Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Breeding Plans

Armed with what I learned from the certified UK inspectors at Jefferson, I have fine tuned my evaluation approach to our flock and am in the process of revising our breeding plans. I don’t think it will change much, but I want to make sure my initial assessments are as accurate as they can be. Then I will know which ram to put with which ewe. I’ve never been one to just throw all my ewes to one ram just because I may like him for his color, spotting, or whatever.

I think next year, we will have a number of promising yearlings, and need to supplement that with a handful of ewe lambs next year who are even better. As it stands right now, we won’t be breeding many ewes this fall, which means we won’t have as many lambs as we did this past spring. So, it’s important that we maximize the likelihood of all of them being top notch. I’m basically looking for three or four keeper ewe lambs next year. We had more than that this year, but we had a strong ewe year, which isn’t going to happen every time.

Actually, if we have more ewes than that that we want to keep, we’ll have a problem because I don’t have a strong desire to sell any of the adults and lambs that we have right now. None whatsoever. And I realize that we will have to sell one ewe for every lamb that we keep. That's the only way we can keep our flock size to 18 ewes.

How many lambs do we want to have? As I said, just enough to give us the quantity of keepers that we want. I have said this many times, and I’ll say it again, we breed to our own goals, not to sell sheep. And since we have a pretty good flock of Shetlands right now, I don’t see the point of adding another 20 lambs into the mix next spring. So, I think the magic number may be 12 lambs next spring. That feels about right. That way we won’t have to be pressured to sell sheep. We’ll still have to sell some, but we can be more choosey about how we do it. The practice of breeding too many Shetlands and then dumping them on the market for less than proper value, is not good for the breed, and I won’t be a party to it. It’s what separates us from puppy mills. In my opinion, this is one of the top three or four concerns facing our breed over the next few years. But that's just my opinion. At any rate, we have to do what we feel comfortable with.

Once we made the decision not to breed many ewe lambs, everything else fell into place in terms of what we want to do (and we may not breed any ewe lambs at all). We’re going to return to the small-time operation we used to be and focus more on fleece development rather than on livestock sales. Now that I’ve actually said all of this out loud, I feel a nice sense of peace. It feels like the right decision.


Michelle said...

I'm trying to decide whether or not to breed my ewe lamb. I have four adult, unretired ewes but one of those didn't settle last year, her first breeding season. If I breed those four, maybe only three will settle, but if I add the ewe lamb and all five take, I'll have too many lambs! A conundrum, to be sure.

Kelly said...

I could not agree with you more Rich. I won't be breeding any ewe lambs this year, no matter now nicely they've matured. Since Shetlands are so slow to mature and develop, it only makes more sense to me to that I wait to see what they become before putting them in my breeding plan.
I only sold 3 ewe lambs this year and I also had to make some hard decisions, Kate and Alan's visit helped me with some things that had me waffling (is that a real word?) about what to do. I have more clarity now, my goals are the same, but I've got more tools of evaluation at my disposal now.

Michelle said...

Ha; I just got my comment via email from "following." The upshot is that I did not breed my ewe lamb and pulled the ewe that didn't settle last year out of this year's breeding group early because of strange behavior on the ram's part (I think she's a freemartin), so only bred three.