“Faroese sheep are among the best mothers in the world” – Meet the sheep farmer who continues his country’s unique traditions

Sheep farmer Eyðun Eliassen has been raising the Faroese breed for the last 20 years in the mountains around the small village of Trøllanes at the northern end of the Faroe Islands.

he former dairy farmer with an agronomic background who previously worked for the islands’ Department of Agriculture lambed 300 ewes in his purpose-built lambing pen this May.

Although the annual income of his sheep farm averages 150,000 Danish kroner (around €20,000) gross, including a small subsidy of 50,000 Danish kroner (around €6,700) to help with grass production, he says: “I don’t farm the land in the Faroe Islands for the money”.

Speaking of Independent Farming Visiting the company with the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, the married father of four, who has lived in the region all his life, said he is proud to carry on the country’s unique sheep farming traditions.

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Sheep farmer Eyðun Eliassen

“We get the females from the mountains in winter and they are kept indoors, we lamb indoors in May.

“The females will be ready to mate that same fall and the males will be ready for slaughter in the winter, so next spring there will be more sheep and lambs again very quickly.

“I get 1.5 lambs per ewe per year with a slaughter weight of 16/17 kg. Meat is my main business; we slaughter about 250 lambs a year; We slaughter all males in the fall and keep some females as spares.

“We don’t salt the meat – we butcher it, clean it and then hang it up for five months from October to February, it’s very natural, it’s a Faroese tradition, it’s our way of consuming our food.

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Eliassen lambed 300 ewes this May in his purpose built lambing pen.

“It’s the special climate here that allows us to do that, you wouldn’t do that anywhere else, it has to do with the meat and the climate here at this time of year.

“It’s a tradition from very old days when we didn’t have a fridge or anything like that to store food for ourselves for the winter, we also fermented fish so it’s a very old tradition.

“We mince the meat to make sausages from the ewes, we sell everything online or go to the market in Torshavn to sell, we mix pepper, salt and onions into the sausage.

“We get at least 1,500ml of rainfall a year, we also have more grass on the north end of Kalsoy island than on the south end – we don’t know why, but in winter it’s very stormy here and the sea explodes and spreads some good minerals on the land, there are also very large bird colonies here.

“Our customers are all private, I’m not allowed to sell to the supermarket, all my customers are at my house, they know me.

“Last year, fermented lamb was sold for 115 Danish kroner per kilo [around €15/kg] if it is fresh, it costs 80-100 kronor [around €10-13/kg]but I don’t sell fresh produce.”

Although Eyðun, who is also a tour guide and looks after the lighthouse, says the risk is greater if he lets his sheep walk up the steep rocky mountains, some stocks have been lost to the sea, he says: “The Faroese are breed very hard”.

“I think they are the best sheep mothers in the world, they are very, very good mothers. They are very easy to lamb; we don’t have to be here for every lamb.

“We’re not rich, it’s low income, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it – what makes me happiest is being myself and the work is manageable for my family, I have five or six men who help me to get the lambs from the mountain to be sheared and slaughtered.

“The same customers come back year after year, and when one of my customers dies at the age of 80, their grandchild rings the bell and says, ‘I want the meat,’ so it can be passed down through the generations.”

However, Eyðun has some concerns about the surge in tourists to his village following the unveiling of a new James Bond tombstone on the cliffs nearby where scenes from the secret agent’s latest film were filmed no time to die were filmed.

“I’m not happy to see more tourists, we’re usually a small village of 12 to 15 people, but between 8am and 4pm we become a minority with all the buses and cars coming here every day – me I can’t drive my tractor.

“The tourists don’t bother the sheep, they take care of nature, but there are things I don’t like, for example, drones are a problem at the lighthouse, it disturbs our large colonies of birds, they are afraid of the drones, so we have to stop it.”

https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/sheep/faroese-sheep-are-among-the-best-mothers-in-the-world-meet-the-sheep-breeder-continuing-his-nations-unique-traditions-41914607.html “Faroese sheep are among the best mothers in the world” – Meet the sheep farmer who continues his country’s unique traditions

Fry Electronics Team

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