Thursday, January 22, 2015

Processing Sheepskin Pelts

Icelandic Sheepskin Pelt
Processing the sheep's hides when they come off the animal is a multi-step process. It's a messy job, one that requires fortitude, commitment and perseverance.

Late fall is the time of slaughter. Many folks don't bother with the hides because it is a lot of work. But, once process, Icelandic sheepskin pelts are incredibly gorgeous and luxurious and they make a fine value added product for the farm.

This year we had 35 animals processed between our wholesale and retail business. Most slaughterhouses will give you the skins if you ask for them, but it often does require an additional trip to the processor to pick them up. Ask your facility, perhaps they can freeze them and hold them for you. Some slaughterhouses will actually salt them for you, but you'll still need to let them dry a bit before shipping them off.

We typically make the extra trip down to pick up horns (a post for another day!) and hides. Once we get them home, we scrape them and trim the fat. We cut and trim the neck and crotch where they need evening out. Then each pelt is salted by hand with copious amounts of fine salt which can be obtained in 50lb bags from your local feed store.

Then the pelts are hung to drip dry. The fleeces are filled with blood from the slaughter. The salt preserves the skin of the hide, preventing rot. It also prevents the terrible odor associated with decaying biological material. Salting the pelts is necessary in order to get them to a tannery for tanning.



Once the hides have hung for a few weeks, they should be sufficiently dry to mail out, which is no small task. We typically role them skin in and pack them in plastic bags before packing them in boxes 3-5 pelts per box, which weigh about 15-20 lbs. It's about $20 to ship three Icelandic pelts USPS.

There are a few processing facilities that will handle Icelandic sheep skins because of their dual coat and exceptionally long staple length. We use Bucks County Fur Products in Pennsylvania. The cost ranges from $50-70 per pelt for processing, plus you'll have a several hundred dollars in shipping if you are working with 35 pelts like we did this year. The turn around time seems to be pretty consistently around 16 weeks. So if you want pelt for the holidays, you've got to get them into the pipeline and plan on carrying over some for the next holiday season.


At the end of it all, you'll have a beautiful product that your customer will love and enjoy for years to come. We regularly have customers come back to us at the farmer's market and tell us how much they love their pelt.

Click here to see our Icelandic sheepskin pelts for sale: Icelandic Sheepskins.

Alina loves her pelt