Thursday, August 18, 2011

Egyptian King Lamb Fleeces

I’ve already said how much we like the Egyptian King lambs, but pictures are always worth more than a thousand words.

This shaela ram out of Sheltering Pines Christmas Holly is a good example of what we like in a Shetland. He is very much like Holly’s ram from last year, Rowdy. I think he’s a great example of a polled Shetland ram. He didn’t do me any favors by taking a nice roll in the grass clippings for this photo shoot, but it at least gives you an idea of his qualities.

I think he will micron in the 24-to-25 range as a yearling, based on what I see right now. More importantly, he has good lock structure, consistency, and will have a low CV, which translates directly to the handle of the fleece.

Blue Diamond is a Blue’s Clues daughter from last spring who we like a great deal. Her black daughter is quite impressive. Great lock structure, uniformity, density, and fineness. She will probably micron in the 23—24 range with a low CV. This is an excellent black ewe who carries spots and moorit. She’s better than her mother, which is what we are all about.

Unfortunately, I thought I had a current picture, but did not. I'll have to get one this weekend.

Her sister is a fawn katmoget, who quite frankly, is nicer than her sister. This ewe is our finest of the year, in my opinion, and I don’t feel that she trades off much for that fineness. How fine will she be? Who can say? I would guess 21 microns with a low CV.

Blue Sapphire was one of our favorite ewes last year. She is a Blue’s Clues daughter who had a fleece that was the most like his. I’ll probably never have another fleece like his, but it’ll be fun trying. So, when we bred her to Egyptian King, we had high hopes for the lamb. And we weren’t disappointed. This ram lamb is nicer than both parents, in my opinion. He is scurred (yes, those are scurs. I’m not going to try to convince anyone that he’s polled), but they are small scurs, which is a good thing.

Anyway, he’s very fine, has great density, and an awesome conformation. We’ll just have to see how he matures. I think he will be close to 22 microns as a yearling, and probably a really low CV (maybe 16%). Just a great ram out of fantastic genetics!

Did I say that I like Egyptian King? I’ll do a post on him at some point.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lamb and Fleece Evaluations

I wanted to share some of my assessments of this year’s lambs before time gets completely away from me. We did the final round of CDT shots on Saturday, and that gave us a chance to evaluate each of them more closely.

I decided to break them down by sire, which seemed as good of an approach as any.

First, the Little Buckeroo lambs.

This one is easy since we only have two ewes left and both are out of Itasca. These lambs are F2 Jerichos, who is one of my favorite UK rams.

The first one is Itasca’s fawn ewe. I really like this ewe. She has an excellent conformation, nice fleece length, and luster up the ying yang. She has a bolder crimp, which really shows off the luster. I don’t know if others have noticed this, but the larger crimp seems to really reveal the full amount of luster. The tightly crimped lambs don’t seem to do that. I suppose if I stretched them out and compared side-by-side, I’d see it, but the fingers really glide over this fleece. I think it’s a bit early to predict micron values, but I think this one will be 26 microns as a yearling. It’s probably close to that now and might possibly increase by one or so by next spring. Who knows?

Her sister is a grey katmoget with a different style of fleece. It should be around 3.5 inches next spring, but it will definitely be finer than her sister’s. I would say between 22 and 23 microns. It’s just a beautiful fleece on an outstanding ewe lamb!

That’s it for the F2 Jericho ewes.

We still have one ram left from Buckeroo and I will do my usual lamenting on how I wish he was a ewe. Actually, I don’t. I wish he was polled. It’s a fleece that we really like. I think it’ll be 4.5 inches and fine! And I don’t see much tip either, so the CV should be pretty darn low as well. It’s just very soft with tons of potential. But, he’ll be wethered. There’s nothing wrong with a good fiber animal – the gift that keeps on giving. I just wish we could’ve used him in our program.

He is out of Irish Lace.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lamb Colors

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on our blog, so I thought I’d share some pictures of lambs that I still like. I can’t say for sure they will all be keepers (we are only keeping the 10 ewe lambs that we think best meet our requirements), but I like them for different reasons.

First are Itasca’s katmoget lambs out of Little Buckeroo. These lambs are 61% UK. I like the grey better than the fawn, but these lambs are a good example of the diversity you can get out of Shetlands. Both should be fine, but the fawn will have a longer fleece (maybe 5 inches) than the grey. I’ll post more current pictures once we get more time. As you look at the pictures, notice the differences in colors and markings, even though all of these lambs are katmogets.

The next lamb is Peridot’s out of Pompey. Just a tremendous grey katmoget ewe lamb with great genetics behind her. It was my first attempt at line breeding around Pompey. I took a Bond daughter and bred her to Pompey, who is her great grandfather. I just love the katmogets – especially this line. This lamb will be very fine; perhaps our finest. We are trying to breed for fine fleeces without losing some of the more valuable fleece traits such as silkiness, crimp, and lock structure. I would say this lamb looks similar to Itasca’s grey, but not quite. This lamb is only 43% UK, but I think you can see the influence of those genetics, and she would look very much at home in a UK Flock book flock. For those readers not familiar with what a Flock Book flock is, it’s an organization in the UK that inspects Shetlands to the 1927 standard (in fact, they wrote the standard). Only the best of the best qualify. I’m not saying this lamb would qualify, but UK folks would recognize her as a Shetland that meets most of the 1927 standard’s requirements. Oh, and yes, the Shetlands that were imported to North America in 1980 were from Flock Book flocks.

At birth, I thought Cor de Nuit’s ewe lamb was our best of the year, and I still think that way. She has a nice frame without possessing too much bone. Shetlands are supposed to be fine boned. But her overall conformation and fleece are pretty close to the total package. She is out of Pompey, and 43% UK. Again, not a huge percentage, but she looks quite a bit different than other Shetlands that you might see. She will also be fine, but perhaps not as fine as Peridot’s ewe. That’s what my evaluation is telling me. I’m not going to guess at the micron level for another month or so. I know what I think, but I’ll wait. This is one of those lambs that would’ve received a rather large breeding group had she been a ram. I’ve been looking for a ewe out of Cor de Nuit and now that she’s had one, I’m wishing it was a ram. I loathe myself sometimes. I like this lamb better than her half brother, Egyptian King.

The last lamb to share is Shiobhan’s grey katmoget. This lamb is pretty impressive as well. I would argue that she’s the prettiest lamb we’ve had here. This picture does a decent job of illustrating the markings and colors. She’s probably the darkest katmoget we’ve had here as well. Her fleece? Very yummy. As I said, we’ll post more pictures soon (just got back from vacation and are way behind on things). This lamb is 58% UK.

The point of this post is to illustrate how different the markings and colors can be with this breed. I like the darker colors (particularly the katmogets), but our breeding program revolves around quality, not color and markings. If the fleeces are exceptional (as all of these are), I don’t care about color and markings that much. Of course, that thought process gave us a flock that is predominately katmoget.

I’ve noticed that the road less travelled is a tough path to follow. It’s hard to breed for sheep of this quality, and it’s hard to sell grey katmogets. People seem to like spots. Heck, I Iike spots. I wish it was easy to produce spotted Shetlands with fleeces like these. I wish it were easy to find quality non-katmoget rams. Fortunately, we have one in Egyptian King, but we don’t have one in moorit. So, it’s tough. And it’s tempting to bite at the hook that a lot of customers seem to be putting in front of us. But, I unless we produce what I consider to be a quality Shetland, I don’t think we are doing anything for the breed. As a result, we’ll continue on this path and hopefully produce more variety of colors and markings along with stunning fleeces.