East Friesian

Origin & History

This long established breed originated in the Friesland/Ost Friesland area in the north of Holland and Germany. In Europe it has been used either pure as a milking breed, as a crossing breed with other milking sheep breeds, or to improve fecundity and milk production in meat production breeds.

In December 1992 eleven pregnant ewes and four rams were imported into New Zealand from Sweden and entered 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 occurred in March 1996, with 40 rams being sold while the remaining animals were held back to expand the flock numbers. However, there were substantial sales of semen, with an estimated 50,000 ewes of various breeds being artificially inseminated.

In 1995, the first flock was registered with the NZSBA by Silverstream East Friesians and in 1996 several more flocks were registered and this has continued.

Silverstream Blue 40 © Graham Meadows Photography
Silverstream Blue 40 © Graham Meadows Photography

Profile Of the East Friesian Sheep

  • A large framed sheep, ewes 85 to 95 kgs, thin tailed, and very clean around the back end
  • Pink nose, and head and legs clear of wool, pale hooves
  • Lean on the outside of their carcase
  • High fertility; very milky
  • White wool of approximately 37 microns.

A dual purpose, high fertility breed used to increase flock fertility. A sire for creating crossbred ewes and as a terminal crossing sire. Also used for breeding milking ewes.

Silverstream B26 'Big Jonah' © Graham Meadows Photography
Silverstream B26 'Big Jonah' © Graham Meadows Photography

Breed Classification

A thin-tailed breed that has high fecundity and high milk production.

Particularly used for cross-breeding to improve the milk production and lambing percentage of other sheep breeds. The East Friesian will also become the basis for establishment of a sheep milking industry for the production of fetta cheese and other sheep-milk products.

East Friesian Ewe © Graham Meadows Photography
East Friesian Ewe © Graham Meadows Photography
Bodyweight Milk

Ewes: 75-95 kg (165-209 lb)

Rams: 100-125 kg (220-275 lb)

The most productive sheep breed in the world, producing 500-600 litres per 210 to 230 day lactation.


Very good lamb growth rates.

Carcase very lean.

Bulky, medium-coarse, white.

Fibre diameter: 35-37 microns.

Staple length: 120-160 mm (4.7-6.3 inches)

Fleece weight: Range 4-5 kg (8.8-11 lb); Average 4.5 kg (10 lb)

Uses: An ideal carpet wool.

Average of 280 percent in mature ewes.