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East Friesian Sheep
A Minority Breed from Europe
The East Friesian breed originated in the Friesland area in the north of Holland and Germany. In Europe it has been used either purely as a milking breed – it is considered to be the world's highest producing dairy sheep – though it is often crossed with other breeds to improve fecundity and milk production in breeds that are bred for their meat or for their milk production. The East Friesian is described as a large-framed, high-fertility breed with a pink nose and a thin tail. (See the lamb's tail in the photograph below.)
Some breeders refer to their very quiet temperament and docile nature, though it is not clear whether this is more pronounced than other sheep that have close contact with humans.
The New Zealand Sheep Breeders' Association reports that the first importation of East Friesians to this courtry was in December 1992 when eleven pregnant ewes and four rams were imported from Sweden and were put into a private quarantine station at Silverstream, near Dunedin. Thereafter a breeding programme was commenced using embryo transfer techniques, with only those animals derived from the embryo transfers eligible for release from quarantine.
The first release took place in March 1996, with 40 rams being sold while the remaining animals were retained to expand the flock numbers. However, there were substantial sales of semen, with an estimated 50,000 ewes of various breeds being artificially inseminated.
The first flock was registered in 1995 and by 2014 there were seven stud flocks registered in New Zealand. There are, however, a number of small unregisterd flocks of purebred or crossbred East Friesians.
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