Breed standard for Gotland Sheep
Breed standard & Selection in Our flock
Below you find the Swedish breed standard, used in our flock as the minimum standard for selection of breeding rams and ewes. The main breeding goal in Sweden is to develop the unique qualities of the furskin. Since the international market also requires a high accuracy in terms of wool quality, we have now incorporated new techniques for grading to meet our customers needs. This is a help to select for uniform fiber type, one of the priorities mentioned in the breed standard.
We perform individual phenotypic scoring of all lambs at 110 days of age and also use Estimated Breeding Values (index for genetic merit) for selection. Genetic traits of importance, given EBV´s are growth rate, body conformation, furskin quality (based on colour, curl, wool quality) and fertility.
From 2018, all our lambs will be micron tested and we will also re-test older breeding animals once yearly to collect data from sheep of various ages. Sheep for sale will be DNA verified for quality assurance of pedigrees. For more info of our full performance recording programme – see “Performance Recording”.
Swedish Breed Standard
The Gotland sheep originates from a native landrace sheep on the island of Gotland. Through selection and controlled breeding for size and furskin quality, started in the 1920’s, the Gotland sheep has developed to a multipurpose sheep, yielding both good flavoured meat and high quality furskins. The Gotland sheep is a medium sized sheep, well adapted to graze also extensive pastures. The breed is common not only on Gotland but also on the mainland of Sweden.
The adult Gotland sheep are grey. The heads and bones are black, free from wool, sometimes with white markings. Large white markings are not desired. The tail is short, free from wool at the tip. Gotlands are fine-boned with a graceful head. Both rams and ewes are polled. Ewes generally weigh from 55 to 90 kg (120-200 lb). Rams are heavier, weighing from 80 to 120 kg (175-265 lb).
Gotlands are active and friendly sheep, easy to tame. Grazing Gotlands are often more spread out on pastures than other breeds. They still have a pronounced flock instinct and work well with sheep dogs.
The ewes are easy to lamb, prolific, and very motherly. From two years of age they normally give birth to twins and triplets are not uncommon. The lambs are born black but gradually change to grey of different shades throughout summer. Characteristic for the Gotlands is the long, lustrous grey fleece, in shades of dark to light silver grey. The curls are clearly defined and very soft to the touch.
The fleece is fully developed at 4 to 5 months of age and then gives a beautiful furskin, useful in a number of ways. The meat is tender, tasty and lean. Gotland sheep ewes are good mothers, prolific, with a hardy and adaptive nature and the breed is well adapted to feed on marginal land such as unfertilized meadows and pastures and high hill country.
The furskins are tanned and shorn to different hair lengths and used mainly for handicraft, interior decoration and clothing.
High quality lambskins for the market should have
- Shades of grey from white to black, although the breeding goal is still from light to dark grey, with a clear tone (free from red, beige or brown)
- Curls of uniform size, ca 10–15 mm with a three-dimensional structure
- A silky and lustrous wool fibre
The carcass weight of the slaughtered lambs should be at minimum 18-22 kg and reached at the time when furskin quality is high, i.e 120-180 days (early fall in Sweden). The carcass should reach R- to R+ on the EUROP scale at a fat classification from 2- to 3.
Important notice (our comment):
Due to the fact that furskins loses their uniformity in late autumn, it is of highest importance that Gotlands are ready to market early, to ensure the value of the fur. Selection for growth rate and body conformation must be considered carefully for this reason, to minimize the overall need of supplemental feeding and thereby, increasing profitability in the breeding programme. Beautiful fleece and pelts in combination with good growth on pasture alone is dependent on genetic traits and good management practices.