I have some more thoughts on this past weekend’s WSWF in lovely Wisconsin.
I don’t know that anyone walked away from the event thinking that there is only one correct Shetland. I think that’s been a fear for a lot of people when we start comparing the SSS sheep to what we have here in the US. On the contrary, I saw an incredible amount of diversity at Jefferson. I think that’s what we want in NASSA. And Kate and Alan were very open about that fact. You have to emphasize correct breed type (which they did), but you also have to recognize that there is a range of acceptable traits to consider. I hope we all came away with that lesson.
I have also heard it said that fine fleece people are single trait breeders; just focusing on fineness at the expense of other perhaps more valuable traits. Well, I can tell you that I didn’t see evidence of that in Jefferson. I saw correct conformations and fine fleeces in most cases. And it doesn’t matter what I think about it, Kate and Alan saw the same thing (and noted it). No, they didn’t pass everything put before them, but they were very good at pointing out the strengths and weaknesses so that improvement was within reach.
Alan made a good point during the wool show. Someone asked what makes one fleece long and straight and another 4” and crimpy? Was it nutrition? And he was rather pointed with his response, saying it was because of selection. Specifically, proper breeding and proper selection. That may seem obvious to some, but clearly that’s not universally understood. That’s the kind of thing that made Jefferson so special. Having a candid exchange of ideas, and being receptive to the incredible experience that we were provided. We could all agree or disagree with what Kate and Alan chose in the ring, but I don’t think that was the point. If you don’t consider other views and open yourself up to new ideas, there can be no learning.
As time passes, we’ll all drift off doing our own things with our flocks, but we can’t lose the lessons we learned this past weekend, which is that we can have wonderful diversity and not give up correct Shetland traits. But we have to be willing to be open-minded about learning, and not stubbornly stick to our preconceived notions about the breed. I know our flock will be better in the future because of what I learned over the weekend. And I can be as stubborn as anyone.