Keeping Finnsheep: A Great Fiber Animal for the Farmstead
By C. Dayton
There’s one in every flock. The standout animal; the “me first” one who pushes others aside to get to front of the pen to be the first for everything. The first for a drink out of a fresh bucket of water, the first to gobble up grain and treats, the first to move through an open gate, and the first to be petted. At our place, it’s Daisy.
When we decided to venture into sheep keeping, we studied breeds. We read books, magazines, and online articles. We went to farm shows and fiber festivals. We talked to lots of people who raised sheep. We found as many opinions as we found breeds of sheep. Some breeds are large; some are small. Some are aloof; some are friendly. Some are great for meat; some are great for fiber, and some are dual-purpose. After all that study, we decided to focus our attention on fiber animals. Then the search was on to find the perfect breed for us.
We thought we found them in a nice flock of Coopworth sheep that were a reasonable distance from our home. We were close to buying them, when we were introduced to Finnsheep while vacationing in Vermont. A couple of young ewes in a small herd display at a Vermont fiber festival caught our attention. They were as friendly as could be to whoever stopped by, and it was their personalities that sucked us in. The rest of their traits kept us interested.
In talking with the breeder, we learned that Finns have a wonderful variety of white and naturally colored fiber that is great for hand spinning. They’re curious and friendly, have easy grazing habits, a tendency to lamb in litters, and are a manageable size for someone who isn’t looking to wrestle 300 lb. animals. They are naturally polled (have no horns) and have short tails (which require no docking). Finns are also a good dual-purpose breed. They make a great breed for a small farmstead like ours.
A couple months later, we were making a trip back to Vermont to pick up the two registered Finnsheep ewe lambs we bought after they had been turned out with a young ram. Their gestation period is about 142 days, and by early the next spring, our flock of two had grown to six. Daisy was the first-born sheep on our farm, and she’s remains #1 in everything. Like her mother Duchess, she exhibits all the classic Finn traits. She has gorgeous soft crimped fiber. She’s friendly and curious. And with good luck, she’ll turn out to be another excellent mother, too.
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