Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ram Fleeces

These rams are the best that we’ve had here at Whispering Pines. Sure, they pale in comparison to some of the rams I’ve seen, but we feel lucky to have this group. Each gives us unique traits, and yet for all their diversity, each shares something in common -- fine, crimpy fleeces with very nice density!

These fleece pictures were all taken at the last rib.

Pompey will be five this year. The old man of the flock. His fleece is very crimpy and soft for his age. I’m not an expert on fleeces, but I would say that his micron results will be between 26 and 28 microns with a 20% CV. I have a tougher time figuring out adult microns, so I’m giving myself more of a window than I did for the lambs. His fleece feels like it is on the lower end of that range, but that doesn’t seem possible, given his age. I might be picking up on his low CV and silky fibers. Silkiness is definitely a confounding factor.


Bond is a great ram, and his second fleece looks great! He will be two this spring. A very crimpy fleece and he passed that on to his lambs. His color is wonderful as well. I would say that he will micron between 24 and 25 with a 20% CV. I would be delighted with those numbers for a two year old ram! Especially one of his quality. That would be a big jump from his yearling results, but you can’t expect two year old rams to remain at < 21 microns. That’s pretty rare. In fact, after looking over maybe a 100 micron reports, I’ve only seen two rams stay at that level as two year olds. Stephen’s ram Fudge is one of them, and Pompey is the other. I’d love to hear if other breeders have seen that. Garrett probably has.

Little Buckaroo

Little Buckaroo is a yearling. I’ve liked how his fleece handled since he was a lamb. Very small crimp and nice luster combine to make him feel finer than he probably is. I would say he will micron at 25.0 with a CV below 20%. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at 15% or close to it. It’s a shorter fleece, but he has so much potential as a flock sire.

Egyptian King

Egyptian King will be a yearling this spring. What a fabulous fleece. He is our densest ram, and probably the crimpiest. He has very tiny crimp. I hope he shears well so we can use his fleece. I hate losing nice lamb fleeces. I would guess that his fleece might be in the neighborhood of 22 to 23.5 microns with a 20% CV. He looks finer, but he doesn’t feel finer (if that makes any sense). You can get a good feel (no pun intended) for fineness by looking at the crimp. There is typically a strong correlation between the two. Genetic lines tend to skew that correlation a bit, but it’s still there. The great thing about this ram is that his fleece is uniform from front to tail. He doesn’t fall off at all in the britch area. I should have sampled him in all three places just to compare, but I didn’t.


Rowdy is a ram that we elected not to use this year. His fleece feels really fine, and it’s a pretty shaela! I suspect his fleece handle is attributable to his silkiness and not fineness. I think he might be in the area of 24 to 25 microns with a 20% CV as a yearling. Not too shabby. I plan on using him this fall, but I say that about all of our rams. Rowdy isn’t as dense as Egyptian King but they look a lot a like. I mean I really have to look to tell them apart.

Rowdy isn’t as fine, and isn’t as crimpy, but his fleece is a bit longer. I doubt it will spin up longer, however. He has a different lock structure is all. Rowdy’s mother is Christmas Holly, a ewe that I really like. I posted her fleece picture the other day.

I definitely liked the Bond sons better than his daughters last year. We have two other nice sons that we retained, but neither is quite up to par with these guys. Even the ones that we took to market were big improvements on their mothers, however. I asked a lot of Bond last year, and I got more than I had a right to expect. I wonder if my affinity for Bond’s ram lambs has anything to do with testosterone. Maybe the added muscle and frame made them appear so much nicer. But their fleeces were also nicer, so that doesn’t add up.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ewe Lamb Fleeces

Here are the lamb fleeces that we retained this year. A good proportion of the lambs we sold last year also looked like this, but we couldn’t keep all of them. I thought it would be fun to project what I think the micron tests will reveal. We’ll see if I’m even close. It’s tricky because the lower CV’s make the fleeces feel finer than the averages might indicate. But looking at the tips of the fleeces as well as the uniformity makes me think most, if not all, of these fleeces have lower CV’s. I hope I am right. If they have higher CV’s than I think, they might also be finer as well.


QAL’s daughter out of Height’s Orion. Great density and softness. Probably between 24 and 25 microns with a CV of about 20%. Nice length for such a consistent fleece. Very uniform from front to back. Her fleece might have a higher CV than I think it does, but I don’t think so. She’s very close to her mother in type and fleece, but I like her a little better. Perhaps because we spent so much on AI? I might be biased. Bred to Pompey.


Tiger Lily’s daughter out of Bond. A great improvement on her mother. Great density and length. A soft fleece that will probably micron around 26.0 with a lower CV (between 22% and 24%). Bred to Pompey if she’s bred at all.



Ruby and Pearl are both Bond daughters out of Itasca. Both are our finest lambs. I don’t have micron results, but I feel confident in saying that. I would guess that their micron values will both be between 22.0 and 23.0 with 20% CV’s. Very soft fleeces with tiny crimp. I think one might be a micron finer than the other (who am I kidding, I can’t tell such things). Not bred.

Blue Diamond

Constantinople’s daughter out of Blue’s Clues. A fawn katmoget. I would say that this one will probably micron between 24.0 and 26.0 with a 23% CV. I like the fleece a lot. It has some nice length which makes me think it might have a higher CV than some of the other lambs. It feels soft, however. I’ll be disappointed if she tests at the upper end of that range, but we’ll be keeping her regardless because she is exactly what we want. Bred to Egyptian King.

Blue Sapphire

Onyx’s daughter out of Blue’s Clues. Grey katmoget and possibly a gulmoget. I think this one will micron between 23.0 and 25.0 with a 20% CV. She might be finer, but her fleece type is much like her father’s and he microned in that range. Still, he had one of the nicest Shetland fleeces I have ever seen. Bred to Egyptian King.


Sparkles’s daughter out of Bond. A bolder crimp style, but a soft and silky handle. Nice length. I think this one will probably micron at about 25.0 with a 24% CV. Not bred.

Blue Topaz

Violet’s daughter out of Blue’s Clues. I would expect Topaz to also test very similar to Emerald. Not bred.

I don’t think I’ll be way off on these, but I’d be shocked if I was within +/- 1 micron on all of them. Hopefully, I’ll be off on the high side…by a lot. Wishful thinking. If you noticed, I have them all projected to be pretty similar in terms of fineness. That's what I think they will be. They all have different fleeces, but the fineness doesn't seem wildly different.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adult Fleece Pictures

Here are some adult fleece pictures from our flock. These were not taken from the neck or shoulder, but from the last rib. They are good representative samples of what each sheep looks like throughout.

Christmas Holly will be two this spring.

Persia will be three year's old this spring.

Constantinople will be four.

Cor de Nuit will be five this spring.

QAL will be four.
Itasca will be three this spring

These are all nice Appendix A-type fleeces. Not too long, not too short. The thing that’s misleading about these fleeces is that they spin up so nicely, and the yarn has such elasticity. It gives us so many options in terms of products that can be made from them. There is no need to separate the two coats, because the fibers are very consistent. The fleeces appear shorter on the hoof, but that’s because they are so crimpy. Most are four to six inches when stretched. I would much rather have that than six-to-eight inches with no crimp at all.

We don’t expect all of our sheep to be super fine, but we do expect them to have soft, crimpy fleeces. The above ewes are not super fine, but they have wonderful fleeces that can be used in “next-to-skin” items. There is very little waste with these fleeces since the uniformity extends quite far back on the sheep. The britch wool is usually very functional. I really dislike Shetlands that fall off greatly in the hind quarters. Many do, but it limits what you can do with the fleece. You can do lots of stuff with that back one third of the sheep, but why feed a sheep for 12 months and only get half to two-thirds of a fleece that you like? The point here is that there is more to a Shetland than the front 25%.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Breeding Groups

It’s been a long time coming, but here are the breeding groups we put together last fall. The choices were largely a matter of personal preference, since I think we could have randomly assembled groups and done fine. I feel like this was the first year where I was completely satisfied with each of the rams we used. I’ve seen a lot of rams at different farms over the past few years, and although there are several good ones out there, I don’t think any are better than these guys for our farm’s needs. I’m not saying that they are the very best rams, just the correct ones for our goals.

The final groups arose out of the potential for each ewe to give us exactly the type of lamb that we want. It was largely a matter of probabilities. We don’t dabble in all types of Shetlands here at Whispering Pines. We are serious about re-establishing the breed’s roots in this country, and I firmly believe that the only way you can do that is to study what Colonel Dailley imported and what the UK folks are currently maintaining. The 1927 Flock Book standard was written to preserve the purebred Shetland, and that’s what the Colonel imported.

Over the past 25 years, that original vision has been distorted by breeders to the point where we have an entirely different animal in a lot of cases in this country than what they have in the Shetland Flock Book and Shetland Sheep Society. My philosophy is that Shetland sheep came from the UK and should look like those sheep, not what breeders in the US prefer. We breed with that thought in mind on our farm.

Here are some examples of what I am talking about. These are UK style fleeces:

I completely support breeders who like more diversity in their flocks. Some like the long, flowing fleeces that you see in some of the old pictures. There’s nothing wrong with breeding for that. But we’ve worked hard at researching the original importation, and we feel that it contained diversity in type, and still adhered to the Flock Book standard. We know it did because the sheep were inspected prior to being imported. I feel that we have drifted far off course in this country over the past 25 years, and although there remain solid examples of the UK type, it’s clear that the fine fleeced Shetland is currently endangered, and we aim to do our part in re-establishing that presence in America.

I just wanted to give readers some background for the rationale we used to arrive at these groups. It’s very easy to just throw sheep together to get spots and cool colors. It’s much more difficult to breed toward specific goals around quality. Quality in this case, means correct structure, and fine, consistent fleeces. It doesn’t mean we have the best sheep or anything crazy like that; it just means that we have researched this heavily, and no longer breed for everything that can be pulled out of the Shetland gene pool. That’s the wrong way to breed any livestock, but for some reason, breeders in the US don’t see it that way. That’s okay, but we’re going to take the road less travelled and work hard at aligning ourselves with our sister organizations in the UK (where Shetland Sheep came from back in 1980).

Here the breeding groups:

Pompey Magnus

S’more Sparkles
Sheltering Pines Queen Anne’s Lace
Whispering Pines Peridot
Whispering Pines Shiobhan
Sheltering Pines Cor de Nuit

Pompey is an exceptional ram, and we felt he added several qualities to our program this year. These are some of our top ewes, so I fully expect big things with this group. I’d also like to pull some moorits out of this lineup. Peridot was a late entry here, so she might not be bred. She carries mioget, so we would certainly welcome a lamb out of her, but it’s not imperative.

Wintertime Bond

Sheltering Pines Persia
Sheltering Pines Constantinople
Sheltering Pines Onyx Velour

Bond remains one of our best and finest rams, so the objective of this group is to reinforce conformation and fleece quality, while adding fineness and some interesting spotting. We did not breed Bond to any of these ewes last year and I am excited by the possibilities. I don’t think we can expect moorit-based lambs here, but it’s possible. All three ewes had great lambs last year and we kept all of them.

Whispering Pines Little Buckaroo

Wintertime Itasca
Whispering Pines Primrose
Whispering Pines Irish Lace

This is a much smaller group than it should be, but most of our ewes went with the proven flock sires. Still, we can hope for some exquisite spotted lambs here, with correct structure, and fleece type. I put Itasca in here at the last minute on a hunch, but also because I like how her line has crossed with Jericho in the past. Wintertime Blues and Jazz are Jericho sons out of Itasca’s mother, and those rams are excellent examples of the breed. This is also the only group with the potential of giving us horned rams as these ewes all carry at least one horned ram gene as does Buckaroo.

Whispering Pines Egyptian King

Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire
Whispering Pines Blue Diamond
Sheltering Pines Christmas Holly

This is my favorite group because it’s our future. Egyptian King is a tremendous ram with a dense, fine black fleece. It’s exactly what we like here. These ewes share some of the same qualities. I don’t know if King carries spots or moorit, but I’m hoping to find that out this year. If not, we should have some nice black spot carrying lambs. In this group, we have two Blue’s Clues daughters and a Pompey Magnus great granddaughter. Egyptian King is Bond’s son. This group represents our efforts to bring in and retain specific things that we felt our flock needed. Now we are reinforcing and crossing some of those lines in a strategic way.

Our flock is small but we hope to be closer to our goals next fall and breed fewer sheep. This may be the last year we breed 14 ewes. Out of these groups, we’ll probably only end up with about 12 ewe lambs, and we’ll probably retain eight of those (ish). Our plan is to only keep 15 ewes next winter, which means some really nice lambs, yearling, and adults will move on in the spring. Our plan all along was to increase the presence of this type of Shetland out east, and that means moving sheep into other flocks and helping new breeders get started the right way.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whispering Pines Egyptian King

Whispering Pines Egyptian King (Sheltering Pines Cor de Nuit x Wintertime Bond) is a ram that
I really like. He had the most amazing fleece at birth that we have had here, I think. It was very fine and crimpy from the chin all the way to the tail. It looked identical all the way back. So, we hung onto him to watch him develop, and we liked what we saw. I was initially disappointed that he wasn’t a ewe, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he could help us create more lambs like him in the future. That’s my goal. He’s not flashy or anything, but very correct!
You never know how an animal will produce, but this ram has so much potential. His fleece has the best density of our rams, and no britch whatsoever. He’s not quite as fine as Bond, but he has better front-to-back uniformity.
I can’t wait to see this guy’s lambs.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wintertime Bond

Bond is just a gorgeous ram. I liked him as a lamb, and he is maturing nicely as a yearling. He threw some nice lambs this year, and we look forward to seeing what he can do with some of our top ewes. He is actually Pompey’s grandson. As I've said, it’s a line that I like.

Bond’s yearling fleece test confirmed what I thought. His average was 20.5 with a standard deviation of 3.9, which is quite amazing really. That’s even better than his father’s test at the same age! Plus, he’s a full poll!

In addition to his grandfather, I also like the bloodlines on his mother’ side. V Creek Sarah is a good looking ewe! Her five year old micron test was 23.7, 5.3, 22.5%, which is also pretty special for her age.

Bond’s conformation is excellent as is his tail! I noticed that he seemed to improve all of the ewes he was put with last fall. He also carries spots and moorit, which turned out to be a nice bonus! He’s a great ram, in my opinion. Speaking of bloodlines, Bond's father, Nightcap, is also a very nice ram. His two year old micron test was: 21.4, 5.0, 23.4. That’s absolutely remarkable for a two year old Shetland ram! I’ve seen him in person, and I’ve seen some of his lambs, and I’m just impressed!

I really wanted to use Bond on more ewes this year, but I just couldn't do it with 18 ewes and four rams. Still, I think these rams can help the breed a lot, and I need to use them as much as I can. I'm planning on using Bond this fall again, so there's always that. I'd like to pull out one or two Pompey ewe lambs and put them under Bond, but I haven't decided yet on that. A lot can happen between now and fall. I may not be able to breed this fall, who knows? We almost didn't this year. I do know that we won't be breeding as many this fall as we have in the past. It's just time to pull back a bit and enjoy what we've built.
Bond is 57.4% UK.