The Icelandic breed is in the North European short-tailed group of sheep, which exhibits a fluke-shaped, naturally short tail. To ensure the continuing purity of the breed, tail docking an Icelandic will disqualify it from being registered in North America. Icelandics are a mid-sized breed with ewes averaging 130-160 pounds, and rams averaging 180-220 pounds. Conformation is generally short legged and stocky. The face and legs are free of wool. The fleece is dual-coated and comes in white as well as a range of browns, grays and blacks. There are both horned and polled strains. Left unshorn for the winter, the breed is very cold hardy. A gene has been found in the Icelandic breed that causes multiple births of triplets, quads, quints and even sextuplets, if the ewe carries two copies of the gene. One copy of the gene causes a milder increase in fertility, resulting primarily in a higher rate of triplets. The Thoka gene, as it is called, is named after the first ewe known to carry the gene. It is similar to the Booroola gene in the Merino sheep.
The Icelandic lambs this year are really exceptional! All have nice percentages of AI from a number of Iceland’s top sires or from spectacular F1 AI farm rams, and from ewes (many F1 AI) that have proven themselves on my farm. The sires were chosen for their colors and fleece quality, for milking abilities of their daughters, and for meat quality. This year, because of a mishap with the import from Iceland, I wasn’t able to add new genetics, but have offspring from sires who have produced wonderful lambs here in the past: Bekri, Jonas (horned), and Ungi, Nikulas and Strumpur (leadersheep). And of course there are lambs from the F1 AI Trinity Farm sires.
Many of the ewes and the farm rams are all F1 descendents of AI sires available from Iceland. Additional sires represented in these lambs include Blettur, Drifandi, Grámann, Grabotni, Vali, and Ylur (horned); Aladin, Erpur, Grafeldur, Höttur, and Skrauti (polled); Florgodi, Geri, Golsi, Karl Philip, and Loftur (leadersheep)
Icelandics are an excellent all-around breed that is becoming increasingly popular around the US. Desirable traits include common multiple births, excellent mothering, abundant fleece, fast growth, delicious meat, naturally docked tails, and vigor. We like to send them out on assignment to help bring back the fertility of our land, as they love to graze where the brambles and weeds have taken over. They do well during pregnancy without supplemental grain which allows us to farm with a low footprint, feeding only grass, hay and minerals.
We offer Icelandic grass-fed meat and wool products, but mostly we love to breed animals to go on and thrive at other farms. With a breeding program in place since 2002, we have raised and sold over 500 animals, and are excited to contribute to sheep making a comeback on small farms. Because sheep thrive on rocky, low-value land that is not well suited to growing other food, they can be an economical and ecologically smart source of food and fiber.
Starting a new flock or choosing animals to add to your farm is always a big deal. You want to be sure you are getting healthy, locally adapted breed stock that are going to make the transition well, and serve your needs. We have a track record of selecting for hardy, large Icelandics uniquely adapted to a grass-fed diet, easy lambing, and quick healthy growth. We have also kept records on our rams and offspring for parasite resistance for many years and have made great strides in our genetics in that area.
The Icelandic sheep are of medium size with mature ewes weighing 150-160 lbs. and rams 200-220 lbs. They are fine boned with open face and legs and udders. The breed has both polled and horned individual of both sexes but it is primarily horned. Icelandic sheep are not particularly tall but broad and have an excellent conformation as a meat breed. They are seasonal breeders, the ewes start to come into heat around early November, lasting through April. By early October the mature rams develop a distinct odor which stimulates breeding activity in the ewes. The odor remains with the rams through the breeding season. This smell will also have an adverse effect on meat quality if mature rams are slaughtered during that period. Occasionally the Icelandic sheep will breed out of season but that has not been encouraged in Iceland. The fecundity in the ewes is excellent and the mature rams are very efficient breeders. Lambing rate is a approximately 170-180%, with increases possible through more intensive management. They are early maturing and the ewes can easily lamb at 12 months of age. Ram lambs can start breeding around seven months old. Life expectancy is long, healthy ewes commonly lambing until they are 12 to 14 years old in Iceland. The wool is dual coated and comes in many natural colors, even though the white color is most common.
Icelandic: íslenska sauðkindin
Meat, milk and wool
Very hardy and strong animals, well suited to their local climates, extremely cold hardy, ewes are excellent mothers, lambing percentage is around 175 to 220 percent, multiple births are very common, ewes carrying Poka gene have been known to give birth to triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, and even sextuplets on occasion, ewes are seasonal breeders, ewes come into estrus around October, their breeding season can last up to 4 months, rams grow and reach maturity fast, not a docile breed, very alert animals, fast on their feet, poor flocking instinct, most of the animals are very individualistic, very good browsers, generally enjoy eating brush and wild grasses, good for meat, good for milk, good for wool production
Rams weight between 90 and 100 kg, and mature ewes body weight vary from 68 to 73 kg