Sheep breeds

Brebis Vendéennes - Crédit : Ch. Merieau
Brebis Vendéennes - Crédit : Ch. Merieau
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

Developed by crossbreeding diverse and varied local sheep with the English Southdown breed, the Vendéen has been stabilized since the early 20th century. The breed’s native home area is located in the Pays de la Loire – Poitou-Charentes regions.

These two regions have made the Vendéen well-adapted to temperature variations, as well as to alternating periods of drought and heavy rainfall. The breed is suitable for free-range farming systems, semi-free-range systems in which ewes come into the sheepfold shortly before lambing according to their physiological condition, and sheepfold systems for intensive breeding. Meat lambs are most often sheepfold-fattened.

The breed’s high prolificacy is combined with early sexual maturity, which allows lambing in the first year and early mating does not adversely affect ewe lamb careers. The meat production traits of the breed have gained a good reputation, resulting from good growth potential and excellent conformation.

For these reasons, rams are often used for crossbreeding, which has extended the Vendéen’s popularity towards the Limousin, central France, the Midi-Pyrénées, etc. as well as internationally.


The breeding objectives for this breed aim at improving meat production qualities. The first stage of selection is based on parents’ evaluation and planned mating: "Elite" and "Improver" rams are mated through artificial insemination or natural servicing with ewes qualified as Ram Dams and Ewe Dams.

The best female specimens resulting from this mating ensure breeding farm population renewal, while the best rams are integrated into individual on-station testing systems once their scrapie resistance has been checked.

Individual on-station selection takes place through testing, with the emphasis on meat production merit: muscle development, growth, fat, etc. Progeny testing is then carried out on the best on-station rams, by mating with 100 ewes per ram to produce a minimum of 25 ewes that will then be tested with regard to suckling abilities and prolificacy.

Concerning meat production qualities, the Selection Organization has initiated a progeny testing program in partnership with Insémovin to evaluate for meat production merit rams propagated by artificial insemination. Each year, 10-12 rams participate in intra-breed comparisons. Performance data of a minimum of 20 progeny are recorded on-farm (weighing) and in the slaughterhouse (on carcasses).


Key figures

  • 80,000 ewes
  • 31 flocks under official performance recording system
  • 7,537 ewes under on-farm official performance recording system
  • 11,867 artificial inseminations
  • Adult ewe weight:
    70 to 80 kg
  • Adult ram weight:
    110 to 150 kg
  • Prolificacy after natural estrus: 1.8
  • 30-day weight (singleton male): 13.3 kg
  • 70-day weight (singleton male): 25.9 kg
  • Average Daily Gain 30-70 days (singleton male): 299 g

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