My original plan was to build a flock with excellent conformation, spotting, and patterns and then go after fleece improvement, but I think we’ll start trying to do those things in parallel over the next couple of years and see where we come out. The original plan was based on the premise that fleeces are easier to improve than conformation and that I wouldn’t be able to find a ram that had everything. Leyland is a very young ram, but he seems to have just about everything at this point (except for spots, of course). Leyland is a dark Shaela. We passed up a few excellent rams this year, so who knows if we made the right choice, but he looks great right now! I’m glad we have a lot of time to decide breeding groups because I don’t know whom we will use Leyland on. Some of that will depend on how well he grows. We probably won’t use him heavily this fall, but he’ll get a few ewes anyway.
We also brought in three very nice ewes this summer to achieve various objectives.
The first is Sheltering Pines Cor de Nuit, a smirslet katmoget ewe. I think Stephen is an excellent breeder of Shetlands, and it’s always a privilege to get sheep from him. Cor is a two year old with an outstanding conformation and a very crimpy, dense fleece. She just has everything you could want in a ewe, quite frankly. I just love the fleece on this girl! She’s a good-sized ewe and really built well. I don’t know how well she would micron, but we’ll find out one of these days. I haven’t decided yet who she will be bred with, but there are several options.
The next ewe is Sheltering Pines Onyx Velour, a smirslet sokket gulmoget! I’ve coveted this ewe since she was born and feel very fortunate to have her! Thanks again to Stephen for making this happen! Onyx also has a nice, dense fleece. It doesn’t have the density and crimp that Cor de Nuit possesses, but it’s a nice fleece. Plus, look at her markings and conformation! She’s just an excellent ewe! I’ve already decided to breed her with Cihat this fall! Cihat is more primitive than Onyx, but I would call him more intermediate than some of the spotted Shetland rams that I’ve seen, and we’ve had some nice results with his lambs. Plus, his conformation is second to none!
Last but not least, is Windswept Gold, a mioget yuglet sokket ewe lamb. She’s just super pretty and dainty. I’m not sure what we’ll do with her this fall, but if she’s big enough, we’ll use her. Her fleece has a great feel, and it’s going to be long and lustrous as well. I can’t have enough mioget ewes, especially with these markings! Now if I could find a ram like her, I’d be in business!
I think it’s important to constantly evaluate your flock and goals, and these four Shetlands were all selected to fill perceived gaps in our flock. We considered several other excellent rams and ewes, and I thank those breeders who took the time to help us decide. There are several really outstanding Shetland farms out there, and we haven’t even had the pleasure of meeting several other breeders who appear to have great flocks!
Also, a special thanks to Stephen Rouse, and the Ludlam family for their patience and hospitality during this process. It’s always fun to meet with fellow breeders who have worked so hard to be where they are with their breeding programs. We hope to do more of it in the future!