We had raised hair sheep for several years and Hailey had shown club lambs in 4-H since she was 9 years old when I decided that it was a good time to expand our flock by adding a wool breed. Not just any wool breed though. They had to be soft, not make me itch (club lamb wool makes me itch), be friendly, easy to handle, have wool that could be made into yarn (at the time the only fiber art I did was crochet), and have at least twins when lambing.
After much research and talking with not only breeders but also people much more involved in the fiber arts world than I was, we decided on Finnsheep. Here is a brief synopsis of the breed from http://finnsheep.org: “Finnsheep are a multi-purpose breed. In their native Finland, where they are known as Finnish Landrace Sheep, they are raised for meat, wool and pelts. In the United States, their primary use has been in cross-breeding programs to increase the lambing percentage of commercial flocks. Recently, Finnsheep have been discovered by American handspinners for the color, luster and soft hand of their wool. An emerging market is the use of Finnsheep to produce lean meat favored by “ethnic” populations. Finnsheep are friendly, docile and easy keepers producing vigorous lambs that are up and nursing within minutes.”
In July 2020, we bought 11 head of Finnsheep from a farm in Missouri. They were beautiful, soft, friendly girls. It didn’t take long for us (okay just me) to fall in love with them.
So what makes Finnsheep the perfect sheep for us? Mostly their personalities but also the versatility of their wool which was the reason we chose them. The wool can be in a wide range of colors and patterns. It makes beautiful yarns and roving that can be used for knitting, crocheting, weaving, or felting. The wool is fine enough that it can be worn next to the skin and is strong enough to be used in garments and blankets.
Another positive was that if we wanted it to, our flock could expand rather quickly because they are known for being one of the most prolific breeds in the world. They tend to lamb in litters and can have up to 9 at a time however, 3-4 lambs are most common. We were hoping to expand the flock rather quickly but what we didn’t realize is that Finnsheep are not quite as easy to raise as Hair Sheep. We have had to learn how to manage parasites very differently from the hair sheep. The lambs also need a lot more babysitting and checking to make sure they are getting enough milk since there are more born to each ewe.
As a result, we have had to reexamine some of our management systems. This isn’t a bad thing other than we lost a lot of the lambs and some ewes the first two years while learning which management practices we needed to change. We have made several adjustments this year and I am optimistic that we will have a better success rate this spring.
For us, and for the expansion of our farm business, Finnsheep are the perfect fit. They give us a marketable product not only in their wool but also in the meat. I can use the wool for my own fiber arts, crocheting, and my newest obsession, needle felting. And hopefully, after we get all of the management kinks worked out, double or triple our flock this year. I am optimistic that this lambing will be much more successful than the last two have been!
If you are looking for any Finnsheep yarn or roving for your fiber arts projects you will find it here in our Ranch Store.