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Finnsheep

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Other common names: Finnish Landrace; Australian Finns

The basics:
Finnsheep are native to Finland and belong to the group of Northern European short-tailed sheep, which also includes Shetland, Icelandic, Romanov, Spaelsau, Swedish Landrace and several other breeds. Finnsheep were first imported to North America by the University of Manitoba, Canada in 1966. The breed was brought to Australia by the University of New South Wales in 1981.

Finnsheep are known for having a high incidence of multiple births, with it being common for a ewe to have 3 - 5 lambs at once. The lambs mature early and can be mated at six months of age. The Finnsheep is often used in cross breeding programs to increase lambing percentage, and Finnsheep blood is found in many of the newer breeds.

Appearance / health:
According to The Finnsheep Breeders' Association, "Most of the Finnsheep in the USA the Finnsheep are pure white. They are also readily available in black and black/white piebald (spotted). They are less commonly found in grey, brown and fawn. The wool has unmistakable luster and softness in shades from white through black. While the fleece is lightweight (5-6 lb.) it is highly praised by hand spinners as it blends easily with other fibers, has a long staple (3-6"), and a wool spinning count in the 50's (24 to 31 microns)."

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:
Finnsheep have a friendly disposition. The Finnsheep tends to have greater tolerance to heat and cold than most domestic breeds. They are successful foragers, and enjoy leaves and ferns as much as pastures.

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.

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