- Why Choose Kind Horn Farm?
- Icelandic Sheep for Excellent Milk Production
- Icelandic Sheep for Premium Fleece
- Icelandic Sheep for Quality Lean Meat
- Why Icelandics?
- Official breed standards/conformation
- Icelandic Sheep Color Genetics
- Why Grass-fed?
- Why Organic?
- Know the Lingo: Glossary of Sheep Terms
- How to Give Injections
- Why Icelandics?
- Essentials for keeping your Icelandic Flock
- Know Your Parasites
- Grazing, Management of Sheep and Grass!
- The Control of Internal Parasites in Ruminants - Alternatives
The Icelandic sheep is a very old breed of sheep — one of the world's oldest and purest. This breed is what we a call triple purpose breed, known for their fiber, meat, and milk. Icelandics are a medium sized breed of sheep, maturing early and long lived. They are excellent mothers with vigorous lambs and suitable for pasture lambing.
From the Iceland Lamb website:
Sheep farming – a cultural heritage
Sheep farming is practiced through-out Iceland, although it is most common in sparsely settled areas. About 2,000 farmers are engaged in sheep farming. Icelandic sheep are short-tailed and belong to a breed formerly common in northwestern Europe, but now only to be found in very few areas of the world. It is a strong, hardy race which has adapted well to Icelandic conditions.
Icelandic farmers, along with scientists, have been involved in sheep breeding for decades aiming to produce high quality meat. The breeding is unique in that more than 90% of the sheep stock is registered in a breeding database where scientists and farmers can use the information to improve their production. From the beginning, the main emphasis in the breeding of the Icelandic lamb has been a higher quality of meat. The focus has always been on increased muscle build-up, but during the last two decades, farmers have put an equal effort into decreasing fat. These properties have changed dramatically, especially in the last ten years. Breeding advances have also increased due to the regular use of the country‘s best rams for inseminations across the country.
Lambs are free range
A few weeks after the lambing in May, sheep are sent to run free and graze in mountain pastures until autumn, feeding on the rich and nourishing vegetation. Many farmers formerly allowed their sheep to graze in out- lying pastures over the summer months, but as a result of the recent reduction in flocks, animals are increasingly kept in home pastures.
Gathering in autumn
Farmers gather their flocks in the autumn. Usually, the round-up is carried out on horseback with assistance of sheepdogs.
The process can take up to a week. During this time, participants stay overnight in mountain huts located throughout the highlands. Each sheep farmer has his own earmark in order to identify his livestock. After the gathering, the sheep are all sorted into designated pens, according to earmarks. Many people, farmers or not, come to watch or take part in this event on the last day, which is usually followed by a big celebration the same night. This is a tradition cherished by Icelanders. (End of info from Iceland Lamb website.)
The Icelandic breed is highly prolific -- the ewes are reliable twinners, with triplets fairly common. The breed is valued also because of its "grass based" genetics; the sheep flourish on grass and browse, without need of grain supplementation.
Icelandic sheep are a beautiful and eye-catching breed of sheep with incredible color variations and seventeen possible combinations of colors and patterns. Known around the world for their fiber, the Icelandic sheep provides a soft, lustrous dual coated fleece. Icelandics come in a range of natural colors and patterns which provide lovely wool that is very versatile and easy to spin, making this wool a handspinners delight.
In Iceland, these sheep are bred primarily for meat. The lambs mature in 4-6 months on good pasture and provide a lean, tender, mild flavored meat. Average dressed weight is typically 35-45 pounds.
Icelandics are a very milky breed of sheep, with ewes easily supporting twins and many raising triplets without assistance. Many farms in North America are now milking Icelandics and using the milk for personal use, making yogurt, soap and gourmet, artisan cheeses.
For additional information on hardy, healthy, thrifty Icelandics, visit the Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America website, www.Isbona.com.