This group is really about one thing – fleece. All of the ewes in his group have excellent (or very good) conformations, but they don’t have his fleece. I like their fleeces as well, but he has what I would call my gold standard. His father was like that as well. Overall, his father (Blues) remains one of the nicest Shetland rams I have personally seen. He’s probably as close to my ideal as it gets. I hear his brother Jazz is just as nice, but I’ve never seen him in person.
As a result, I’m hoping for the following from this group:
Lock structure. I haven’t paid a great deal of attention to this until this year. It’s an undervalued characteristic, however. It directly impacts how well your sheep meet the standard because it translates into how open or closed your fleece is. In functional terms, it impacts how well the sheep shed the weather. I think density plays a bigger role, but both are important.
Density. All of these ewes have excellent density, but I wanted to ensure that we maintained that in their lambs. We value density a great deal. To me, it’s like wearing a windbreaker vs. a winter coat in January. That’s not a great idea where we live.
Consistency. This is reflected in both the uniformity from head to britch, and the standard deviation of the fibers themselves. This ram has both. His CV was 18% and it looks that way from his neck to his britch.
Fine crimp. I love fine crimp and don’t care much for the bolder style. I also don’t like the straight fibers because they don’t meet the standard. It is possible to have double-coated sheep with straight outer fibers, and a fine crimpy under coat, but that’s not against the standard. But it’s not what I like in a Shetland fleece. I’ve seen both single and double-coated fleeces that have the type of crimp that I like, but his matches my preference exactly. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering why I didn’t put more ewes under him.
Fineness. Blue’s Clues is a fine-fleeced ram, but most lambs are. The trick is projecting their yearling micron results out to where you think they will be as three year olds. I usually add about two microns a year to the lamb micron results in my projections. It’s difficult, however, because some fleeces are hard to project. Fleeces like his often go down between the first and second years, but most are not like that. Anyway, without getting into a thesis on fleece genetics, I feel that his projects well, but I would have liked a lower AFD for his age. Not a big deal for me since his CV is so low. His spinning fineness is a very nice 23.2 microns, which is a function of the CV. To make a long story short, if all of his lambs had his fleece, I would be doing reverse handsprings up and down our street. He is that good (I can’t even do a handspring, reverse or forward).
Color. I didn’t put a lot of emphasis on color and pattern this year. That should be obvious because what idiot would breed all of his ewes to grey katmogets? I mean, who does that? But that blue-grey katmoget fleece is to die for, and I feel fortunate that both of our rams have it this year. I like it better than emsket, but that’s just me. I have no idea what an emsket katmoget fleece would look like.
The following is a short discussion of what I expect from each of his ewes. Keep in mind, I am very very critical:
Pike Hill Violet. This ewe has about everything one could want except his color, consistency, and uniformity. She has good uniformity, but her CV is not as low as I like (around 25%). She also lacks the blue-grey color, but that’s not a big deal (or is it). I really liked her as a two year old last year.
Sheltering Pines Onyx Velour. I don’t have many complaints about this ewe either. She is a little longer bodied than Violet, but her fleece isn’t as nice. Again her CV is around 25%, but I don’t feel that her density is quite as good as Violet's. She could also stand to be more uniform. She has a bit more britch wool than I like. But this is one great looking ewe though. Obviously, I want to make a good fleece better here and improve her overall fineness and lock structure. Would I like a spotted gulkat here? Yes, but that’s secondary and not the reason I put her with this group.
Sheltering Pines Constantinople. I think this ewe is on par with Onyx and Violet in the conformation department, and I like her fleece a lot as well. She’s shorter stapled than the other two, but wasn’t as fine as a yearling. So, obviously, Blue’s Clues could improve that. But don’t get me wrong, she is a very high quality ewe in just about every way. She has some wool on the poll to boot! She carries spots and her mother carries the polled ram gene. I would have put her with Bond if not for the size difference. Constantinople is a pretty leggy ewe. I also like that in a Shetland. She, Persia, and Onyx are very elegant looking ewes for that reason. I don’t like short legged shetlands. Some of the UK rams are shorter in leg. It depends on the bloodlines. There’s probably some ratio involving body length and height, but I haven’t found it yet. I know what I like, but I wouldn’t apply that to the entire breed. If anyone knows of good guidelines around that, I’d love to hear from you. I know there are guidelines for body-to-leg height.
Sheltering Pines Pyrenee’s Morn. This is another really nice ewe with a very dense fleece. She has the best density of the four ewes here. She also has an ultra low CV (around 18%). She had two very nice ram lambs last year that also possessed great density. It’s a longish fleece with a nice blue-grey color as well; pretty uniform from front to back. There is great potential with this breeding.
So, that’s Blue’s Clues’ group. We’ll likely get all grey katmoget lambs here. That’s what I’m expecting, and surely some of them will be homozygous kats at that. I like having double-patterned shetlands.