I got back from The Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday and I have to say it was a pretty special event. I had an opportunity to spend a lot of time over the weekend with Kate Sharp and Alan Hill talking a great deal about Shetland history and learning a ton about the breed. As many of you know, we have spent the last few years really working hard at bringing our flock up to snuff with the 1927 Shetland Breed standard. It’s important to me to have our flock in close alignment with what the 1927 standard requires. And spending three days with actual certified Shetland Sheep Society inspectors and judges was incredibly valuable. Just what the doctor ordered.
The highlight for me was participating in the inspector and judge’s training on Friday. You don’t know what you don’t know until you spend time working side-by-side with two absolute masters like Kate and Alan. The methodical “hands on” approach was something to watch. I’ll never forget it. It was nice receiving some confirmation that our breeding approach isn’t all that far off, but the real value for me was in getting additional clarification around the finer points of the breed standard.
I had a little apprehension about hearing what they had to say because it was entirely possible that my understanding of Shetland sheep was way off. I was relieved to find out that it isn’t, but the whole thing was incredibly educational. I know I will take the lessons to heart (as I’m sure the other participants in the training will).
The morning portion of the training involved Kate and Alan demonstrating the finer points of inspection on a live animal (one of Garrett’s rams. I don’t know which one, but he was nice).
This was followed with a discussion around judging in the UK, which was quite informative.
The afternoon session involved breaking up into two groups to have the judges evaluate individual animals. That was an incredible learning experience because all of the sheep were different. It was interesting to see how they approached assessing the diversity. I also have to confess that I was moving back and forth between groups so I could see how each judge was handling each point in the standard. It was probably as good as or better than any training I have received on any subject.
On Saturday, I had a lot of fun watching the fleece competition, which was also judged by Kate and Alan. The top two prizes went to fleeces by Karen Valley and her daughter Meghan. Third place went to one of Garrett’s fleeces. I think Karen or Meghan also got fourth with another fleece. I might be mistaken about that. Theresa Gygi took fifth place honors with one of her black fleeces. Keep in mind that this was a huge Shetland fleece class. Alan and Kate told me in private that all the fleeces in the top 10 would’ve been indistinguishable from the top fleeces in a UK show! That’s pretty impressive. Theresa’s daughter Tori also took first place in the white Shetland class. That was also a large class. Congrats to everyone.
Finally, the show was pretty awesome on Saturday afternoon. Below are some pictures.
Lori Stephenson took top honors with Firth of Fifth Avyt in the ram class. Let me just say that he was an incredible Shetland ram. Her ram Hacket was also incredible as was Karen’s ram Grasshopper. I was amazed at the quality of the sheep at this show.
In the ewe class, Kelly Bartels took first place overall with Sheltering Pines Salicional (Constantinople’s mother). As I was watching the class, I commented to someone that the ewes in that class were unbelievable! You had lambs, yearlings, and adults in one class, and each one was absolutely spectacular! Each was a champion and I know Kelly is extremely happy with having Salicional pull out top honors! That says something about how good she is.
I could go on and on, but it was a great time, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a great collection of Shetlands in one place before. I would’ve liked to have taken some of our sheep, but I didn’t feel comfortable dragging them that far. Kudos to the people who did!
I don’t have a lot of pictures (an annoying story), but here are a few.
This is Theresa’s ewe lamb. I don’t know her name, but she was extremely nice.
This moorit ewe was Lori Stephenson’s. She was standing right by me, so I got a pretty good picture of her. I think she’s a good example of the type of sheep that were in that large ewe lamb class. I think there were 37 ewes in that class. Karen Valley's beautiful black ewe is next to Lori's.
Here is another of Lori’s ewes. Lori had several good ones. I didn’t get good pictures of a lot of the other lambs in that class, but I have a few more I’ll post in the coming days. Lori did take first and second place in the best pair of ewe lambs class.
The whole thing was a lot of fun and hopefully this gives you an idea of the quality of Shetlands there.