We're proud of our sheep because they are the best combination of the efforts of Stefania Dignum who single handedly brought them from Iceland in 1985 and the efforts of American breeders since the first grou in was brought into this country in 1992 by Barbara Webb of Jager Farms, combined with the best current Icelandic genetics through artificial insemination!
As we all know, Iceland has a very different climate from the United States, and the dedicated American breeders who brought these sheep in from Canada spent years in breeding sheep that were hardy here and could thrive in our warmer climate. Those breeders have done an admirable job over the years, selecting for hardiness in OUR climate, for improved, more luxurious and softer fleece, and for more and more sheep with the wonderful colors inherent in the breed!
Icelandic sheep farmers in Iceland have worked for years toward breeding some of these same qualities in their stock, but have concentrated on producing white sheep with superior fleece that would produce wool to benefit the commercial market, which utilizes a chemical dye process most successfully used with white wool. Genetics for superior white fleece and meat conformation have been successfully capitalized upon in Iceland. Since 1999, breeders in this country have had access to these genetics through artificial insemination.
As result of AI, more diverse genetics are available to us all. However, we at HeartsEase do not offer sheep who are the result of AI insemination—the sheep we offer for sale are second generation, at least.
Why? Because we feel strongly that the sheep we offer to our buyers must have not only the combination of all the best genetics for conformation and fleece (AND color), but that have the best chance of developing their potential because they are well acclimated to our climate.
We may ourselves use rams who are from AI, but we will not be offering direct AI offspring to our buyers. We will take the risk of poor heat tolerance in our breeding rams and breed them to ewes who are the result of our efforts to breed for hardiness in our climate. We do this in order to produce sheep for our buyers who will exhibit the heat tolerance which our predecessors worked so hard for! So you will see Icelandic sires behind all our sheep, but they will be at least two generations back.
The Icelandic rams that are white offer outstanding genetics for fleece, but not color. There are now colored AI ram semen being used to produce color for our markets here. However, they're not as outstanding for fleece as the white rams from Iceland. Our policy is to blend the best of both, by using colored rams who come from outstanding white AI ewes that were bred to Icelandic colored rams or the reverse. We then use these rams to produce the very best lambs (with both outstanding color and fleece) for our customers--and for ourselves, too, of course! We started by using AI grandsons and doubling up on AI blood in our ewes where we could. In recent years, we've used rams that are a direct result of AI sires. On our lists, you can count on us to always provide information on what AI lines an individual sheep traces back to.
In this way, we can offer you the best of all worlds!