East Friesian sheep originally come from East Friesia, Germany. They are a polled, dairy breed with distinctive ‘rat like' tails. Friesian sheep are a ‘marsh type' group of breeds that include the East Friesian, the Dutch Friesian and the Zeeland milk sheep. Some consider that the Texel might be a derivative of the Friesian breed.
East Friesian sheep are known for their high fertility and lean carcase. They produce a white wool measuring between 35 and 37 microns, with a staple length between 120-160 mm. Their fleece typically weighs 4-5 kilograms and is ideally suited to carpet manufacturing.
East Friesian sheep are known to record the highest average dairy milk yield. East Friesians can produce between 300-600 litres every 200-300 day lactation (with 6-7 per cent milk fat). Because of these traits, this breed is ideal for cross-breeding with other milk breeds where breeders aim to improve fecundity, or to enhance milk production in meat breeds. Friesian cross lambs exhibit particularly fast growth rates. They are also recognised for high fertility, averaging 2.25 lambs.
East Friesians are relatively large, with mature ewes weighing between 85-90 kilograms on average. They produce a lean carcase and are suitable for producing three types of lamb including beta lambs, sucker lambs and heavy weight lambs. East Friesian sheep were initially imported into New Zealand in 1992. There, they underwent stringent quarantine processes before arriving in Australia in 1996/7.