep! We have someone at our farmers market here who has them, but I've never talked to her about it, so thanks for the kewl facts about them! I should get dh to read this because I want to raise sheep at some point.

Did you do much spinning (prior to the wheel breaking)?