Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ewe-A-Day - Whispering Pines Sherrie

Sherrie is another Stonehenge daughter that we are high on. Her mother is Blue Sapphire. Her fleece stats are: 22.9/4/17.3/7/21.6.
I think when you get your standard deviations down to 4.0, you are doing well. As with most of our fawn katmogets, I wish she was a different color, but when you get superb fleeces like this, you have to be happy regardless.
As with all of our sheep, however, I tend to get most excited about their genetics and what they might produce. Our yearlings just have several generations of fleeces that we really like. That increases the odds of getting really nice sheep. Having spent years breeding decent fleeces out of average or below average fleeces, I eventually came to realize that throwbacks are common place with Shetlands. The odds are much improved when you have three generations of genetics in a sheep's pedigree that meet our standards. That way, even if they throw back, it's to something really nice. Five generations would be better, but I don't think we have anything like that yet.
Here is her lamb picture:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ewe-A-Day - Whispering Pines Mustang Sally


Mustang Sally is another yearling moorit that we like a great deal. She is out of Khan and Siena. Her fleece results are: 23.1/4.6/19.9/7.8/22.3.
We like the super fine moorit fleeces, if for no other reason than how rare they are on our farm. I wouldn’t call her an improvement on her mother, but she is finer at this age. She is one of two Khan daughter that we still own. We do still have many of his grandkids, but we did have to move out some of his kids to make room for them.
I also thought she was a pretty nice lamb as this picture shows:

Ewe-A-Day - Whispering Pines Pamela

Pamela is out of Egyptian Autumn and Frangelico, who are excellent Shetlands in their own right. Pamela is finer than both of them were as yearlings, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign.

Her fleece stats are: 22.7/4.3/18.9/7.1/21.7. Frangelico was probably my favorite Khan daughter (or top three anyway). Having lambs like this, unfortunately, forced us to sell her to make room. It's a curse sometimes to have improved lambs, because at some point, you have to part with animals that produce really well. In Frangelico's case, all her lambs were outstanding. It's always a tough call to make, but you can't continue improving if you hold onto all the good ewes. You have to sell them knowing full well that their offspring carry even more potential. I don't think I've ever regretted selling a ewe, but Frangelico and her twin sister, Irish Mist were tough ones to let go.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ewe-A-Day - Rosanna

The yearling ewes are all extremely nice and they are out of three different rams, which is nice. It's always exciting to combine different ram and ewe genetics in a way that I think gives us the best odds of getting even better lambs. These yearlings are out of the best rams we have ever used in Canterbury, Stonehenge, and Khan. You aren't going to get much better than that. Which is why it shouldn't surprise me when most of the lambs are not better than those rams. Still, we know the ewes have a lot of genetic potential and sometimes we are able to get those rare lambs that are better than both parents. Not often,  but it happens. It's rare because very often you are combing animals that have one or more weaknesses and you are trying to get the best features of each parent without the negatives. That's exceedingly difficult to achieve. But it's fun to try and very rewarding when it happens. And sometimes you get something different, that you don't quite know how to characterize. Is he/she better or just different? It can take time to tell. Rosanna is such a ewe.

Rosanna is a grey katmoget ewe out of Itasca and Stonehenge. She has a gorgeous grey fleece with nice length and is pretty fine for a yearling. Stonehenge is Genoa's son from two year's ago out of Khan. His fleece is different, but I was always struck by its incredible handle. Just really soft and silky. It's not a lock structure that I am excited about, but the fleece itself stands out to me in a good way, so that's the important thing. It's very dreadlocky, which doesn't mean much other than it's not my favorite type. I have found this type of fleece in a number of Black Forrest offspring and it's become an almost signature trait of his. We don't see it in any other bloodline. It's not a bad thing by any stretch, but it is different. I kind of like a little bit of different once in a while.

I'll do a post on him shortly, but the key takeaway here is that we ended up keeping all of his ewe lambs. I didn't even realize it until the decisions were made and I looked at the pedigrees. We did not use him last year, but will this fall at least on a few ewes.

Rosanna's fleece stats are: 23/4.6/19.8/8/22.2.

I don’t have much experience with this type of fleece, but if you look at the numbers, they are right in line with what we are after in a yearling fleece. I like to see them less than 22, but this is in the ballpark. If I were a betting man, I would say that the two year old fleece will not be under 25 microns like we like, but the SF might be (which is really what I want anyway). I just think this is a beautiful grey fleece. I was excited to sell her fleece to a very knowledgeable fleece person this fall who spent time at Shetland wool week a few years back in Shetland. She told some neat stories and seemed to really like our fleeces.
I am looking forward to what Rosanna can produce with the right ram. She is one of four Stonehenge daughters we will be using this fall and I truly don't know what to expect in the lambs.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ewe-A-Day - Whispering Pines Treviso

Treviso is another two year old Pompey daughter out of Itasca. She doesn’t have the prettiest Shetland head but the rest of her is out of this world. If I could only retain one two year old ewe, Treviso would be the one. She is definitely my favorite!
Her fleece is very light tan, almost white and it is so very soft. Her fleece stats are: 24.6/4.8/19.7/7.4/23.7.
Here is another example of how the stats can be misleading because when you put her yarn next to Turin’s there is a night and day difference. I can’t exactly pinpoint why since both are super fine, but I think it is because Treviso is more uniform from front-to-back. Whatever the reason, I’ll take more of it. People have literally gasped when they hold her yarn in their hands. In fact, I gasped the first time I laid my hands on it. We even had yarn from finer sheep that wasn't as nice as this sheep's.
Itasca always had great lambs, but she requires really fine rams to get the best out of her. This one is close to the total package.
That's it for the two year olds. Next up is a lovely group of yearlings that we get to throw into the genetic mix this fall when we set up breeding groups (most likely this weekend).

Ewe-A-Day - Whispering Pines Turin

Turin is another excellent fawn katmoget out of Pompey and Vogue. This year she had a beautiful spotted ram (Rochester), so I know she can produce quality spots. Her fleece stats are: 24.7/4.7/19.1/8/23.7.
As I said, the fawn katmoget Pompey daughters are very similar in appearance and fleece. Turin is a bit finer than the rest with her impressive 23.7 SF, but they are all excellent.
You can always tell when I get tired of trying to differentiate each ewe. I start writing less when I get to a lot of the fawn katmogets that are similar. Even though I find each of their genetics interesting, not everyone does. What I can say is that I gave a lot of thought to what these genetics could do for us long term. And I did most of that thought three years ago, before they were even conceived. In this case, it was before I even purchased Turin's mother. When I brought Pompey in to our flock, it was to put with ewes that I thought would cross well with his genetics. And now, I am looking at his daughters and trying to decide which genetics are most likely to work best together. As much as I might thing all ewes will work well with Canterbury, that's not necessarily true. Turin has a bit of a melting pot of fleece types in her background, so you never really know how that is going to work. But when you breed a ram with a 19 SF on his second fleece to a ewe with a 23.7 SF on her second fleece, I think the odds are pretty much on your side in terms of fineness.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ewe-A-Day - Venice

Well, we're well into the two year old ewes now. I refer to these ewes as the boring ones because I always look at all of our sheep as steps to something better and we now have lambs and yearlings in the flock that are a year or two closer to my vision than the two year olds. In reality, however, there is gold in them there ewes. One or more of them will have another Jane Eyre next year. I don't know which one(s), but that's what I expect from this group.

Venice is another Pompey daughter who was/is on our sales list for this year and probably will be next year as well. It’s not that’s she’s not as good as our other ewes, but she is a fawn katmoget and we have many of those. In fact, Venice looks very similar to Florence and several of our other ewes. So, it’s hard to keep duplicates when you have a limited flock size. Her fleece stats are very good, but not exceptional for our flock: 27.3/4.2/15.6/7/25.4. Still, her 25.4 SF is pretty telling, and somewhat rare in the North American Shetland community. The other thing I like about her is that she is always there to greet me at chore time because she was a bottle lamb. I am impressed so far with her third fleece, although we don’t test our adult ewes until spring. I will say that it feels finer than 27 microns, so I am not expecting an increase. She is out of Sommarang Isla. She's another one that I really don't want to sell because she offers me variety in fleece type, and yet retains the signature softness that defines our flock as a whole.