Breed Profile: The Finnsheep
In the fall of 2013 our farm acquired our first Finnsheep from Stillmeadow farm in DeRuyter, NY. We decided to add the Finnsheep because of some of their outstanding characteristics and to help preserve this very historic breed of sheep.
Finnsheep are also known as Finns, and Finnish Landrace Sheep, and hail from Finland. This breed is several hundred of years old, but was only brought to North America via the University of Manitoba in Canada in 1966. From there the Finnsheep has spread throughout the United States. The Finnsheep is not a widely known breed due to their newness to the U.S. but also because they are not a breed that is shown. The Finnsheep have no set physical characteristics to be judged on, rather they are judged on their reproductive abilities. Finns are known to have triplets and quads regularly with some bloodlines also have quintuplets and sextuplets regularly. Finns are also early to mature; ewes are bred at seven months so that they have their lambs at 12 months, many times with twins. Another characteristic that make Finns a top breed to add to your farm is the fact that they can breed out of season. This means that while most sheep breed in the fall and lamb in the spring, the Finns can be bred at any time of the year, so you can have lambs year round.
While we do not personally spin, Finns are known and highly prized for their excellent wool. While most Finns are white, there have been great strides in producing a wide range of colors. The basic color families Finns come in are white, black, browns with variations of color within those families. Finns also come in color patterns as well- badgerface and piebald (spotted). Color is not the only physical characteristic to differentiate amongst your Finns, because there is no standard to which Finns most adhere to, Finns can look quite different from one another. Some of our Finns are more dainty with thinner faces and legs, while others are more bulky and have wider faces and stouter legs.
Finns are on the smaller size with maturity weight of 130-180 for ewes, and 170-240 for rams, and should reach at least 80lbs by seven months of age. They are short tail so there is no need for tail docking, and naturally polled, meaning there are naturally hornless. From personal experience the Finns are highly personable, and friendly. Our boys especially love being scratched under their chins and will actually wag their tails like a dog in excitement.
When we were first researching Finns we were looking for a personable sheep with a higher lambing rate then what we were currently experiencing with our Katahdins that we could cross breed with the Katahdin to produce a higher lambing crop but a bigger sheep. We have decided on keeping some purebred Finns and Katahdins but use some of the lambs from those purebreds to cross breed with. It is our goal to help preserve this wonderful breed. While we have only had the Finns for a little over one year, we will admit that they do not seem quite as disease resistance as our Katahdins, their hooves need trimmed a couple times of year, instead of the one time a year the Katahdins do, and they need wormed a little bit more as well. We have also been told Finns are more delicious and tender compared to other breeds. We ended up selling all our Finns this year so we cannot tell you first hand our experience with Finn meat, but we will be keeping one lamb back in 2015 to try for certain.
We had one Finn ewe, Snodrop who lambed this year and is the epitome of a great Finn mom. She yelled at us when we picked her lambs up, or tried to separate them at any time, kept track of them wherever they went. Finns can also be stressful during lambing for a new Finn owner, because of the sheer size the ewes become, but remember they have 3,4,5 lambs growing inside them. Snodrop our ewe had triplets this year and in the last month and a half we fretted and worried over her because her stomach was so enormous we weren’t sure she could continue walking but still had a month to go! In the last week she didn’t walk around too much, and we will admit to catering to her sore legs by bringing food and water to her little corner she made for herself. As a side note while the Finns do produce many lambs at once, you will need to assist in feeding with supplemental milk should your Finns have more than twins. Finns are excellent mothers, but only produce so much milk.
Should you be interested in raising your own Finns there are a number of websites to assist you in your Finn journey including the Finnsheep Breeders Association website at www.finnsheep.org to see more of the colors Finns come in please visit http://www.finnsheep.org/docs/Colors_markings.pdf for personal experience from Finnsheep breeders you can join the Finnsheep in America facebook group. If you are interested in acquiring Finns from us, feel free to let us know what you are looking for and we can keep your updated on what is born this spring.