As the saying goes..."A shetland a day will keep the doctor away." With that in mind, I'd like to continue on with our annual tradition of introducing all of our ewes leading up to breeding season.
Much has changed at Whispering Pines since I last blogged, and I will slowly roll out some of them before we identify the breeding groups for this fall. The truth is, I haven't decided on all of them, so I have to drag things out until the day the groups are actually put together.
Each year, we evaluate our flock and make difficult decisions on who to keep. It's a lengthy process and I won't bore you with the details, but it all comes down to our vision of what we want our sheep to look like. It's difficult because very few ewes have all of the components of that vision. One might have an outstanding fleece, but not quite measure up with conformation. Another might have a lousy tail, or lack fleece density. So, the ewes that remain have an important role in our program or they wouldn't be here. The challenge all breeders have is trying to envision how an animal will produce toward their goals. There are no sentimental favorites on our farm anymore. That's a cold, harsh reality. That's not to say that all are perfect, but I can say with confidence that each of these ewes brings something to the table that will help us reach our vision, and we also know that it's going to take several generations to begin to see it. That's what Jen and I both love about raising shetlands. Getting from point A to B is a challenge. It's actually more like going from point A to Z. There are a lot of steps in between. Our challenge has been to clearly identify what "Z" is. Without that, there'd be no way to achieve it.
That's also why our ewes are relatively young. When they produce like we hope they will, we have no choice but to move them on to new homes. That doesn't mean, however, that we made a mistake in keeping them around in the first place (sometimes it does). On the contrary, we have committed to achieving our vision with less than 20 ewes. There's no way to do that if you keep both the lambs and mothers each year. That's a blessing, however, in my mind. That allows us to place very nice ewes in good homes, which ultimately makes the breed stronger. It's a win win situation in my mind because the ewes can make a solid contribution to someone else's vision, which may be slightly (or even drastically) different from ours.
I'll start ewes that I have pictures of and slowly work my way into those that require more work on my part. I just don't have good pictures on the entire flock right now.
Gold is a very nice yearling ewe in most ways. She is a very light mioget yuglet sokket that has matured nicely over the past 12 months. Gold is one of the few that we kept almost exclusively for conformation and markings. She has a lot of both! Ultimately, we decided that we can't keep ewes that don't fit our goals unless they are exceptionally strong in some pieces of it. So, Gold gets to stay and hopefully she'll produce a ewe lamb who'll be even closer to our vision for the flock! There are a few things we don't like about her (there's always something with all of them), but we've found that a lot of people really like her. She's always been one of our three mischievious imps (Primrose and Snapdragon are the other two).
Gold has the fleece type that you either really like, or you hate. Even her facial structure is something that you either love or hate. I happen to like it a lot. It comes down to whether you like large, beefy sheep, or typey, more refined shetlands. She is more refined. We have both types in our flock, and I can't say I have a strong preference to either type. I have preferences in fleece type, but that's a topic for another day.
We didn't breed Gold last year as a lamb because we felt she was a bit small. She's still not a large ewe, but she's likely in the 70 pound range right now. We haven't taken fall weights yet, but she looks in that area to me.