Lena Persson is awool entrepreneur and part of the project that developed the “Jämtland sheep”. Some 20 years ago some wool and sheep enthusiasts in Northern Sweden asked themselves the question: Do we really have to import the fine merino-wool – couldn´t we keep the sheep here instead? Inspired by a wool industry in the area producing merino underwear they wanted to develop a local breed with wool fine enough to suite the industry.
1999 the journey began to create a Swedish breed with soft wool without losing other benefits. As meat for long has been the main thing in Swedish sheep production it was important to maintain fertility and growth while developing the wool quality.
In the project Ull-rika (wool-rich) during 2002-2008 six farmers was involved in crossbreeding the Swedish Svea sheep with merino. The Svea ewes are of meat breed and good mothers with high fertility. Some individuals also have very fine wool. At first merino semen from Denmark was used but it didn´t work out very well, so the next step was to import rams. The breeding work was facilitated by continuously using OFDA-100 optical fiber diameter analyzes of the wool.
In project ullFORuM (wool forum) 2008-2011 a mini mill with capacity of spinning 3-4 kg yarn per day was established for small-scale processing of the wool. There was also a felting machine. The project included courses for shearers and developing products together with the brand Design of jamtland and local craftspeople.
So where are we today? There were 382 ewes and 753 lambs of Jämtland breed registred in the Swedish national breeding database (Elitlamm) in 2019. Not all sheep are registred here, so the numbers might be a bit higher. The wool is very good with 17-23 microns on the ewes. Breeding is carefully planned to avoid inbreeding, but there is a need for new rams.
2020 the mini mill still runs under the name Yarns & Barns. Wool from Jämtland sheep is used in
Brattland sweater and hat made by Fjällräven, in a classic college sweater from A new Sweden, and of course it is popular among local crafters.
It takes time… but hopefully the breed will slowly grow and the wool increase in value! Most challenging was to get the rams into Sweden due to the bureaucracy, importing livestock includes a lot of paper work. The interest from farmers has been increasing as they see the value in the wool.