What is the history of Finnsheep?

Finnsheep or Finnish Landrace, as they are their native country of Finland. The breed is considered to be several hundred years old, descending from the mouflon that live in the wild on Sardinia and Corsica.

They are also said to be related to other Scandinavian short-tailed sheep. Their origin is probably related to their high adaptability to the rugged climate and the high roughage feed available.

Sheep Breeders Association formed in 1918. This organization directs the improvement of the breed in Finland with an emphasis on litter size, mothering ability, growth rate and wool production.

Since 1962 Finnsheep have been exported to over 40 countries and all of the continents due to their high prolificacy. There have been done numerous studies in comparing the different characteristics of Finnsheep to dozens of different sheep breeds, in ten different universities solely in the United States.

There is more information on Finnsheep than in most of the over 1000 sheep breeds. The genes of Finnsheep have been used for developing over 20 different sheep breeds. Finnsheep are used for breeding purposes due to their fertility gene which is used for improving the fertility of other sheep breeds.

The breed is used in meat production crossings as dams or sires of the dams. Landrace breeds are important for conserving a wide genetic diversity. The narrowing of the gene foundation decreases the capability of farm animal husbandry to adjust in the changing face of today’s farming. It might also increase out brake of disease.

There are under 15 000 Finnsheep ewes left, of these only 5 500 are in pureline breeding in Finland. Conserving of landraces is under international convention. The genome is conserved deep freezed in semen pellets and embryo banks. Live animals are kept in genebank stocks in different locations. For example Finnsheep are kept at the state owned prison farm of Pelso.

What are the characteristics of Finnsheep ?

  • Reproduction Finnsheep are widely known for their high prolificacy.
  • Fertility of this breed excels many other sheep breeds in various ways.
  • Early sexual maturity.
  • Finnsheep ewe lambs can be mated as early as at the age of 7 – 8 months.
  • The only limiting factor is the size of the ewe lamb. The recommended weight is 50 kg.
  • Finnsheep ram lambs will be fertile at the age of four months.
  • Finnsheep rams are very active and have a high libido.
  • Weight of their testis compared to their live weight is greater than in most sheep breeds.
  • They have a good ability to serve multiple ewes.
  • Semen quality of Finnsheep rams is found to be excellent: plenty of spermatozoa and good motility. Capability to lamb out of season Many of the known sheep breeds are capable to breed only for about three months during the autumn. It is virtually impossible to get these breeds to lamb any other time than in spring.
  • The Finnsheep can be lambed in any time of the year.
  • The heat is long and it even shows over the lactation period.
  • After weaning Finnsheep ewes come to heat in a shorter period than other sheep breeds. The time of the weaning has no effect on this. High ovulation rate.
  • Finnsheep ewes shed more eggs.
  • Embryo survival rate is good. Large womb capacity.
  • Womb of a Finnsheep ewe is capable to withstand the pregnancy of multiple lambs.
  • Creates possibility for full term and vigorous lambs.
  • Good conception rate, only 1–2 % of ewes age two years and over are left barren, the quantity is smaller than in other sheep breeds.
  • Frequent lambings, Finnsheep are capable of lambing more frequently than once a year.
  • Their breeding interval can easily be as short as eight months. This means two lambings in one year or three lambings in two years.
  • All year round fat lamb production is achieved with this production characteristic. Large lamb crop Only some sheep breeds can produce in average over two lambs per one lambing.
  • Finnsheep ewe has in average three lambs per each lambing. In the first lambing 1,9 lambs per ewe, in the later lambings 2,7 lambs in average.
  • Finnsheep ewes produce single lambs in 10 % of the lambings, twins and triplets both 40 %, quadruplets 10 % and quintuplets in 2 % of the lambings.
  • The number of lambs produced will increase up till the ewe is five year’s of age.

Finnsheep ewe’s maintenance cost compared to the amount of produced lamb meat is lower because

1) The ewe will start to produce already in one year’s of age.

2) One ewe can produce multiple lambs.

3) Lifetime production is high due to the longevity of Finnsheep ewes. The large lamb crop also enables the efficient follow-up of the hereditary progress in the different wanted areas.

  • Finnsheep ewe’s hip structure is advantageous for lambing. It has a rather wide hip.
  • Finnsheep ewe’s good ability to lamb and rise up her offspring has a great implication on the survival of the lambs.
  • Mothering ability of Finnsheep ewes has been found out to be good in many different studies.
  • Finnsheep ewes can produce ample amount of milk.
  • The Finnsheep 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 Finnsheep is not a big sheep but it produces a lean, succulent meat with a light, delicate flavor.
  • Finnsheep is not very prone to copper toxicity.
  • The wool has a soft handle, a moderate crimp and a high luster.
  • Wool colour is pure white, deep brown and black. Same objectives for all of the colours.
  • Lamb’s wool is well suitable on products which are used straight next to your skin, like knitted garments, soft blankets, shawls and children’s clothing.
  • Yarn made out of lamb’s wool can be used on baby’s garments and instead of rheumatism or alpacayarn on scarves and warmers.
  • Yarn spun from adult Finnsheep wool is suitable for interior decorations, garment fabrics and knitted products.

What is the weight of mature Finnsheep?

Finnsheep ram is in the range of 80 - 100 kg and a mature ewe 60 - 75 kg.

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