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.


Michelle said...

Wow, those first two lambs have identical heads in shape and ear-set, and both are beautiful! I just love my first katmoget (from Garrett) and she also has my softest fleece. Can't wait to see what she gives me next spring!

stephen rouse said...

Rich and Jen! They are all stunning. Wow... fantastic lambs. The color on that Cor de Nuit girl seems unusual... is here fleece really nicely fawn colored underneath? (when fleece is separated?) Her conformation is truly a knock out. If this ewe didn't take 1st place in a showline for lambs, then there would have to be something wrong with the judge. I wish you could take a few to Jefferson so the Brits could see them!

Kelly said...

Wow, I am partial to the gray kat myself, but it's too easy to get all kats, so I have to buy something else too. I think you have a great looking group there.

Jen and Rich Johnson said...


Yes, I'm partial to that head shape and ear set as well. I think that's a look I would like in all of our lambs. Fortunately, a good number of them look that way this year.


Jen and Rich Johnson said...


I will post parted fleece pictures soon. She is a rich chocolate color, and I'm quite partial to it. Our other fawn kats are much lighter (light tan).

I do think she would do well in a show ring, but I doubt we'll ever do that. The only thing I know is that I can't do much better than this lamb. You just have to feel her fleece to understand.


Jen and Rich Johnson said...


Yes, it's something that you can't get away from if you want good bloodlines and quality Shetlands. You just hope that they kick out a solid lamb once in a while. That happened for us last year with both Saturday Night and his brother Egyptian King. We got those two rams out of two katmogets.


Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

I know what you mean about "the road less travelled." But you look well on your way. Amazing lambs! I'm producing a lot of kats too. And even though no one really wants to buy them, they are just the best sheep I have. :) Luckily my local fleece customers prefer the kat and gray fleeces.

Jen and Rich Johnson said...


That's how I see it. I'm not a puppy mill kicking out pet quality sheep. We're trying to produce quality animals without getting caught up with what people might buy. The good fiber people seem to get it.


Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Just this past Saturday was my local fiber guild meeting. I brought in several of my fleeces for sale. A great majority of the ladies there told me they are just crazy for the black kats and the gray fleeces because they produce such a lovely heathered yarn...especially when dyed. I have become rather wary of selling breeding lambs. I am always thinking of how that lamb will carry the name Boston Lake for the rest of its life. And it will represent Shetlands everywhere it goes too. I still run into folks that tell me Shetlands are the same as Icelandics. When they see my sheep, I want them to be surprised and delighted with the distinct Shetland breed. I'm certainly not as close to my goals as I wish. But if I can keep my fleece and butcher lamb customers happy I will get there some day. hopefully. Even if there isn't much interest in my black katmoget breeding lambs. :)

Dave Lewis said...

Great group of lambs. The last dark katmoget would be produce some remarkable yarn and garments if it were separated by shade and then spun. I know that Jen will do a great job with it. Can't wait to see it finished.