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Breed History


Ile de France


What are they?idffeb12 2

Ile-de-France is a breed of sheep native to the French region of Île-de-France near Paris.  Today the Île-de-France is one of the top meat breeds worldwide, and is present in South Africa and the Americas as well as in Europe.

The Ile De France ram is widely used throughout the world as a terminal sire. Being active and hardy sheep with high prolifacy,   they sire strong fast growing lambs.

The ewe is noted as being extremely fertile, an excellent milk producer, easy lambed, with strong mothering capabilities and breeds naturally out of season.  Ewes are used in sheep dairies  in America.

Why did we get into them?


While we were (and still are) happy with our suffolk, we were also keen to find a breed of sheep that had a terrific carcass and growth rates combined with great fertility - particularly having the trait of being truly unseasonal.  We believe Western Australian sheep farmers are beginning to widely adopt a more serious approach to breeding top quality prime lambs in doing so are becoming more and more keen to use first cross dams that have these qualities. 


We spent a number of years searching for a breed that had both the terminal and maternal traits.  We had just about given up, believing that our dream of finding such a sheep was impossible, when we came across the Ile de France breed of sheep.  After a fair bit of research on the breed we came to realise we had finally found our dream sheep.  A sheep that would produce the ideal prime lamb as well as first cross (with pretty much any other breed) ewe for producing outstanding prime lambs.  This breed was perfect for the WA prime lamb market (using F1 ewes) that was just beginning to really take off.

(1) As a terminal sire to produce vigorous, hardy, fast growing lambs, yielding carcasses which grade well and demonstrate superior muscling of the loin and leg. They perform well on grain rations, and are particularly successful when raised on pasture. They finish at a variety of weights between 35 & 65kg.  They are incredibly virile, a 1% ram mating ratio is more than adequate, thus saving costs on ram purchase and upkeep.

(2) As a maternal sire for crossbreeding over commercial flocks of other breeds. They add hardiness, longevity, feed conversion, out of season breeding ability and an excellent flocking instinct. They are valued for their survival instincts as adults and as new born lambs with heavily insulated birth coats. Their clean breech and high wool quality is an asset when crossed with a range breeds.   First cross ewes tends to produce multiple lambs at each lambing and are able to lamb 3 times in 2 years.  The ile de france dams, great milking and mothering ability also tends to make F1 dams  produce excellent fast growing well muscled lambs.


(3) Ile de France sheep tend to have bare breeches - no need to mulse to prevent fly strike in Australia

mo x idf lambs2013 (9)1
mo x idf lambs2013twins
mo x idf lambs2013 (5)1

Merino ewes with merino x idf lambs


Birth Mass

Lambs are small under normal feeding practices (appr. 4 kg) and lambing problems seldom occur. Due to the remarkable vigour of the lambs together with the outstanding mothering ability of the ewes, the birth mortality rate is limited to a minimum.

Growth Rate

The Ile de France lamb has excellent growth abilities and with good nutrition, weights of between 19 and 22 kg at 42 days and between 34 and 41 kg at 100 days can easily be achieved. Hence the popularity of the Ile de France and Ile de France cross lambs - it enables the producer of slaughter lambs to market lambs from as early as 100 days and, therefore, more ewes can be kept on the same size of pasture.

Carcass Qualities

Results achieved at the National Carcass Competition undoubtedly prove that the Ile de France has outstanding carcass characteristics. (Slaughtering out % of up to 53% where 59% has been officially recorded)
The Characteristics are:

  • Free of excessive fat
  • outstanding muscle development
  • Large percentage of better cuts

Sexual maturity

Ewe lambs can be mated at an early age provided that they are well-developed with an average body mass of approximately 55 kg. This outstanding early sexual maturity enables the breeder to increase total longetivity lamb production.


The ability to breed "out of season" makes it possible to let ewes lamb every 7-8 months, which in practice means that 1,3 natural cycle pregnancies per year are achieved.


Ewes have an outstanding multiple pregnancy ability and lambing percentages of between 150 to 170% are achieved in flocks. Where the system of three lambing seasons in two years is adopted, a lambing percentage of 220% per annum is no exception. The prolificy of a ewe is determined by her age rather than by season of lambing. Provided that they are well-developed rams can be used from the age of 10 months. Ile de France rams are non seasonal active workers.

Milk Production and Mothering Ability

Due to the exceptionally good milk yield of ewes twins and triplets are reared without difficulty. As a result of outstanding mothering abilities a close linked bond exists between the ewes and lambs.


Ewes still produce lambs at the age of 9-10 years depending on nutrition. The case on record of a ewe of 11 years that produced 29 lambs is indeed proof to substantiate this fact.


Ile de France are found in more than 30 countries around the world. The breed is renowned for its excellent performance under semi-intensive, intensive and extensive conditions.

Wool qualities

The Ile de France produces a white, strong wool (23 - 27 micron) with a fleece free of pigmentation. The weight of a 12-month fleece is 3 - 4,5kg for ewes and 5-6 kg for rams with a staple of between 80 and 90 mm. First generation crosses with Merino ewes produce an outstanding medium wool.

Crossing ability  

As a terminal sire, the Ile de France ram conveys its exceptional conformation, muscle development and fast growth rate to its progeny with dominating effect. This quality is mainly responsible for the popularity of the Ile de France ram amongst producers of slaughter lambs and the breed indeed makes a big contribution, to supply the consumer with good quality lamb. Ile de France cross-bred females are high in demand due to their fertility, good milk production and outstanding mothering ability.

Rob & Dani Hewton       0428631059     +61 8 98631059

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