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East Friesian sheep. Advice, experience, suggestions?  RSS feed

 
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I am planning on adding some east Friesian dairy sheep to my homestead in VA by next spring. We have 11 acres but only 3 to 4 is pasture. I am planning on fencing about 2 acres, as well as my orchard, for grazing the sheep. I have heard sheep only need about 1 acre for 3 to 4 sheep and their lambs. I want to raise them mainly on grass, with as little commercial feed as possible. I want to use feed that I can grow or produce for health reasons ( I am allergic to many antibiotics and two common preservatives in chicken feed), and also to keep down cost.  So this is my plan, now tell me honestly what you think:

I am going to be raising the sheep for milk, wool and meat, with meat taking a backseat to milk and wool. I WANT to keep their grain intake to an absolute minimum, and only use it during the winter and gestation. I plan on having a small herd, mainly for home use for my family, of about 4 or 5 sheep. I would fence the two acres into 2 sections to allow herd division and pasture rest. I will also use the fenced orchard, once the trees are larger, as grazing in fall. This would also allow us to use the windfalls as a food source. Will the 2 acres be enough to grass feed the herd? Or will I need to create more pasture by clearing some woods? 
I have been playing with the idea of clearing some land for another pasture but would prefer not to unless I need to. I'm thinking about clearing another 2 or 3 acres of the wooded area to create a summer pasture for them. That would allow me to rest the winter pasture and even make hay.
Another idea, and this is just an idea as I haven't found any information on anyone having done this before....is to use the acorns that are so ridiculously abundant here as feed for them. Our 6 to 7 wooded acres is mainly oaks. White and red, with many more white than red.  Now, before you shoot me, I know that tannins are toxic to sheep and I know about acorn poisoning. But I also know that you can soak shelled acorns in water to remove tannins, and then use that tannin water to tan hides etc. So I was planning on collecting and soaking the acorns and using them as feed since I literally rake up TONS every fall, and even though it is labor intensive, I only plan on feeding for 2 to 4 months, so it wouldn't be huge amounts, only about 10 pounds per week as supplementary feed/starch. I also am thinking about growing mangel beets and pumpkins as feed too. Time is not an issue for me. I am a stay at home mom, so my kids and my farm are my life. I am so very very lucky in that regard so I don't mind taking a little extra time and effort to produce healthy natural food and milk for my family. <3

So tell me what you think! Any thoughts, suggestions or advice are welcome! Criticism too but you know, just try not to be too mean lol.  Thank you so much!
 
Posts: 129
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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Sounds like a good plan. 2 acres should be enough for 4-5 sheep especially if you are practicing rotational grazing.
Be careful of sheep in the orchard as they love to eat bark.
I don’t have any oak trees but I am sure they would love acorns. Sheep are pretty good about picking and choosing how much they should eat of something. (Except clover and alfalfa). They may do ok harvesting there own acorns especially if you can limit there access to an area. They are also good at clearing wooded areas. As long  as there are no broadleaf evergreens like rodedendrons and azaleas.
The tannins are also good for parasite control along with not returning to a pasture for at least six weeks.
There are Facebook groups with a lot of good information. Homestead Dairy Sheep, Sheep Farmers, Icelandic Sheep Owners all have a lot of information.
Minerals are also important for sheep there is a good thread about them in this forum. Good luck. Love my dairy sheep.
 
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Yep, sounds good. They do not make great meat sheep because they grow so slowwwwwwwww, but since that is not priority, you are all set.
 
Amanda Parker
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I had no idea about using tannins to help with parasite control but that makes a lot of sense since most of the antiparasitic herbs I keep on hand are high in tannins. Thank you so much for that knowledge .

I had heard that they could be very slow to mature but any breed that is dual purpose usually is a little less efficient in all areas than one purpose breeds.  Do you know if the quality of meat is decent? I know with my wyandottes chickens, they take almost twice as long to finish but the meat is much higher quality, very soft with lots of fat separating the muscle groups, than the Cornish crosses I raise for just meat.

Thank you both for your advice!
 
Travis Johnson
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I am not sure as I have never had that breed of sheep.

I have had people come here and buy Corridale and swear they are the best tasting ever and will not buy anything else. The customer is always right so whatever, but I have ate about every breed and cannot seem to taste much difference. Katadins are a bit different because they were bred for mild flavor, and I have heard that people complained because they got lamb and did not think they did.

You are right about dual breeds though. My corridales are considered dual purpose and while they have more wool then the meat breeds (12 pounds versus 8 pounds), they lack the 16 pounds wool breeds have. Equally they are not 250 pounds like the meat breeds are, but convert pounds quicker then the strictly woolies.
 
Posts: 30
Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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I'm from the area these sheep originate from, but here Friesian sheep have lost a lot of ground to mainly Texel sheep, which is a meat sheep.
My mother still used to milk Friesian sheep on her farm, but this is a long time ago.
I'm not sure there is a lot of difference between Friesian sheep and East Friesian sheep.

I know they have a reputation for being quite a social type of sheep, both towards humans as within their own group. What I once read is that a Friesian ewe will often allow a lamb that isn't hers to poach milk from her. Triplets or quadruplets are more common among Friesian sheep, so than this possibility of poaching sounds handy. Sorry, I have no personal experience, but I did once look into it. On a picture of my mother milking sheep it struck me that this happened in the open field, and the sheep appear to have no problem allowing to be milked.

If you have a more specific question about these sheep, I can always look if I can find a Friesian, Dutch or German source for the answer, assuming you yourself aren't used to these languages.

I have plenty of suggestions if you want to give your sheep Friesian names: Rixt, Elbrich, Wietske, Marrit, Sjieuwke, Loltsje... there are hundreds of Friesian names, it is an older language than German or Dutch, and often German and Dutch names borrow from Friesian.
 
Amanda Parker
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J Grouwstra wrote:I'm from the area these sheep originate from, but here Friesian sheep have lost a lot of ground to mainly Texel sheep, which is a meat sheep.
My mother still used to milk Friesian sheep on her farm, but this is a long time ago.
I'm not sure there is a lot of difference between Friesian sheep and East Friesian sheep.

I know they have a reputation for being quite a social type of sheep, both towards humans as within their own group. What I once read is that a Friesian ewe will often allow a lamb that isn't hers to poach milk from her. Triplets or quadruplets are more common among Friesian sheep, so than this possibility of poaching sounds handy. Sorry, I have no personal experience, but I did once look into it. On a picture of my mother milking sheep it struck me that this happened in the open field, and the sheep appear to have no problem allowing to be milked.

If you have a more specific question about these sheep, I can always look if I can find a Friesian, Dutch or German source for the answer, assuming you yourself aren't used to these languages.

I have plenty of suggestions if you want to give your sheep Friesian names: Rixt, Elbrich, Wietske, Marrit, Sjieuwke, Loltsje... there are hundreds of Friesian names, it is an older language than German or Dutch, and often German and Dutch names borrow from Friesian.



That is amazing! I wish anyone in my family had been into agriculture. I'm the first and most of them think I'm wasting my time lol. I do know that my ancient ancestors spoke Friesian. They moved to the Rhineland area of Germany around the 1500s but before that they seemed to be nomadic but lived on the northern border of Germany, if I remember correctly. The oldest ancestor I have been able to trace back was named Peiter Heidle. My maternal family name is Hitt, which came from Heid, when they immigrated to America around the 1730's.

I picked the friesians for a few reasons....one is that one of my ancestors used to breed sheep in Germany. They were described as a milking sheep and apparently he kept a small herd of about 5 to 10. I can't be certain, but I think he probably had friesians <3. Another reason was that aside from fitting my milk and wool needs perfectly and preferring a small herd environment, they are supposedly very very friendly, like you mentioned. I have two 16 month olds and I hope that when they are older they will become involved with the farm. I want a sheep that will be docile and easy for them to handle for 4-h and agriculture projects. It is absolutely adorable that they trade lambs ha ha! That's like me, I took in my neice right alongside my son and raised them as twins. The more I learn about these sheep the more I love them.

And I absolutely LOVE the idea of giving them traditional Friesian names! If you could send me a list of a few male and female names that would be wonderful! What a wonderful way to honor such an old breed. I had never even thought of that before, I'm so so glad you mentioned it. Thank you so much for your comment
 
J Grouwstra
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Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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When I visited my parents a few days ago I asked them about the Friesian sheep, especially about their character. What I heard was maybe a bit disappointing, at least it didn't back up any stories about them being special.
My father, at whose farm they had these sheep as well, told me that when a ewe gave 3 lambs, there was a problem. The ewe often rejected a third lamb and it had to be bottle-fed. This sounds common sheep bother to me.
They also otherwise didn't sound any friendlier than other sheep to me. Of course, being milked twice a day, they become used to being handled and more tame. But they had to be collected from the field with some persuasion. On the farm of my father they used cookies to lure them. On the picture of my mother milking sheep it looked like the sheep just stood there, but they were actually held by wire around their necks, hard to see on a small black and white photograph.

So... maybe not what you had liked to hear. I would have believed them being more friendly than other sheep, as Friesian horses definitely are very gentle and kind, Friesian cows are quite placid and fairly easy, although they don't keep their cool well, still I could believe there was something about Friesian animals that set them apart a bit. Maybe not so.
Friesian dairy animals are in a class of their own if it comes to milk production, I think that still stands, and I believe this must have something to do with this region being so ideal for grass to grow.
I did once read, and this is again info found on the net, but this sounds more reliable, that Friesian sheep are somewhat more fragile than average sheep due to the amount of milk they're producing - I suppose it wears them out a bit. I don't know how it will be like for them at your place, I didn't check your location or climate or anything, but one region or the other can already make a difference. I worked in Scotland with sheep, and almost everywhere you'll see a lot of Blackface there, but I was in the north, supposedly just a tad too tough for Blackface, and it was Cheviots mainly in the north. You don't want animal welfare problems, so always be mindful that you pick an animal that'll be happy at your place.

When it comes to names, also the internet has huge lists of names, some sites mention well over a hundred Friesian first names per starting letter, per gender. Mostly Dutch sites, meant for parents to be, to help them choose a nice sounding Friesian name. You could google 'Friese jongensnamen' or 'Friese meisjesnamen' for boys and girls names respectively. Or google in English and you'll find smaller lists, but still plenty to choose from. I'm not sure how I should select a bunch for you out of all the names that are there. You'll probably find names of which the pronunciation doesn't look too hard and which you like, although the pronunciation of Friesian in general is tough for other Germanic speakers, mainly because it uses a lot of vowel twists and turns, where other Germanic languages are more consonent-heavy.           
 
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