December 2008
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Icelandic Sheep Thrive in Dallas Co.

Trumpet, affectionately known as The Trump, is Oldesouth Farm’s very good-natured ram.

 

This Friendly Breed Provides Fiber, Meat and Milk

Oldesouth Farm is a small family farm located outside of Selma in Dallas County and does business with Central Alabama Farmers Co-op. The farm raises Icelandic sheep and Nigerian Dwarf goats with a focus on the Icelandic sheep.

Knowing she would have to handle the animals, Terry Babb chose the primitive, medium-sized Icelandic sheep because they were smaller, not skittish and easier to handle. This breed has been bred in Iceland for over 1,000 years, originally brought over by the Vikings. The Icelandic Sheep were imported to Canada in the 80s and then into the United States. Both polled and horned, they are spreading across the States and now into the South. This breed is beautiful to look at as well as intelligent and friendly. This is also a breed that serves a triple purpose: fiber, meat & milk.

The Meat Market

Consider taste, the Icelandic meat is truly gourmet quality and tastes great. Their meat conformation is excellent (short, long & wide) and the carcass dresses out to about 45 percent. Some breeders are getting 0.75 to one pound per day gain on milk and grass alone, without need for grain. This breed is well-known for its grass-only ability to finish without the use of grains.

 

Icelandic sheep have a dual-coated fleece that allows for three different types of yarn to be created from it.

Spinner’s Flock

The dual-coated Icelandic fleece can be prepared three ways. The inner fleece "thel" and outer fleece "tog" can be blended together or separated for three different types of yarn. The two types of fleece blended together make Lopi yard. It is a wonderfully soft blend. The thel is soft enough to be spun into under garments and baby clothing. Wethered rams make excellent pets and fleece animals, should an individual not want to deal with breeding stock.

Terry is a hand spinner and absolutely loves this fleece.

"Icelandic’s wool comes in 17 natural colors, which are a spinner’s dream. When the thel and tog are processed together into roving, the roving spins beautifully and easily into a very soft yarn. Of course, the lamb’s wool is the best and the most profitable. The Icelandic sheep grow fleece as beautiful in the South as they do up North. I shear twice yearly: the beginning of May, so the sheep are short during the heat of the summer, and again in late October or early November," she said.

The fall shearing is the prime fleeces with the lambs also sheared. The spring fleece is usually made into batting or used for felting (which Icelandic wool is famous for) and is not as nice as the fall fleece. She does process some of the better spring fleece into roving and make hats and mittens out of it.

The farm is experimenting with winter grazing to see if improvements can be made in the quality of the spring fleece. The winter pasture eliminates parasites and will keep the fleece free of vegetable matter, something hand spinners hate. Terry conveyed that picking out straw and seeds from the fleece is not fun.

Milking Sheep

According to Terry, Icelandic sheep are easy to milk and train to a stand or milking parlor. Artisan cheese is in great demand and the Icelandic milk is high in solids, which makes great cheese and, of course, sheep’s milk soaps. There are a few sheep dairies across the U.S. and many of them are using Icelandic ewes and crosses of the Icelandic.

Terry stated, "I have milked one ewe to see if she could be trained and what her milk tasted like. The ewe I milked had triplets this spring, so I only milked her a couple of times. She was easy to handle, jumped on the milking stand for some grain and stood as well as any bottle baby goat. The milk was very rich and had a sweet flavor similar to the Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat milk. But, the triplets needed the milk more then I so we will wait until next spring and try again.

"We will continue to increase our herd and next fall hope to offer grass fed lambs to customers as well as breeding stock and fleece."

For further information, contact Terry Babb at Oldesouth Farm, 334-327-9252 or www.oldesouth.citymax.com.