We ventured into sheep in 2004 attracted by the prospect of meat and wool. Our first sheep were crosses of Suffolk, North Country Cheviot and Merino. Our land is poor and the large sheep required a great deal of supplementation. In 2010, we moved to Shetland sheep feeling their small size and ability to graze marginal land was better suited to our farm. Being used to the heavy, docile, commercial-type sheep, we had a hard time adapting to the flighty, more instinctive behavior of Shetlands. They were too small to be truly dual purpose.
The Perfect Homestead Sheep
We added a trio of FBA registered Finnsheep to the farm in 2014 and can’t imagine our farm without them. What makes them ideal for the small farm/homestead?
- Friendly, docile dispositions. Even the rams are easy to handle.
- They lamb in litters so a fewer ewes need to be kept
- Fast growing lambs
- Because of their gentle nature, they are easy for the shepherd/shepherdess to shear without the need for expensive equipment.
- The fleece is low grease making it more pleasant to handle and process.
- The semi-lustrous, durable, medium to medium-fine wool is easy to spin or felt.
- They are excellent foragers and do well on pasture and grass hay. Pregnant and lactating ewes must be well supplemented due to the number of young they carry and rear
- Due to their quiet, friendly temperaments, they make ideal fiber pets.
- While not classified as a dairy sheep breed, their ability to support multiple lambs makes them respectable milkers.
- The natural short tails means no tail docking is warranted.
- No horns
- Meat is tender, mild and with a favorable meat to bone ratio.
- Sheep manure is drier and has less odor than poultry, cow or horse. It is excellent for the garden.
- Attractive lawn mowers, assuming your grass isn’t treated or chemically fertilized.
- Our pregnant and lactating ewes and their lambs do well on a sprouted mixture of wheat/barley, sunflower seeds and field peas. The sprouts are economical, digestible and nutritious.