Three Times The Value | Winter 2006 Out Here Magazine
Hardy Icelandic sheep provide milk, meat, and highly-coveted wool
Photography by Jeff Cooper
You might say it was rugged good looks that first attracted Delma Stamm to Icelandic sheep.
"I was trying to settle on a breed when I became intrigued by the Icelandics," Stamm says. "They are beautiful animals, and their striking looks really did sway me."
But Stamm also found plenty of practical reasons to choose Icelandic sheep for her small acreage in Washington, KS, among them the fact that Icelandics provide value in three ways: through meat, milk, and fiber.
Stamm and her husband, Anthony, started raising the sheep in 1999 after moving onto 15 acres. But her interest in livestock goes back more than three decades.
"I grew up on a farm, and I actually had sheep as a 4-H project when I was little," Stamm says. "I enjoyed them then, and knew that some day when I had a place where I could have sheep, I would want them."
She learned about Icelandics while researching sheep breeds.
"Icelandics are medium sized — something I could handle," Stamm says. Rams weigh from 180 to 220 pounds and ewes from 130 to 160 pounds. "And they have a fine wool, which is more in demand. It sells for $12 to $14 a pound, while ordinary wool often sells for 40 cents a pound."
Icelandics produce fiber in a variety of colors, including white, brown, gray, and black, and is preferred by artisans for that reason and for its ease of spinning. Each sheep gives 2 to 4 pounds of wool per clip.
Stamm breeds for variety of color and for horns, preferring sheep that produce curled horns similar to the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Not all Icelandics have horns.
"The horns are nice to look at and they can make a nice skull mount," Stamm says. "And they are easier to grab when you want to work the animal, like handlebars."
Icelandics are relatively docile. "Their personalities are just not that wild," Stamm says. "They are pretty easy to work with."
Additionally, the Icelandic's diet consists primarily of grass, which results in an especially mild-flavored meat.