Ok..so...Lately 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.
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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