Assaf sheep – Israel’s best milking sheep

Assaf sheep is an Israel breed that is mainly raised for milk. Even their meat is well popular. Assaf sheep are a result of Awassi breed and  Friesian sheep.

Assaf sheep Characteristics

A medium-sized sheep which is white in color.

Both rams and ewes are polled(no horns).

Assaf is a very hardy breed, well adapted to local climates.

Well adapted to intensive farming as well.

The litter size is 1.6 lambs/ewe. The lambing interval is around 270 days.

The lactation period is 170 days and the average milk yield per year(lactation period) is 330 liters.

The average weight of the ewes and rams is about 80 kg and 110 kg respectively hence the reason why they are also used for meat production.

Assaf is mainly bred for both meat and milk production. 

The sheep breed is generally active and docile in temperament. They can easily be managed.

The lifespan is estimated at 7 years.

Things to know

Sheep breeders in Israel wanted to have an improved Awassi breed, to get better milk. Awassi breed produced an average of about 40 liters of milk per year. 

Through constant selective breeding and improved feeding, they were able to produce the best of Awassi sheep, which now produces an average of 550 liters of milk per year.

Breeders wanted to improve their lambing rate too. Awassi sheep produced one lamb per year. In order to improve the fertility of the Awassi, they cross-bred with the German East Friesian breed (famous for both milk and high fertility). As East Friesian breed is not adaptable to Israel’s climate, they wanted a mix of both.

After crossing both the breeds, breeders found a combination of 3/8 East Friesian and 5/8 Awassi was the best combination for high milk yield and good fertility. The advantages of a new crossbreed produce an average of 450 liters a milk a year. Even the lambing frequency has increased. lambings in 2 years with an average of 1.6 lambs per lambing. 

Naming this best cross-bred as Assaf sheep. In Israel the Assaf breed is managed under an intensive production system involving weaning lambs at birth, rearing them artificially, and milking ewes after parturition.

Due to higher demand, the breed is gaining popularity in neighboring countries like Portugal, Spain, Chile, Peru, and the USA.

Brief characteristics of Assaf Sheep

Breed NameAssaf Sheep
Other Name
Country/Place of OriginIsrael
Breed PurposeMilk and Meat
Breed SizeLarge
110 kg (240 lb)
Ewe(Female)80 kg (176 lb)
Kiddingsingle or twins
Good for Stall Fedopen grazing /intensive
Climate ToleranceNative Climates

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