Other common names: Ostfriesisches Milchschaf; Deutsches Friesisches Milchschaf; Friesian Milk Sheep
The East Friesian Sheep is a heathland type dairy sheep which originated in the region of East Frisia in northern Germany. Historically the sheep were kept in small numbers by households for household milk.
The East Friesian Sheep is one of the most productive milk producing sheep breeds. The East Friesian produces roughly 300-600 litres of milk, over a 200 to 300 day lactation.
East Friesians are used as either a purebred milking breed or as a crossing breed for other milking sheep. They can raise the average number of lambs born, as well as milk production, when crossed with other milk sheep breeds. They are not a very hardy or adaptable breed, but their cross-breeds can be.
Appearance / health:
East Friesians have pink noses and their head and legs are clear of wool. Their heads are naturally polled, i.e. hornless. They generally have pale hooves. The most distinctive feature of an East Friesian is its tail, which is described as a "rat-tail" because it is thin and free of wool. Elsewhere on their bodies they have white wool which is approximately 35-37 micrometres, with a staple length of 120–160 millimeters and their fleece ranges from 4–5 kg (8.8–11 lb).
One of the most common ailments among sheep is a viral skin disease called soremouth or “orf.” Ringworm or “club lamb fungus” is a rash also common among sheep. And much like “mad cow disease,” sheep can have a similar neurological ailment called “scrapie.” Sheep health issues should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Good health is promoted by sanitary habitat conditions and proper nutrition.
Behavior / temperament:
Sheep are herd animals that rely on staying together as a flock to protect themselves from predators. They are highly sensitive to predators because they are basically “prey animals.” They sense the presence of threat from several hundred feet away (they are able to twist and turn their ears to detect potential danger) and instinctively flee instead of fight or attack. While fleeing, sheep run in a winding pattern to be able to see what is behind them.
As domesticated animals, sheep make good pets because they are docile and easily connect with humans, especially lambs that are bottle-fed. Miniature breeds and sheep that have hair instead of fur make ideal pets. Raising pet sheep is a popular project in the 4-H youth organization.
Housing / diet:
Sheep are grazing animals and do well living their entire lives outdoors. They get sufficient exercise and fresh air out in the field. They do need shelter from bad storms and unusually hot days. Many sheep keepers install field structures to provide shade, for example, hutches, domes, carports, and makeshift sheds. A common shade structure is a hoop house, like an open hangar or a greenhouse, which has a metal arched frame covered with tarp or other heavy-duty fabric.
Some sheep owners keep their flock in a barn or similar enclosure to protect them from predators. These enclosures must have very good ventilation because moisture and poor air conditions lead to the sheep’s poor health.
For warmth and comfort, bedding material should be provided. The best bedding is absorbent, clean, and dry. Some options are straw, wood shaving, sawdust, corncobs, dried corn stalks, peat, hemp, paper, and alfalfa hay. Preference is determined by cost, availability, convenience, and type of sheep. Wool sheep will not appreciate sawdust because it gets in their fleece. Paper is highly absorbent but difficult to manage in the field.
Lambs start with their mother’s milk and a light diet of pasture grass at two weeks old. After weaning the lambs from ewe’s milk at six weeks old, they can start eating dry feed of grains (wheat, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn), soybean and peanut hulls, and hay. The main diet of sheep is fresh grass and other forage and pasture vegetation. The pasture must be fertile and large enough to support the grazing of sheep for about seven hours a day (morning and afternoon). Fresh water must be constantly available, especially during the warm months and if the diet is mostly dry hay. Supplements are recommended, and must be given in the middle of the day to balance the sheep’s food intake.
milk quality, great temperament, class milk producers, Impressive amounts, milk cheese
small artisan cheesemaker
East Friesians are great until they break your arm
I shared some East Friesian Sheep with my neighbours who owned a small property for a few years. The sheep were very cute and loveable and generally had a great temperament. They were first class milk producers and on the occasion that someone ate them they said the meat was of medium range quality. We used their fleece for felting and found it great for that, I am not sure how it would go for other jobs. This breed are best for milking and for mowing your lawn.
It is necessary to milk them every day when they are producing milk and this can be time consuming but worth the effort.
They don't handle heat all that well, but are better than other varieties of sheep (sheep generally don't handle heat). They are great in cold weather.
They have a good temperament, although we had a bad incident in which one of us ended up with a broken arm when one of the sheep got upset. This was because she had a new baby and became very protective and didn't want anyone to go near her baby. Apart from this they were always gentle and lovely to have around.
Over all I would recommend this breed if you want cute sheep that produce good milk. I would say though that they are a lot of work (more than some other breeds because the milking takes more time than with some other breeds). They are a lot of work. They need to be sheered, and you need to keep them protected from diseases. They can get through fences and eat your garden or worse..
From MiriamHart Dec 25 2014 2:08AM
Impressive amounts of milk!
I have always loved sheep milk and dairy products, and I’ve had some success with making my own cheese with goat milk, so I decided to try raising my own sheep for an ultimate dairy delight. I got that breed from a friend who swore on their milk quality. Well, he did not lie! The milk is so delicious, smooth and it’s around 7% fat, which is just right for my tastes. And they give copious amounts! I decided to start small with 3 sheep only, and their lactation seems to last an age, but I am definitely not complaining.
They are so lovely with their pink noses and their wool is really soft and fluffy! No wonder they look completely fine during the cold days, they just flock together and keep warm. They’re not so perky during the summer, but they cope. They scare really easily, but are generally well-behaved and they seem to like human presence.
I would definitely recommend having them! They will give you tasty milk and are a both useful and cute addition to any household..
From zhanet Feb 16 2015 1:05PM