The Jämtland sheep combines great-tasting meat with high-quality wool.

“My best sheep is called Lena”

Most of the wool produced by sheep farmers in Sweden is discarded, burned or buried. A scandalous waste of resources according to many, and the reason why the Jämtland sheep was developed – a breed that combines high-quality wool with great-tasting meat. The future of the Jämtland sheep looks optimistic, says Anna Hedendahl of Nya Torsta, a knowledge center for green industries.

“Among my favorite things to do is to walk up to a grayish Jämtland sheep*, open up its thick fleece and discover the magical world hidden behind that layer of lanolin. The wool is so white, so shiny and so soft, it’s almost unreal. My hands get warm, glossy and soft by the lanolin finding its way down to the smallest crack of my chapped hands.

Shearing the wool of the Jämtland sheep is not the easiest thing to do. The fleece is thick and there is an incredible number of hairs, the skin is often thin and it wrinkles here and there. I have learned that I have to take care of the wool already at grazing. The animals have to be clean and dry when they are shorn and the fleece has to be sorted before it is packaged.

The shearing process makes me feel rich; it’s a treasure that I can enjoy and harvest twice a year. And every spring, I can’t wait for the new lambs to be born, so that I can see the results of the ram I have carefully selected for my flock. I know all the sheep, their wool, with pros and cons. I see qualities inherited and I see generations becoming better with each year.

« My best sheep is called Lena. She has the whitest and shiniest wool I have ever seen »

When the lambs are 110 days, I sample the wool and get it analysed. In order to pick out lambs for breeding, to evaluate the sheep, and eventually, to sell the wool at a good price. My best sheep is called Lena. She has the whitest and shiniest wool I have ever seen. The wool is 18-19 microns in diameter and the comfort is nearly a hundred percent. Last year she was awarded with a silver medal in the Swedish wool championships, and the fleece of 2.5 kilograms was sold for 850 SEK at auction.

The future of Jämtland wool looks promising. An increasing number of hand-spinners have fallen for it and the number of animals are on the rise. We have mills that can process the fine fibrous wool and we have customers who buy yarn with animal welfare, ecology, transparency and local production in mind. Eventually, some exclusive product will find its way on to the Swedish market.

While the number of dairy cows in Sweden is on a steady decline, leaving rich grassland deserted, endangering both plants and animals – in contrast to many parts of the world where overgrazing is a real threat– the number of sheep are on the rise. So these Jämtland sheep also fill an important function in keeping the landscapes open.”

Anna Hedendahl, Nya Torsta
Visit Nya Torsta here

* A crossbreed of at least 25 percent Merino (around 75 percent in Anna Hedendahl’s case), Svea and firewool sheep, the Jämtland sheep – named after a region in Sweden – is a breed developed to give a sheep whose wool is as high quality as its meat. 

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