The flock at UMass has been solely composed of the Polled Dorset breed for years. However, with the VASCI program rapidly growing over the last few years, the Hadley Farm requires more animals to fuel the education of incoming animal science, biotechnology, research, vet tech, and pre-veterinary students. This, in part, is why the Finnish Landrace or Finnsheep breed was introduced into our flock.
The Finnsheep breed possesses many admirable qualities for sheep production. The Finnsheep’s most notable characteristics include out-of-season breeding, good mothering qualities, high rates of milk production, and their ability to carry high numbers of lambs, including triplets, quads or more! Finnsheep are also a bit smaller than the Dorset breed. This allows us to comfortably fit more animals into our barns and pastures to accommodate ourgrowing class sizes.
A fairly common issue for our Dorset flock is “wool blindness”, a term used to describe the wool that grows on some of the sheeps’ faces that can obstruct their vision. Though only some of our Dorset sheep have this trait, the Finnsheep can help us further avoid the issue as the Finnsheep have virtually no wool on their faces. Like the Dorsets, Finnsheep are also dual purpose, allowing both their meat and wool to be sold for profit. Outside of the physical traits that apply to our production-based teaching style, Finnsheep are easy-going and calm, providing for nice stock to teach our incoming students, especially for those students with little to no experience with livestock.
The addition of the Finnsheep genetics into our flock will allow us to house more animals of smaller size, increase lamb crop during lambing seasons and increase our flock’s ability to breed out of season, allowing for up to three lambings per year for our students to experience and learn from. This Spring, our flock welcomed the programs first ever Dorset x Finn crosses to the Hadley Farm! Our hope is to keep some of the cross-bred ewe lambs back in the flock to incorporate their genetics into the future of our flock and the future of our program. Recently, our Finnsheep ram bred a small group of ewes in preparation for the lambing season this upcoming Fall for the Dorset Sheep Management course. We are hopeful to welcome more Dorset x Finn crosses into the flock in October!