Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lamb Goals

Well, shearing is done. It’s a day we look upon each year with dread. Will the fleeces come off properly, or be unasable? Will the sheep be all nicked up. Yes, shearing day has always been an adventure here -- kind of like riding a roller coaster with no seat restraints. But we came out of it fine this year. A few ewes didn’t shear well, but overall, not too bad.

Everyone is in nice condition as well. It seems several ewes aren’t as far along as I would’ve liked, but perhaps they are just carrying singles. Still, I like how everyone looks. No surprises; no disappointments.

We’ve talked about some of our flock goals, but I wanted to share some of the expectations for some of our ewes (in case they are reading this).

Wintertime Itasca

We’re hoping for solid black or moorit. We don’t need any more katmogets, and we are sure to get plenty of them, regardless. Chances are, Little Buckaroo is a homozygous katmoget, so our odds of achieving this goal aren’t great. She gave us our best lambs last year, and we have high hopes again this year. She’s one of the ewes that epitomizes what we are trying to do here. She has a really fine fleece, and we are trying to reproduce that while improving other traits. We’re not necessarily looking for ultra fine lambs with this breeding, just really nice ones with exquisite fleeces.

S’more Sparkles

Sparkles gave us two nice lambs last year when bred to Bond, and I expect the same this year in moorit. She is Ag, so musket would also work fine. We won’t get spots out of her this year, however, but that’s fine. In hindsight, I’m glad we bred her to Pompey. I was on the fence about it, but I think it was the right move. Sparkles is an F2 Orion, and her lambs could be really nice.

Sheltering Pines Christmas Holly

We’re definitely looking for a solid black ewe here. She may carry moorit, but that’s not likely, and she’s being bred to a black ram (Egyptian King). I just want this lamb to be as nice as I envision in my head. The lambs could be fully polled, but that really didn’t enter into our decision to breed her to Egyptian King. The fact that she’s one of our nicer ewes and he’s one of our best rams did enter into it. I don’t know if this lamb will be ultra fine either, but it could be. What I would like, however, is a ewe lamb exactly like the ram lamb she threw last year. He’s darn near perfect.

Whispering Pines Blue Diamond

In hindsight, if we really wanted more moorit lambs, it made little sense to breed this ewe to Egyptian King, but the potential for a high quality lamb was too good to pass up. We’re hoping that Egyptian King carries moorit and spots, but I really don’t know. We would love to get a moorit lamb here, but black is fine too. I’ve grown to like the blacks more and more each year now that I’ve seen what that color fleece can look like when it’s fine.

Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire

Pretty much the same thought process as Blue Diamond. This breeding was interesting, however, in that Sapphire could be a gulmoget, which means we could get a gulmoget ewe here. This is the first time I haven’t been able to identify a lamb’s pattern. There’s really no color on her to help make that determination. There was barely enough to determine that she is a katmoget. If not for the one grey spot on her side, I wouldn’t know that either. There is so much potential in this ewe that we almost don’t care what pattern or sex the lamb is. Still, black is preferred…and a ewe. To me, breeding her to Egyptian King was a no brainer. There are always other options, but she is probably our favorite ewe, and he is my favorite ram right now in terms of overall structure and fleece.

Whispering Pines Peridot

She looks to be bred, which is a surprise to me. We put her in with Pompey late and she never saw a complete cycle. But if she is bred, I would certainly want a mioget, or moorit ewe lamb. Pompey is her great grandfather, so this isn’t a close line breeding, but it is intended to bring out fleece traits that I admire. She is an improvement over her mother, and we liked her mother a great deal. A mioget ewe lamb out of this ewe would be really awesome! She’s a good looking yearling!

Sheltering Pines Cor de Nuit

The old lady of our flock (she’s five this spring) is one of our best producers. She hasn’t had a bad lamb yet! She is bred to Pompey, which probably means more katmogets, but it would be really sweet if she had a solid black ewe this year. Heck, any ewe would be welcome. She’s had four rams since we’ve owned her and it’s time for two ewes, quite frankly. I still love this ewe! These lambs could also be fully polled. I haven’t come across many Shetlands in my travels who have the kind of fleece this ewe has. You’ll have no difficulty finding finer fleeces than she has, but not with this density and crimp. It’s a fleece that you want to sink your hands into. By breeding her to Pompey, we are forfeiting our ability to get spotted lambs, but this is a straight up quality-to-quality breeding and we are excited about it!

Sheltering Pines Constantinople

This Salicional daughter is quite nice (maybe not as nice as her mother, but very nice nonetheless). She has also produced well. She is bred to Bond (which excites me), but that probably means another grey katmoget. That’s okay. We know there’s a potential for solid moorit as well. We’ll hope for that. The lambs could also be fully polled or be spotted. We get excited when we get fine, spotted lambs. There is so much work to be done with spotted Shetlands, that it is cool when you succeed in getting a nice one. So, we are always conscious of that when we put our breeding groups together. It’s not our number one goal, but it’s probably fourth or fifth on the list.

Sheltering Pines Onyx Velour

Sure, her name sounds like a stripper’s, but she is also a very nice ewe, who has produced well for us. We have a chance at a gul-kat here, but solid black is the ticket that we would like punched. She is bred to Bond, so just about anything is possible here. We don’t have many opportunities for gulmogets here anymore, so I would welcome that as well. Onyx is always one of our best looking ewes on shearing day. Fleeces have a way of hiding conformational flaws, but not with Onyx. She actually looks better after shearing! Now that I think about it, that's true of many of our ewes.

Sheltering Pines Persia

We love this ewe. She is also a great producer and has a great look about her. Although, we are looking for some spotted lambs in moorit, we know that the odds aren’t good of getting all of that, but excellent quality ewes are what we are after. We would like more ewes like her, regardless of color and pattern. We bred her to Bond this year because it made the most sense. It’s a breeding that I wanted to do last year before we decided to do AI.

Whispering Pines Irish Lace

Finally, a moorit-based ewe to talk about. Granted, she’s a gulmoget, but it counts. This is one of the few breedings where we are guaranteed moorit-based lambs (if she is bred). We are looking for a moorit-based spotted gulmoget here, so I’ll just say it. As I said, Bucky could very well carry two katmoget genes, but that’s okay. I also want more ewes that look like this one. She has longer legs like her grandfather, Wintertime Black Forrest, and I like the look of it, quite frankly. As a bonus, after shearing, it occurred to me that she has no side dusting whatsoever. I like that. I’ve always liked the gulmoget pattern, but I’ve never been a big fan of the side dusting that accompanies it 99% of the time. I think we have Black Forrest to thank for that because I don’t believe the other Dillon gulmogets pass that on. In our case, Firth of Fifth Leyland (Forrest’s son, and Irish’ father) was solid sided, and he apparently passed that on to Irish. I have no idea where Forrest got it. Anyway, it’s always nice to have something fairly rare, and I hope we can propagate that gulmoget trait (starting this year).

Whispering Pines Primrose

She has always been one of our favorite ewes -- great personality (if a bit selfish), and conformation to boot. I would really like to get some nice ewes out of her before we end up selling this ewe. We have a shot at a solid moorit here, and spots are also a good possibility. I’m looking for a slight improvement in her fleece type and fineness, but the lamb must also possess her other wonderful traits. She only looks to be carrying one lamb, however.

Sheltering Pines Queen Anne’s Lace

I don’t know if there’s any chance of getting moorit out of this one, but we don’t need white either. That’s the problem with patterned sheep, you soon get too many of them. I think we have a shot at a solid black here, and that’s what we are looking for. This ewe is a good example of what the breed can be. Her fleece is really quite spectacular for a three-year old – crimpy, silky, nice length (around 4”), and white! I was going to sell her last year, but felt she was too nice to let go yet. I’d like to get one like her in a different color. I just think it was a no brainer breeding her to Pompey. I never considered another option. As a side note, she sheared like butter and so did Pompey, so there’s that as well.

Whispering Pines Shiobhan

Now, we can get moorit here, and that’s what we want! This could be a good one! We could get white, and we could get black, and we could get katmoget, but we could also get what we want here, and the fleece could be something special. I would call this ewe pretty close to my ideal in terms of type, structure, and fleece. Not quite, but close. I considered breeding her to Buckaroo, but I felt Pompey gave us the best chance at what we want in terms of improvement. No regrets there; I think it was the right move. Shiobhan is 72% UK blood, which is the highest amount in our flock.

That’s it; a total of 14 ewes. Four of those will surely single. Persia and Onyx always have, but it’s not a given. If the rest twin, that will give us 22 lambs. Out of those, we’ll likely get 10-12 ewe lambs. Can we get several solid black and moorits out of 10 ewe lambs? We sure hope so. Will they be keepers? We hope so. Are the odds good of getting all of those things? No, but we only hope to add a few really nice keepers each year, so that’s all we can hope for. That’s why we have goals, right?

I think we know we won’t quite get there this year, but we’re looking for a good step forward. We had a good year in 2010, and we expect the lambs this year to be nicer, with a little more variety in terms of color and pattern. It will be interesting how things play out. Having built a nice flock, we want to improve from within and keep moving toward our goals.

Happy lambing to everyone!

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