oil on canvas, 50cm x 50cm, Iain White 2009, £250
Farming in Iceland is almost entirely animal based and for centuries, equalled sheep farming. Limited amounts of barley are grown, but mostly for animal fodder and still, most grain for fodder is imported. Pigs and poultry were rare or non-existing. Cattle production was only small scale 1-5 cows and then only at the bigger farms. Sheep produced the all important wool along with meat and milk and proved highly adaptable to the harsh environments of Iceland.
With the assistance of modern technology sheep production adapts well to the environment and climate and allows for semi-extensive production methods although most farmers house their livestock from November to May. Large common grazing areas in the central highlands ensure good growth conditions for the lambs at low cost.
Sheep production peeked in the late 1970’s when the number of winterfed sheep reached almost 900,000 but since then have fallen to half of that number.