Landraceor Finnsheep is a breed of domestic sheepknown for large lamb crops. It is not uncommon for a eweto have three, four, or even five lambs at once. There have been several instances of seven lambs born in the USA at one time. The record in Finlandis a litter of nine live lambs. The lambs are often small, but vigorous at birth, and grow well. The lambs mature early and can be bred at six months of age. Ewes commonly breed out of season and some are bred to lamb twice a year. ["Finnsheep In Finland", by H. Goot, 1973 (Special Publication No. 28, Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel] The breed belongs to the group of Northern Short-Tailed Sheep, which includes Shetlands, Icelandics, Romanovs, Norwegian Spælsaus, the Swedish Landrace and several other breeds. All are believed to have descended from the wild Mouflon sheep.
The Finnsheep is often used in cross breeding programs to increase lambing percentage, and Finnsheep blood is found in many of the newer breeds. In the USA the breed is promoted by the US Finnsheep Breeders Association.
The breed was brought to Australia in two main importations: by the University of NSW in 1981 and by the Australian Texel Corporation in 1993. Considerable improvements to the breed have been undertaken in the 27 years since to better suit them to Australian conditions. Lamb size and survival rates have increased. Typical litter sizes are 3-4 lambs. Better mothering, milking ability and hardiness in paddock conditions are paramount.
The breed has been used extensively for crossbreeding to produce sheep with various desirable characteristics but particularly leanness, better wool production and improved fertility and fecundity (more lambs) and excellent 'doing' ability. An important feature of Finnsheep is their thin wrinkle-free skin and bare breech. This means that Finncross sheep are much less susceptible to flystike and do not require mulesing, a contentious operation intended to reduce the incidence of flystike in the Merino flock. Their thin wrinkle free skins produce more better quality wool as well as superior leather.
Australian Finns (and particularly Finncrosses) are extraordinarily lean (and tasty) and have contributed greatly to an improvement in the leanness of first and second cross lambs. They are also more resistant to worms than many other breeds, and to a range of other problems such as pregnancy toxaemia (twin lamb disease), coccidiosis, and facial excema.
The most common cross in Australia is the Finn-Merino. Many breeders have achieved lamb survival rates over 180% and twice a year shearing of high quality wool from large flocks (1,000 + sheep per flock) of this cross. Other numerically important crosses include Finn-Dorsets and Finn-Texels. The breed is having a significant effect on lifting the average productivity of the nation's flock.
While there is a range of
woolfineness across individual Finnsheep, the American Sheep Industry’s American Wool Council ranks Finnsheep in the fine end of the medium wool category. ["Wool Grades and the Sheep that Grow the Wool", from the American Wool Council, a division of the American Sheep Industry Association, 6911 South Yosemite Street, Englewood, CO 80112-1414 - [http://www.sheepusa.org http://www.sheepusa.org] .] The wool has a soft handle, a moderate crimp and a high luster.
Finnsheep have a similar range of fleece colors to that of Shetland and Icelandic sheep. White is genetically dominant and the most common color. Black and black/white piebald (spotted) sheep are also fairly common, while brown, grey and fawn Finnsheep are very scarce in the USA at this time. Markings such as white stockings, tail tips, white crown or facial markings including the panda-like eyespot pattern are common in colored Finnsheep.
Australian Finns are universally white; the wool has superior length, softness, better radius of curvature and reduced prickle factor. In Australia wool quality and length have improved greatly to the extent that there are now sheep which can be shorn twice per year and whose advantageous wool characteristics have been extensively incorporated into the Merino flock.
List of sheep breeds
* [http://www.finnsheep.org The US Finnsheep Breeders Association]
* [http://www.finnsheep.com Australian Finnsheep]
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