IlE De France Sheep


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 is America.

Why did we get into them?

(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. 

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


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. 


(Information below obtained from UPRA L'ile - de - France breed literature)

The Ile de France sheep was developed in France by the careful crossing of Dishley stock (progeny of the New Leicester - an English breed improved by Bakewell) with Rambouillet Merinos, then Mauchamp Merinos.

The history of the Ile de France breed is closely linked with the history of sheep farming in France. After wool prices fell at the start of the 19th century (1800's) French sheep were bred for meat production. As a result, in 1824 Auguste Yvart, a professor at Maisons-Alfort National Veterinary College undertook to breed a new sheep better suited to current economic conditions by crossing Dishley rams with Merino breeds used in France. This crossbreeding began in 1832, and by the late 1800's established a new breed with the qualities of both original breeds.

This new breed spread throughout the Ile-de-France region, where they were especially popular on farms as users of crop by-products.

The Paris General Agricultural Show admitted Dishley Merinos for showing in 1875.

In 1882, progressive farmers created a Flock Book and gave the Dishley Merino its final name, the Ile-de-France. The outstanding success of the Ile de France since then is due to the Flock Book having achieved its objectives and the quality of the stock.

In 1933, Professor Leroy instituted performance recording for the Ile de France; a great step forward.

By 1959, performance recording was adopted by all French sheep breeds.In 1960, due to economic conditions, Ile de France breeders decided to concentrate on reproductive and growth characteristics, especially prolificacy.

In 1968, the Ile de France Flock Book began batch progeny testing of rams and set up a testing station.

In 1972, the testing station opened at Verdilly under the aegis of the Ile de France UPRA. UPRA included all persons and organizations concerned with the Ile de France breed. The UPRA became responsible for the future of the Ile de France breed, taking over the Flock Book.

In 1979, the UPRA decided to leave the Ile de France female progeny on the farm for indexing of breeding stock. 

In 1983, the UPRA held the first International Conference of Ile de France breeders in Aisne.

In 1990, Individual Station Recording of rams was introduced into the Ile de France genetic improvement program to satisfy the meat industry's requirements.The final result of all this careful selection is that the

Ile de France has become the dominant breed in France. It is also one of the top meat breeds in the world, being exported to more than 30 countries.



The Ile-de-France prolificacy has continued to increase steadily since 1968 when it was 130%, and breeders began selecting for more prolificacy. In 1991, the average productivity for the Ile-de-France breed calculated from 24,666 ewes performance recorded was 168%. The average for UPRA flocks ( 11,737 ewes) was 171% for fall lambing. The five top breeders recorded 198% for spring lambing.

Breeding Season

The ability to breed "out of season" is one of the characteristics which the Ile-de-France has retained from its Merino ancestors. In France, about 64 % of all Ile-de-France lambs are born between September and November.

Milking Ability

Ile de France ewes are good milkers. 83 % of twin lambs born are raised successfully on the ewe without assistance.

The Ile de France Breeding Program

Since 1968, the Ile de France UPRA has stated clearly defined breeding objectives: improve prolificacy, reproduction and growth qualities, to breed for meat production demanded by the market, and maintain the ability to breed out of season.

24th feb 2011 Australian Ile de France Sheep Assoc - officially formed includes studs from wa, vic, SA and NSW.  Mark Johnson - President, Rob Hewton vic president, Dani Hewton Secretary and Ian Mcdougall treasurer.

Major objectives of the association are

1. The promotion of the Ile de France breed of sheep and to encourage and assist members in the breeding and continual improvement of their Ile de France stud sheep, by providing a range of resources and practical experiences.

2. Provision of stud flock numbers to member studs and establishment and maintenance of a pedigree flock book enabling ease of stud identification and clarity of sheep pedigree.


Particular focus is on quality animal breeding - strict guidelines regarding sheep conformation, resistance to fly strike, early high growth and good muscling are in place and must be maintained to ensure all member studs are of the highest standards and the breed is and continues to remain a leader among the terminal and maternal type breeds.