Our first sheep we’ve added to our farm are a lovely pair of Finn and Finn/East Fresian crosses. You can read below about these breeds and why I believe they are the perfect addition to our herd.
Finn sheep wool has unmistakable luster and softness in all shades of color. While the fleece is lightweight (5-6 lb.) it is highly praised by hand spinners as it blends easily with other fibers, has a long staple (3-6″), and a wool spinning count in the 50′s (24 to 31 microns). The breed as a whole has a friendly disposition. The Finn sheep tends to have greater tolerance to heat and cold than most domestic breeds. They exhibit greater foraging ability, enjoying leaves and brush as much as cultivated pasture. The breed is a year-round breeder and is renowned as prolific breeders producing multiple births, the Finn sheep regularly has triplets and quadruplets if not more. They are naturally polled (no horns)
East Fresian Sheep
East Fresian sheep originated from the Friesland area in northern Germany and Holland. They are known as one of the top dairy sheep breeds around and is also a popular sheep to cross breed with other breeds to improve their milk quality and production. The East Friesian ewes are excellent milk producers. They are able to produce roughly 300-360 liters of milk over a lactation period of 200-300 days. They are well suited to almost all climates, relatively docile in terms of temperament, and very alert to their surroundings. They are also naturally polled (no horns)
Another breed that we raise are Shetland Sheep. We have 5 of these small sheep currently. Shetland sheep are calm and charming in disposition, docile, and intelligent.
Shetland Sheep are a heritage breed dating back a thousand years or more and are related to Soay sheep. They have primitive characteristics such as a naturally short fluke shaped tail, wool that 'roos' or sheds in the springtime, small size, and fine bone. They are famous first and foremost for their fine, soft, naturally colored wool that is very lightweight and warm. This wool was one of the two pillars of the Shetland Island economy for centuries.
Garments made from Shetland wool can be next-to-the-skin soft scarves to warm, soft outerwear sweaters. It is a fine wool with crimp and is normally used for knitted garments with good memory such as stockings/socks, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, shawls, under clothing, and the famous Shetland sweaters. It is a 'longish' wool, around 3-6", depending on crimp. It is sometimes good for felting and some fleeces are very silky. As it is a heritage breed, there is quite a bit of diverseness found within the breed, especially in the colors and patterns that run the gamut of browns, blacks, greys, and white as well as spots and patterns. All in all, it is one of the premier handspinning fleeces to be found.
Gulf Coast Native Sheep
The most recent addition to our farm is three Gulf Coast Native ewes. We fell in love with the springy softness of their fiber, and their wonderful ability to thrive in our hot humid climate. The GCN is a heritage breed on the critical list of the Livestock Conservancy.
They lack wool on their faces, legs and bellies - an adaptation to the heat and humidity of the south. Otherwise, they tend to vary in physical appearance. Variability has resulted from the isolation of different strains of the breed. Most sheep are white, but blacks and browns also occur. Some may have spotted faces like our girls, or spotted legs. Most rams, and some ewes are horned, although both sexes may also be polled. GCN vary in size. Rams typcially weigh 125-200 pounds, and ewes range from 90-160 pounds.
GCN ewes breed and lamb year round. They make excellent mothers, pasture lambing without assistance. Single births are typical, but sometimes they have twins. Lambs are vigorous and grow rapidly. They have well documented resistance to gut parasites, foot rot, and other diseases that are common with sheep.
GCN fiber is a delight to hand spin. Its softness makes it wonderful for next to skin projects like sweaters, scarves, and blankets. Fleece weights range from 4-6 pounds. Average fiber diameter is 26-32 microns. Fleeces are usually soft, open, low grease, wavy to crimpy and 2.5 to 4.0 inches staple length. The fiber also felts really well for making hats or fabric.
While we have yet to eat any of our sheep, GCN that are raised on mothers milk and pasture are lean and succulent. Carcass weights are light with little waste. The meat is said to be delightfully mild and can be prepared in many ways.