Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lambs 2015 Part 3

On 4/27, Whispering Pines Pearl had fawn and grey katmoget ewes out of Egyptian Autumn. We always await Pearl's lambs with breathless anticipation because she always seems to have stuff that we really like. Also, we had never bred her to Egyptian Autumn before, but the genetic combination seemed right. Pearl is one of our finer adult ewes (in both bone and fleece).

I like these lambs and it's especially nice to get a black-based ewe out of Pearl, which hasn't happened before.

Whispering Pines Cordovan also lambed on the same day and also gave us two really nice ewe lamb. The first one was a spotted moorit ewe that is mostly white. The second was a smirslet sokket moorit ewe. Canterbury is the sire. Cordovan is another home grown ewe that took us generations to produce and it's nice to see offspring also that appear to be a step forward. Cordovan is out of Khan and our own Siena, two fantastic Shetlands.

Both lambs look to be future producers of fine fleeced lambs and should be given their genetics.

We caught a little bit of a break before the final two ewes lambed on May 2nd. For some reason, all of the ewes lambed within a two week window this year, which is a good, but tiring thing.

Kahlua started with a fawn katmoget ewe out of Canterbury that is the type of ewe lamb we always hope for but rarely get. The rams are the ones that seem to turn out this way. Kahlua is also out of some really fine genetics. Her sire is Wintertime Grasshopper, and her mother is Winter Sky Vogue.

Yes, it would be nice to get this in a black-based ewe, but when you breed brown-to-brown, that's not going to happen.

Whispering Pines Caramel Mocha brought the curtain down on this year's lamb crop with an especially nice fawn katmoget ram. Yes, we need another fawn katmoget ram like we need a kick to the solar plexis, but when they are this nice, you don't complain. Caramel Mocha is out of Khan and Genoa, which is two more reasons to rejoice about this ram. He is out of genetics that are about as good as it gets. I'm not sure if he's our best ram lamb this year, but he's in the top four for sure.


So, there you have it. The goal each year is to make our flock better and we definitely did that. Now the task is to sell enough ewes to make room for the new additions, and in the process, somehow not make the flock worse. We are now at the point where we can't merely pencil in lambs and know our flock is improved. Instead, we have to sell ewes that are about as good as it gets just to keep our flock down to a reasonable size. If the lambs don't turn out like we expected, it's always a set back because a ewe that is better is no longer in the flock. But that's why I get paid the big bucks to sort all of this out and be right about it 100% of the time. Sure.

Even if I am wrrrrrrrong, however, we still have a very nice ewe lamb with many generations of fine fleece genetics in their background, and as you can see, our sheep just don't throw back to coarse stock very often anymore. I think we batted almost 100% last year with our lambs (in terms of our mind's eye of what we are looking for) and I believe we did that this year also.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Lambs Part 2

Lambing is in the books for 2015 and I will be updating the blog over the next few days with the results.

On April 24th, Blue Diamond had two very nice fawn katmoget ewes that we decided will be for sale. We like them, but keeping them will mean selling more adults that we don't want to part with. Nice and nearly identical ewe lambs out of Egyptian Autumn!

On April 25th, Itasca had twin ram lambs. These are the first rams she has had for us, which works out well. These lambs are out of Egyptian Autumn.

The grey katmoget is very beautiful. He is a dark grey, which is our favorite color. The black one is also extremely nice, and it's a color we have had a hard time producing here at Whispering Pines. We have found the blacks to be particularly difficult to get in a fine fleece, but this one looks promising.

Next up was Siena on the same day. She had two beautiful fawn katmogets out of Canterbury, and both are among our best this year. In our experience, when a ewe has a boy and a girl, the ram seems to always be the better of the two for reasons I don't understand. I think that will be the case here as well. This ram's fleece is exquisite! I like the dark chocolate ewe a great deal as well, but the lighter ram just looks out of this world.

Genoa is another Pompey daughter that we think is a Shetland that has a hallowed place on our farm. She and Siena are certainly in the top 5% of sheep we have raised here.

This year, we bred her to Canterbury and she came through with a grey katmoget ram and a black ewe on April 26th.

The ewe looks like she'll be nice, and we certainly welcome another black!

The ram is absolutely the darkest one we have ever had here. In fact, I thought he was solid black when he was born. Wow! We already penciled him in as a flock sire for this fall because it's a color that we simply want more of!

Later that day, Constantinople gave us two really nice fawn katmogets - a ram and a ewe.
The ewe is a darker color. The ram is a yuglet katmoget, and very flashy. Both are out of Canterbury.

I will post the last four lambs on Wednesday (Pearl, Kahlua, Caramel Mocha, and Cordovan). I don't want to say we saved the best for last, but they are really nice!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Lambs Part 1

Well, lambing season is upon us, and this year is particularly exciting for us here at Ye Whispering Pines Farm. It’s exciting because this year is five years in the making. We used two incredible rams last year. Both were fawn katmogets. Why these two rams? Because I think they both rate within the top five Shetland rams I have ever laid my hands on. I have visited 15 farms since we have been in the Shetland business and handled, I don’t know, a thousand sheep? More importantly, perhaps, we have raised Shetlands with all different fleece types (and I do mean all) and these two are the best of the best that we have raised.

I think that’s the exciting part also for us. These two rams are home grown and they came into being as part of a long term plan that has brought us to 2015.

Canterbury is a two year old ram who has a 19 micron fleece with a very low coefficient of variation (around 17%). He’s the finest Shetland that we have raised so far. More importantly, his fleece has the type of uniformity and consistency that we raise here. He is also a very refined ram, almost feminine in appearance. Beautiful head, and just very fine boned. He is out of Winter Sky Khan (one of the finest Shetland rams in the country) and Whispering Pines Pearl, who is a Wintertime Bond daughter. We were very excited to see lambs on the ground from him because of both his bloodlines and his appearance. We would like to have more Shetlands like him, in other words. Plus, he’s mioget. So far, his are the only lambs we have had in 2015, so here is where we are as of today:

Turin (who is out of Winter Sky Vogue (a very nice ewe in her own right) and Sheltering Pines Pompey Magnus. I thought this two year old ewe was pretty special when she was born and she has developed nicely. The thought was that we would combining some pretty excellent bloodlines with this breeding, which should bring us lambs with special qualities. Although, I was correct, I didn’t expect what we got this year.

This fawn katmoget ram is a yuglet sokket with an excellent fleece! As you can see, he’s very flashy, but uniform. He doesn’t fall off in the hips like a lot of Shetlands, and he will be very crimpy. Also, he is polled.

I didn’t realize Canterbury carries spots, but that’s a nice bonus, since I really would like to develop a line of super fine spotted sheep. The problem is that it’s difficult to produce spotted Shetlands that don’t suck. I like this guy. It gives us the potential to bring the top Shetland bloodlines together at some point in the future with spotted offspring in mind. A few people in the country have been able to do that successfully, but we have not unfortunately. It’s very difficult.

Next in line was Blue Sapphire on April 18th. Sapphire is an example of a successful spotted Shetland strategy, but one of the few that we have had. Keep in mind that our bar is pretty high for Shetlands, so we have produced good spotted sheep, just nothing that measures up to her. She’s kind of our gold standard for spotted Shetlands. Her fleece consistently commands a high price. She is out of Blues Clues, who was out of Wintertime Blues, an F1 Jericho. That’s a bloodline that I really like, which is why she is so valuable to us. You won’t find a better spotted Shetland in the Jericho bloodline.

She had two ewe lambs this year (big smile) and both have great promise.

The moorit is a smirslet sokket, who arguably has the nicest brown fleece that we have lambed here. You never know if a fleece will mature as nicely as you think it will, but this one has promise.

Her sister is a fawn katmoget, perhaps even nicer. I find that the katmoget fleeces tend to be nicer than the unpatterned ones, but I don’t have a good explanation for that. In this case, however, it’s close. Very pleased with these lambs because there’s the potential to get Sapphire’s strengths AND Canterbury’s in one sheep. These are the best lambs that Sapphire has produced, except maybe for Egyptian Autumn, her first lamb.

On April 21st, Whispering Pines Florence (another Pompey daughter out of Blue Sapphire…see what I am saying) produced an absolutely stunning fawn katmoget ewe lamb out of Canterbury. Pearl was probably the best ewe lamb ever born here, but this one is even better.

Her fleece is like velvet. I love this ewe lamb! You might ask how one can know how lambs over history rank against each other, and I don’t have a good answer except to say, you just know. It can’t be measured at this age, you just know.

Vittoria is another fawn katgmoget ewe out of Pompey and Sommarang Isla. She had an identical twin that we still own and I like both of them still. Vittoria has matured nicely as a two year old and this is her first lamb.

This very dark chocolate fawn katmoget ewe lamb is also out of Canterbury. No spots, but the quality is excellent. I would say this lamb is much like her mother was as a lamb, but slightly finer.

This is the funny thing about Shetlands. You can see that we have a lot of fawn katmoget ewes, but you get a lot of variety within that bucket. The fleeces are different colors and types. Now none of the fleeces are the shaggy North American Shetland type that you see, but they would look right at home in the breed’s homeland in the UK, which is what we are after.

This dark chocolate color is a Pompey attribute that I like. The grey katmogets are often the same way. It’s clearly genetic because we get it quite often.

Winter Sky Vogue is one of our best moorits and she had two very nice lambs on April 22nd out of Canterbury (he was a very busy ram during the first few days of breeding season…apparently). Vogue came to us from Karen Valley’s farm in the upper peninsula in Michigan and we have always liked this ewe. Good brown Shetland ewes are very rare. Great ones are anyway.

The fawn katmoget ram came first. Notice how light his fleece is. That’s the difference between Pompey and other rams. But I like the diversity in color and this ram lamb is excellent! I really like him. He will be polled.


The ewe lamb is moorit and also very nice. I think she compares favorably with Blue Sapphire’s moorit ewe, but they are both superb examples of what the Shetland breed can be (but often isn’t).

Venice also lambed later on that day, giving us a very nice fawn katmoget ram. Notice he is darker. That’s because Venice is also a Pompey daughter.

That brings us up-to-date. The lambs so far are the best we have had in the 14 years we've been doing this, which is always the goal. It gets tougher each year, however, to produce lambs that are better than their mothers. The mothers are the best-of-the best that we either have been able to produce or find. Our goal each year isn’t to produce the finest Shetlands on the planet, but rather to create sheep that are as correct to the standard as they can be. You never want to lose sight of the fact that Shetlands are famous for being the finest of the British breeds, but they are not Merinos either. After doing this for years, in my opinion, the best Shetlands will have fleeces around 3” – 4” as adults with average microns in the mid 20’s. The key is to maintain correct lock structure as well as the myriad of other fleece characteristics. It’s rare for us to get low 20’s microns without losing the other things, but that could be the bloodlines that we have. It’s equally rare for us to have 5” fleeces that have good Shetland properties.
But that’s a topic for a future blog post. The key right now is that we are still progressing toward our goals and I am very pleased with this year's lamb crop so far. Who knows, these may be the best lambs that we ever produce here. Like I said, there has to be a point where you strike the balance and can then focus on things like color and spots. There’s always something else you learn each year about Shetlands, however. Another layer to the onion, if you will.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Ram Lamb Sales List

After much soul searching and analysis, we have finalized our sales list for our 2014 lambs. We have eight top notch rams for sale from some of the top bloodlines in the country. I will provide very detailed answers to any of your questions, so don’t hesitate to ask. I would use all eight of these rams in our own breeding program, so let me just say that to start. I do not have micron test results, but I do believe that each of these will be grade 1 premium FFSSA rams as yearlings. That’s a projection based on my own evaluations.
These rams are also either polled or half-polled. Most have very small scurs. Two have longer scurs. It’s debatable whether the ram with the longer scurs is fully horned or half-polled, but I do believe he carries one gene for each.
Our mission continues to be to produce fine fleeced Shetlands that resemble what you would see in the UK where the breed originated. All eight of these rams are an example of our work toward that mission and I believe virtually every flock in the country would benefit from the quality of these rams and what I think they can produce.
I will not be keeping any of these guys, so if they don’t sell, they will go to market. That would be a shame, but it’s the same problem everyone has, I guess. If you can find better rams than these guys, my advice would be to buy them. Great Shetland fleeces are relatively rare in this country, and if you are interested in that, the ram is arguably the most important ingredient to obtaining them. It took us years of work to consistently produce animals of this quality, which we could not have done so without having access to the best flocks in the country. I am grateful to those flocks for their help and we want to work with new customers to extend the same courtesy.

What I like most about the moorit ram above is the wool on the poll. It's a trait that is authentic Shetland, and in all the years we have been doing this, we haven't produced it very often.

This grey katmoget ram is out of Constantinople, who also exhibits wool on the poll. Very nice ram!