Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 Ram Lambs

We had 15 ram lambs born this year and I was careful to note in early May that I thought all were quite good. You are never sure about that, but I always have a sense right away. It doesn’t always go that way, however. Over the past few years, we’ve had a few ewe lambs that we didn’t care for that ended up being quite good, and a few lambs that were not as good as we expected. All said, we’re probably about 95% accurate at birth (inaccurate enough that I no longer trust my early assessments).

Last week, I revisited that earlier assessment so I could determine which (if any) rams we should keep. As good as I thought they would be, they would have to be really good to earn a permanent place in our flock, given the quality of the other rams (and the fact that we already have eight adult rams).

Emma’s ram was the first one I looked at, but I already knew I was keeping him because I kept close tabs on him all summer, given his friendliness. So, I knew he was good. He is conformationally correct, has great fleece density, and is so soft. He is what I would like all of our sheep to be like. 

Often times, the finest Shetlands can also be shorter in fleece length, but I don’t think he is going to be that way. His mother has a good fleece length and so does Nitro, so I’m not surprised that this ram seems to have the full package. On the glass is half empty side, I’m not sure this lamb adds anything to our flock that we don’t already have in Nitro. Time will tell, but we’ll keep an eye on him. If nothing else, he is a good combination of genetics. I really wanted to see what I could produce by combining Canterbury and Nitro genetics. The more I look at him, the more I like him. He is certainly one of the overall top rams we've produced. Of course, I might only be saying that because he isn't a katmoget.

Pearl’s black ram is also a keeper. Nitro is the father. Our goal here was to get a black ram with fineness and fleece length and I believe this one has both of those traits. Black, perhaps more than any other color, is an enigma for us. It’s really tough to find fine black Shetland sheep that have the full package of stuff. I think this guy does. Pearl is Canterbury’s mother, so that bodes well I think.

As you can see, the nice crimp extends very far back. I don't show it here, but it looks like this all the way back to the tail.

I’ve also made no bones about liking Jane Eyre’s fawn katmoget ram out of Nitro. At this point, he may not have that classic Shetland look, but I’m interested in seeing him full grown. He looks like an athlete as this point. Very trim, long bodied and streamlined. His fleece will not be as long as Emma’s ram, but I am curious how it will end up in the spring with a full year of growth. When I put Nitro with Jane Eyre, I was trying to add some fleece length to what she has without losing her fineness. That was a tall order, but we got some interesting things with this lamb, and I believe he checks both of those boxes as well. His mother is our finest ewe. I always say that when you get a lamb that you like with several generations of excellence in the immediate family tree, hold onto it.

I thought I had a fleece shot, but turns out I don't.

I still have not decided on all of the ram lambs, but those three are keepers. I do not have a need to keep a fawn katmoget, but all of them are of that quality, so I may keep one.

This is one that is in contention for that honor. He is out of Mr. Darcy and Pamela, two excellent Shetlands. He is incredibly dense and I would say he is the finest of this group of ram lambs, and possibly of all of the lambs this year. As I said, rams this fine also typically have shorter fleeces, but this guy doesn’t. He just has an incredibly luxuriously handling fleece.

The problem is that we already have four really fine fawn katmoget rams, so if I keep this one, another needs to go. Plus, a few of the other fawn katmoget rams may not be as fine, but they also have some traits that maybe the others don't. This is never easy. Of course, this kind of fretting and stewing over which lambs to keep has gotten us to a good place.

I also like this grey katmoget out of English Garden and Mr. Darcy. Again, a bit longer fleece, but still very fine and tightly crimped. I still remember putting Itasca with our F1 Todhill Jericho ram that we had at the time. That was a breeding that I did primarily for conformation, knowing that the fleece would likely be good, but perhaps not as fine. That’s how it turned out. Really solid lambs with dense fleece, good length, and average fineness. So, this guy has retained all of those good traits and added fineness to the mix. I’m always amazed what happens when you look long term and not just for the next generation. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he is a light grey, which I don’t care for. Mr. Darcy is incredibly dark (and finer), but he also lacks some of the traits this guy has.

I also like this really fine moorit out of Genoa and Nitro. He is probably the nicest moorit we’ve had born here. Does he add anything to our flock? I haven’t decided yet. He has scurs, which is almost always a disqualifier for me since I am usually looking for excuses to cut the ram lamb group down to a reasonable number. The fact that I am still considering him is impressive in itself.

The last ram that I am mulling over is this guy out of Siena and Mr. Darcy. I don’t believe he is as fine as perhaps any of the others, but I still think he is fine enough. The question is whether he offers other qualities that are worthwhile. He is dense and he has good fleece length. He is built well also (thank you Siena).

What I really like about him, however, should be pretty clear from the pictures. His fleece is a bright, shiny, dark silver. It’s almost metallic. It’s a combination of a dark katmoget fleece with brilliant luster added. It’s almost like a clearcoat finish on a car. In fact, if they made cars this color, I would want one. So, I have to decide whether this is really something to add to our flock. One of the other ram lambs also has some of this, and he is finer, but this guy has it in spades. I was not able to capture that quality in the photos, however.

With 15 ram lambs, I’m not sure it would make for great reading if I wrote about all of them, but there is really only one that I would not keep from a fleece perspective, and even he is structurally outstanding.
I will post my thoughts about some of the ewe lambs at some point, but the decision making process was more urgent on the ram lambs, so it forced me to take a hard look.

I always find our ram lambs to be a good indicator of where we are against our flock goals because they are so important to the future of the flock. If we continue producing good lambs, we'll always have a good avenue for continued progress.

The key for us now is to determine what the next phase should look like for our farm. I don't feel like getting finer is either necessary or desirable. I do think fleece length and luster are. I think that needs to be our focus going forward without losing the fineness that was so hard to get. The perfect fleece for us would be one that is dense, lustrous, fine, 4" long with great elasticity. To get there, our rams have to have it.


Michelle said...

I agree, that last fleece is STUNNING. But I would take the lighter grey as well; I like his look.

Danny Hansen said...

What a lovely bunch! Love the black one.