Sheep breeds
Rouge de l’Ouest

Béliers Rouge de l'Ouest - Crédit : DR
Béliers Rouge de l'Ouest - Crédit : DR
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

The native home region of the Rouge de l’Ouest is the Mayenne, Maine et Loire and Sarthe départements, but the breed developed rapidly in the surrounding departements as well and purebred flocks are now found primarily in the Poitou-Charentes, Pays de la Loire and Brittany regions.

This large-framed breed is most often managed in semi-free-range systems, with grass-feeding methods often associated with cattle breeding. The ewes are turned out to pasture, except during winter. Lambing takes place in February-March in sheepfolds. In the farms in the selection flocks, 30% of lambings take place in November-December for genetic purposes, through artificial insemination to evenly distribute the best rams of the breed, qualified as "Meat Improvers".

Ewe lambs mature early enough for their first mating to take place as soon as the following mating season, in the autumn. Some farmers manage to accelerate reproductive rhythms using hormone treatments, with the goal of reaching steadier lamb production spread over the course of the year.

The Rouge de l’Ouest is a breed with good prolificacy and its high suckling abilities enables dams to easily suckle multiple lambs. Lambs are either left to suckle to produce grass-fed lambs or quickly weaned and fattened to produce heavier lambs. Rams are used in purebred but also crossbreeding, that enables to produce lambs with better frame and conformation without excessive fat.


Defined by the GEODE Selection Organization, the breed improvement objectives are primarily focused on meat production qualities, while also maintaining breeding qualities (prolificacy and suckling abilities).

The individual on-station testing site located in the Maine-et-Loire is one of the programs key resources for controlling sires within the program: selection of lambs born from the most productive ewes, choice of rams to be progeny-tested and propagated in priority to the selection flocks and artificial insemination centers.


Key figures

  • 95,000 ewes
  • 28 flocks under official performance recording system
  • 3,906 ewes under on-farm official performance recording system
  • 23,509 artificial inseminations
  • Adult ewe weight:
    70 to 800 kg
  • Adult ram weight:
    90 to 150 kg
  • Prolificacy after natural estrus: 1.8
  • 30-day weight (singleton male): 14.7 kg
  • 70-day weight (singleton male): 25.8 kg
  • Average Daily Gain 30-70 days (singleton male): 279 g

Results of on-farm performance recording system 2014 - Institut de l’Elevage & Races de France