Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whispering Pines Irish Mist

Well, since this lamb looks nearly identical to her sister Frangelico, I decided to post both consecutively.

There isn't much to add that I didn't already say about Frangelico, except that this one is spotted. Other than that, the differences are small.

The fleece pictures might look at little different, but they weren't taken in the same spot. Frangelico's was taken mid-rib, while this one taken half-way back, but higher up. I just wanted to show how it varies some, but not a great deal.

Whispering Pines Frangelico

This is fawn katmoget ewe is a good example of Constantinople's get. She is out of Wintertime Khan. She has oodles of Shetland type, with a very fine, soft fleece. Great luster, density, and good length without tip. We've had finer lambs, but none any nicer. I like her.

I've noticed that we are rapidly accumulating Constantinople's genetics here, which isn't a bad thing, but all her ewes have had excellent conformations, fleeces, and overall type. I'm still looking for a ram from her possessing her head and overall structure, but until we get that, we're enjoying ewe lambs like this one. I also like that this lamb has a different fleece type than some of the other ewes in our flock. We really don't want all of one type. What we are really interested in getting out of Constantinople are lambs that hold their fineness well into adulthood like she has. She was never super fine, but her fleece micron has held rock steady over the years. That's one of those things that you can only find out with time. So far, Blue Diamond has held steady as well, but we'll need more data points on both her and the other Constantinople lambs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Whispering Pines Coloma

Well, I have a few more adult ewes to blog about, but I lack good pictures, so they'll have to wait. So, on to the lambs.

This is Whispering Pines Coloma out of Wintertime Itasca and Winter Sky Khan. I have blabbed on enough about Itasca's attributes, but I haven't shared anything on Khan. Khan is a very fine, moorit ram out of Black Forrest. His two year old micron test was 22.5 with a low CV. When I say low, I usually mean around 20%. I often don't share all of the micron statistics, because a lot of people either don't care to read about math or don't understand what all of the numbers mean. I've written several articles on the importance of micron data on fiber animals, and I'll no doubt do that again on this blog at some point, but for now, trust me when I say he is super fine (which is a relative term used by some of us Shetland folk).

Sorry, no fleece pictures on the lambs. I just haven't had time.

Oh, I was supposed to be talking about the lamb wasn't I? Itasca has produced some nice ewes, and I like this one as well. She isn't going to be super fine like her parents, but she has a nice fleece that is very uniform with nice density. Overall, I think she is a keeper. It'll be hard to hold onto all of these lambs come next spring because I like all of the adults a great deal, and I expect nice lambs next year as well. We ran into that problem this year as well, and ended up selling ewes that I probably should've kept. Next year, I might not be so quick to pull the trigger on ewe sales. Still, I'll probably have to come up with 10-12 to keep our size manageable.

Plus, I'd really like to keep some high quality moorits if at all possible. Overall, I'd probably rank this lamb at or near the top of this year's lamb crop, however, which means I'll work hard to try and keep her. Given the bloodlines, I'd be surprised if the majority of these ewe lambs don't end up producing lambs that are finer than they are.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter Sky Vogue

This moorit ewe is probably my favorite non-Whispering Pines ewe. She's fine-boned with a beautiful, soft moorit fleece. She also has a very nice Shetland head.

What she brings to the table for us is a bloodline that we really don't have. She's an F3 Orion, which is a bloodline that we do have, but she is also one of the few ewes out of Winter Sky Tennyson, who I never saw in person, but hear great things about. I don't generally bring in ewes unless I've seen both parents, but in this case, I made an exception because I thought Vogue was that nice.

I will post a fleece picture when I have one. I was lucky to get this picture. I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but her yearling fleece took second place at the 2011 WSWF, which was judged by certified SSS judges (have I mentioned that once or twice, as if I thought that was significant or something?). Having seen some of the fleece judging in other fiber events, I have gained an appreciation for the skill of Alan Hill and Kate Sharp at that event. I realize that everyone likes the judges who think like we do, and we despise those who don't, but in this case, we are talking about two people with credentials that most of the U.S. judges don't have, as well as the profound experience with the breed that people like me look for when trying to deepen our understanding of the Shetland sheep. That event meant something to me even though I had no sheep entered in anything. It was as important to me as the 2005 AGM at the Dailley farm in Ontario. That event had nothing to do with UK judges, but it was an eye opener for me in terms of what the breed could be (or was supposed to be before Americans intervened). If the 2005 AGM was a turning point for our farm, the 2011 WSWF was a reality check showing we are progressing on the correct path. It is important to me that we breed for Shetlands like you would find in their native land, and not merely something that we personally like. Having bred for all Shetland types, I feel like we can't have enough ewes in our flock like Vogue.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sommarang Isla

I brought this ewe in from Wisconsin last year for several reasons. First, I liked her fleece and conformation. Really, that doesn’t mean much because I wouldn’t bring in a ewe unless that was true. But I also liked her mother and father a great deal, which is a must with all sheep that we have in our flock.

Her mother was reserve champion ewe at the 2010 WSWF, which means very little to me except that I really liked her. Her father was grand champion ram and reserve champion Shetland (finishing 2nd to Salicional) at the 2011 WSWF. Plus, I felt he was one of the better Shetland rams I have seen. Isla’s yearling fleece tested out at 22.5 microns, which is right in the area we target for yearlings, but it also has nice uniformity and crimp.

Overall, she’s just a nice ewe and is maturing just as I had hoped. She doesn’t have all of the attributes that Constantinople has, but her fleece is nicer. Plus, she's modified!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Whispering Pines Siena

Whispering Pines Sienna is another Pompey daughter is has a pretty special fleece. It is denser than Genoa’s but not quite as fine, but it is one of our best. She produced an excellent polled ram this year who we are using in a small breeding group. There really isn’t much to criticize with this ewe. I don’t like her as much as Genoa, but the differences aren’t enormous, and are most likely a matter of personal preference. Siena is shown here being harassed by Khan.

What I will say is that she combines impressive bloodlines that I admire. I know I say that a lot, but we have spent the better part of four years collecting different bloodlines that I like, and she is a good example of that. They haven't all panned out, but some of them have done well.
We sold Siena's yearling fleece for $100, which is a good sign. We haven’t traditionally priced our fleeces that high, but we really didn’t want to sell these two (and quite a few others). But I think it's a good buy for the discriminating fiber person.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Whispering Pines Genoa

Whispering Pines Genoa is probably my favorite Shetland ewe. She is a beautiful, dark grey katmoget with an exquisite fleece. How exquisite? Jen and I both thought it was our best, but we were surprised when someone offered us $150 for it at a fiber event. That’s not bad for a 3 pound fleece. She is out of Whispering Pines Shiovan (an F1 Orion daughter) and Pompey Magnus, who is one of the finest polled rams in the country (he's six years old and still microns in the mid 25's - just missing superfine status).

We hope for nice lambs from her, but this is a ewe that will be difficult to improve. I would love to have a ram like her, however. Just saying. She has my ideal Shetland fleece. It’s just buttery soft with a wonderful lock structure. I can’t wait to see what she produces.

My only complaint is that I don't have more ewes like her. I'll post more pictures of some of these ewes at some point, but I just haven't had time to get good ones. This picture really doesn't show off her fantastic facial markings.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Whispering Pines Blue Diamond

Several years ago, we were wondering why we didn't have any fine fleece moorit ewes in our flock and we set out to change that. We had a few nice brown-based ewes, but they weren't as fine and uniform as we had seen elsewhere. That summer, I brought in Blue's Clues, and F2 Jericho ram, which really made no sense since he was a grey katmoget. Not only was he a grey katmoget, I had no reason to think he even carried moorit (or even spots for that matter). But his fleece was so gorgeous, I figured, it made sense, in spite of our goal of adding moorit.

Well, this was the first lamb (if I recall correctly) that we got out of him. Although she is a katmoget, she is both brown-based and moorit. More importantly, up to that point in our Shetland journey, I hadn't seen another spotted ewe with a fleece like this. She is superfine, with a two year micron test of 24.9, with great density, softness, and crimp. Her mother is Constantinople. For some reason, this ewe ended up finer than both of her parents. So, it works both ways with Shetlands. They tend to throw back to coarse and primitive, but once in a while they throw back to finer offspring several generations past (although, I haven't seen that happen very often). In this case, you've got Salicional and Blues in the pedigree, which is about as good as it gets.

Any hoo, this is a really nice ewe that has produced really nice offspring. Kiyah is hers, for example. She hasn't produced her fleece type yet in her lambs, but all of them have had nice fleeces, with outstanding conformations.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire

This wonderful spotted ewe is actually a grey katmoget. She's been one of our favorites for a long time for a lot of reasons, but her fleece is quite lovely and probably her best feature. Her two year old micron was 25.0 with a really low CV. The handle and luster are outstanding as is the density. She is one of two Sheltering Pines Blues Clues daughters that we own. I've always said that Blues Clues had one of the nicest Shetland fleeces I've personally seen. It wasn't the finest, but it just had a lacey quality that best resembles my ideal. Sapphire's fleece has similar properties and so far, it has held its fineness nicely. Her yearling and two year old micron tests were nearly identical (certainly within the measurement error of the test).

Blue Sapphire has had two really nice rams for us - both with really nice fleeces. As much as I like her, it would be nice if she had a ewe with the same qualities or better. She carries moorit as well, which is a nice bonus.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wintertime Itasca

Our only black ewe, and one that we like a lot for many reasons. She has a very fine, dense fleece that is very uniform from front-to-back, and wool on the cheeks and poll.

She has a nice Shetland conformation, and I would say she’s of average size. She is one of our top producers as well. I like most things about her. I also like the bloodline a great deal because it’s different than others that we have. She is out of Wintertime Landslide, who is out of Winter Sky Sandstone. Nice ewe.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Whispering Pines Irish Rose

This is another really nice ewe out of Bond and Constantinople. Great conformation on this ewe, to go with a super fine, consistent fleece.

She’s finer than her mother was at this age, but only time will tell whether her fleece holds its fineness over time. As I've said before, most of them don’t. When we are able to find spotted sheep like this one, we generally hold onto them because they are so rare. This one has luster to go with the other properties that we like. And when I say "like", I mean this is what I like to see in a Shetland. You don't want a flock of coarse, straight fleeces. Those are not Shetland traits. We don’t have many spotted sheep, but we like this one. Rose also has a fantastic bloodline to go with her outward appearance.
Irish Rose is also a good example of the type of Shetland that Constantinople throws. Her lambs always exhibit fantastic conformations with fleeces that have nice length and fineness. This one also happens to be very silky.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Whispering Pines Pearl

This ewe is out of Wintertime Itasca and Wintertime Bond, and is clearly our finest ewe. Her two year old fleece tested at 22 microns with an even lower CV.

I would characterize her as a medium- size ewe, with a fleece that is very crimpy, fine, and dense. I have always liked Bond’s head, and this ewe has it. Just a gorgeous ewe. She’s a little petite for my liking, but it’s a very elegant look. Shetlands are supposed to be fine boned, and she is. This is another ewe with a fantastic bloodline to go with her visible characteristics. That’s very important to me because I feel a solid bloodline increases the odds of producing outstanding lambs. You might get lucky now and then with a crappy ewe throwing a really nice lamb, but you can’t build your program around that. And if you don’t have an outstanding ram, you can pretty much forget about that strategy. But sometimes, the second generation lambs are better than their parents if you know what you are doing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ewe Flock - Sheltering Pines Constantinople

We have been doing our ewe-a-day posts for many years, and I find it useful because it forces me to write down exactly what I like about each flock member. Each year, our ewe roster has improved, and I think this year’s is better than last year’s. We still haven't produced exactly my ideal Shetland, but we've come close enough to leave me encouraged and excited about the future possibilities. The more high quality sheep that we have, the better our odds.
So without further adieu, here are our ewes for this year.

This grey katmoget is our largest ewe at about 100 pounds. She’s a little taller than the rest of our flock as well. But proportionally, she is absolutely perfect. She has a nice, long body that she has passed on to her daughters and granddaughters, which is why we keep her in our flock.
Conformation-wise, she is dead on. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating; she looks a lot like Sheltering Pines Salicional, who is her mother. Salicional was the Grand Champion Shetland at the 2011 WSWF, which was an incredible honor given the competition there that year, and the fact it was one of the few times Shetlands in this country have been judged by certified Shetland Sheep Society Judges. Not to rail on the Shetland judging in this country, but it’s bad. When you take a breed from the UK and change both it and the rules around what it should look like, you shouldn’t be surprised about what has happened to the breed in this country, but some people still seem to be. Anyway, I found the 2011 WSWF to be a good way of calibrating myself against what the breed is supposed to look like, and what it does look like in the UK. Constantinople would not win in a show against Salicional because her fleece is not as fine, but you would instantly recognize that they were related.

In addition to her conformation and overall appearance, I also like Constantinople’s head. To me, it is very Shetland, and a trait that I want to reproduce. You can see the wool on both the cheeks and poll, and that is probably a small thing, but it is the ideal we are striving for.

I also like her fleece, but on the surface, it doesn’t stack up to the rest of our flock. It would probably rank dead last in terms of overall quality, but it is still very nice. Her fourth fleece averaged 27 microns, which is exactly where it tested as a lamb. Most Shetland fleeces do not hold like that. So, given that we want to produce Shetlands with fleeces that hold their fineness well into adulthood, it seems logical that we would make her a building block for our flock to see if we can develop this.

Overall, she’s one of the better ewes in the country even if she isn’t the finest. But her overall type is outstanding, and her fleece consistency and uniformity is excellent as well. A top notch ewe for sure.