Thursday, April 25, 2013

Whispering Pines Blue Diamond x Pompey Magnus

Blue Diamond is one of our two Blue's Clues daughters, and also one of our better Constantinople daughters. Constantinople always throws really nice lambs, but Diamond's fleece is the tops. We felt like there was a good chance of getting really nice lambs from this breeding and we were not disappointed.

The grey ram is a really nice katmoget, with just about everything you could want in a ram lamb. The moorit is also extremely nice and is most likely polled. This is about as good as we could've hoped for, even though I don't typically get excited about rams. The truth is, however, we wanted a couple of nice ram lambs this year either out of Constantinople or one of her daughters. We have several to choose from. This breeding combined some of my favorite bloodlines.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sommarang Isla x Pompey Magnus

Isla is a super fine ewe that we brought in from Wisconsin in 2011 and I was very interested in breeding her to Pompey, so that's what we did last fall. I liked her ewe lamb last spring out of Khan and could have gone that way again, but I had reasons for going the way I did.

The result was two very dark fawn katmoget ewe lambs. One is bigger than the other, but otherwise, they are pretty identical. They both look pretty sharp with very soft and fine fleeces.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sommarang Ilke x Whispering Pines Barenfang

Ilke is one of our two Wisconsin ewes that we brought in back in 2011. The goal at that time was to infuse some additional top notch genetics into our flock (she is out of Firth of Fifth Avyt) as well as some much needed moorit. It's impossible to find super fine Shetlands out east, and I felt Ilke would move us toward our goals.

I bred her to Barenfang because I felt they both had very dense, super fine fleeces, and sometimes you just go with a hunch.

This little moorit lamb is the result and I really think she is built really well, and the fleece has potential as well. But, to be honest, I'm just happy to have a nice lamb out of Barenfang, who is a Khan son. If we elect to keep her, I think she adds a nice combination of genetics to go with what will be a dense fleece.

The other day I mentioned Genoa's ram, and finally got around to photographing him. He is out of Winter Sky Khan.


 You can see how his color and markings are identical to Genoa's.

I also included additional pictures of his moorit sister, shown here next to Blue Diamond's yearling daughter from last spring. Lots of rooing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire x Pompey Magnus

Lambing slowly plods along here at Whispering Pines, but so far, the wait has been worth it.

Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire lambed and had two really nice lambs (one male and one female). As you can see, we finally got our coveted black lamb, although, we would have preferred a ewe in black. I’m just saying. This ram is very silky and soft, and has what is known as a dog coat. He has a nice structure and will most likely be a half-poll.

The ewe lamb is a fawn katmoget that is also silky and soft. We don’t typically decide on sale animals until all of the lambs are born and have had time to mature some, but I would be surprised if this lamb was on that list. I personally think her fleece will be very similar to her mothers, but one can’t know that for sure. But the fact that that’s even a possibility is quite exciting! It’s been very difficult producing my vision of the perfect Shetland fleece, so it’s always fun to see that potential in some of the lambs. And I also like that we are getting a fair amount of diversity in fleece type this year. I’ve always said that there are many types of Shetland fleeces within an acceptable range.

I've also always said that collecting the best bloodlines would be a strategy that would be the correct path forward if I could use them correctly (something I'm still working on), and it's rewarding to see some measure of success with that approach. It's not going to pay off with every lamb, but soon or later, proper selection is going to increase our success rate.

The next struggle is balancing selection so that we maintain the correct combination of all Shetland attributes, while maintaining a manageable flock size. In fact, if lambing ended today, I would be happy to switch our focus to the insanely tough choices we will have to make with our flock this year. I suppose we'll find a way, but it's never been this tough before.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Whispering Pines Genoa x Winter Sky Khan

I blogged about Siena and Kiyah recently, and readers will recognize Whispering Pines Genoa (Pompey Mangus x Shiobhan) as another of our top ewes. In fact, she is my top ewe in the flock. That’s a matter of taste because none of them are perfect, and they aren’t all strong in the same areas. Genoa is the result of some AI we did several years back. Her mother was Whispering Pines Shiobhan, an F1 Orion. When we bred Shiobhan to Pompey, we were looking for several things (we’re never looking for just one thing). We were looking for fineness of fleece (Pompey was one of the finest Shetlands in the country), and moorit. Well, we got fineness and type in spades, but Genoa is not brown-based.

Genoa was also my hardest breeding decision last fall. I ended up putting her with Winter Sky Khan because he was my best option really. Genoa is Pompey’s daughter, and Barenfang is a Pompey grandson. Ultimately, I think I made the right decision. Khan is a super fine three-year old ram, and in the grand scheme of our breeding program, not only our best option for Genoa, but really the only one.

I wasn't able to get a picture of the ram lamb, but I will soon. What I can say is that he looks very much like Genoa did at birth. Same color and fleece type. He is pretty much a copy of her at the same age. What I am hoping for is the same fleece. Genoa’s fleece is stunning in both color and handle. I see a lot of potential in this ram. I am hoping to get some updated pictures tomorrow since the weather looks like it may break for at least one day.

This moorit ewe is a stunner as well. It took two generations, but we did finally get moorit from Shiobhan’s genetics. I look forward to seeing her mature. We started out with a white ewe lamb who was dominant for black, ended up a dark blue katmoget (Genoa) and then this little moorit, who is in contention for my favorite lamb so far this year.

I also look forward to getting better pictures.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Whispering Pines Kiyah x Sheltering Pines Pompey Magnus

Whispering Pines Kiyah is out of Blue Diamond and Egyptian King, which means she is a second generation Whispering Pines sheep. We have always resisted the temptation to simply load up our flock with Whispering Pines offspring unless they fit a genetic purpose. There are so many things we look for before we elect to keep a lamb for future use. Kiyah is one of those sheep that we saw genetic potential in. Actually, she is built as solidly as any Shetlands we have owned, and has the crimpiest fleece in our flock (her CRV as a yearling was 107). She is also fine and extremely uniform from front-to-back. In short, she has a lot of things that we value.

We bred her to Pompey, not because Khan would’ve been a bad choice, but because I liked the line breeding potential here. Blue Diamond is Kiyah’s mother, and Wintertime Bond (Pompey’s grandson). That makes Kiyah a Bond grandson, and a Constantinople granddaughter. This is not a heavy line breeding, but it does bring together a lot of valuable genetics.

This ram lamb is a fawn katmoget with a lot of potential. There is very little I don’t like about this guy at this young age. He should be polled.

His sister sets the bar much higher, however. This is one beautiful ewe lamb, and I’ll resist the usual hyperbole and leave it at that. We’ve had several ewe lambs born here that I would put on our wall of fame, and this is one of them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Whispering Pines Siena x Winter Sky Khan

As readers of this blog know, Whispering Pines Siena is one of our best ewes (she is a Pompey Magnus daughter out of Cor de Nuit). She has a dense, crimpy, and fine fleece with an excellent conformation. Last year, we got a ram out of her when bred to Winter Sky Khan that we felt was as good as his mother in most ways. Barenfang then became sort of our gold standard for how we want our lambs to look. We liked him so much that we gave him a few ewes to see if he could produce that type, and we also repeated the Khan Siena breeding.

This moorit ewe lamb is the result of that breeding and I like her a great deal. Again, this is a very young lamb (the pictures were taken the same day as the photos of Constantinople’s rams and they are the same age).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lambing Begins - Pompey Magnus x Constantinople

Well, lambing is afoot here at Whispering Pines. I said I would like a keeper ram lamb out of Constantinople and Pompey Magnus, and we got two of them. Both have potential to be flock sires in the future, but that’s certainly not a call I can make this early in their development (it’s easy to disqualify lambs this early, but not as easy to pencil them into the starting lineup). At any rate, they look pretty good for rams of this age.

I’m not even sure which one I like the best at this point. There are some genetic possibilities here that I envisioned when I line bred Pompey and Constantinople. Ultimately, however, it comes down to whether they can move us forward with our breeding program in multiple areas. It will be interesting watching these guys mature over the summer to see how typey they are and that sort of thing. I was looking for type with this breeding.

I don’t normally let them outside until they are three or four days old, but it was so nice today, that I gave them some exercise time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Breeding Strategies and Bloodlines (No lambs and I'm bored)

Every year I go through the same process here at Whispering Pines. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out which breeding groups will move us forward in our quest for the perfect Shetland sheep. Then I forget about everything sheep related until late March.

This down time gives us time to think through what we are after with this year’s lamb crop. It also gives me more time to second guess breeding decisions. If second guessing myself was a profession, I’d be doing quite well. What I’ve discovered in life is that there are good plans, and then there’s good old fashioned luck (good and bad) that comes in play with all things. That’s especially true with Shetlands.

Case in point, could anyone have predicted that out of the hundreds of breedings involving Roban Dillon and his offspring, Black Forrest would emerge? I don’t know that I would call that a fluke, but it wasn’t planned either. But it’s the kind of thing that happens when you use good bloodlines.
Note: for those of you who are new to the Shetland field, Black Forrest is probably one of the finest adult Shetlands we’ve ever had in this country.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of bad offspring from the Roban Dillon line, and I’ve seen some decent ones. If you have a gulmoget in this country, it came from his line (there were no Dailley gulmogets).

So, what does Roban Dillon have to do with my flock and our grand total of zero gulmogets? Pompey Magnus was an F2 Dillon and one of the few lines out of that imported UK ram that has produced super fine Shetlands that doesn’t trace back to Forrest. If you trace back lines from different Shetlands, Forrest certainly has made big contributions. But so has Pompey, except there are far fewer offspring out of him. As a point of reference, Sheltering Pines Salicional is Pompey’s half-sister (they both had the same father) and both are super fine.

My goal several years ago was to build our breeding program from Pompey, and I have gotten to work on that in earnest this year. Two of our best ewes (Siena and Genoa) are out of him, and Barenfang is a Pompey grandson. Barenfang is also a Black Forrest grandson. See where I am going with this? Barenfang combines two super fine bloodlines, and he is super fine as well. I don’t anticipate getting any lambs from him this year, but my intention is to use him heavily in the fall to see what impact he might have on our flock.

This spring, I expect to have somewhere around 10 lambs out of Pompey. I should have used him more than I have, but when you have a ram like Winter Sky Khan, it’s hard not to use him heavily. As I said last year in a post, you never know how long you will have a ram, so it’s difficult to project what their impact might be on our flock. Pompey is a perfect example of that, and he was the subject of the post when I said that. Call it a vision or bad luck, but we lost Pompey last winter. It happens with rams.

So, my grand plan of juxtaposing two separate Dillon lines hasn’t really come together like I wanted. My plan was to breed Pompey to some of the Khan offspring, to see what would happen. I was impressed with the one time we tried it last year with Siena, and this year we bred Genoa to Khan, so we’ll get another look at it this year (plus we bred Siena to Khan again). I also line bred a Bond daughter to Pompey two years ago, and we got a super fine ewe lamb that we liked a lot (Victoria below).

I don't know about you all, but I have never purchased a ewe lamb as nice as Victoria. It's cool when it works out like that. Genoa is another good example.

Siena as a lamb below.

Again, no disrepect to anyone else out there who is producing fine or super fine Shetlands, I've never even seen ewe lambs this nice (not in person anyway). I may never produce lambs this nice again.

So, the strategy has been successful where we’ve tried it. I had just hoped we would’ve had more Pompey daughters to try it on. Pompey just produced incredibly well. It’s rare to find that kind of prepotency in a ram. We will probably never have another one like him in that regard. I still remember the trip I made to pick him up a few years ago. I was having truck problems almost the entire way, but didn't realize until I got home that my vehicle was leaking transmission fluid out of a rotted hose. I wondered then whether the repair costs had been worth it. They were.

But that’s my goal for this spring. I want to get one Pompey son that we will keep for future use, and I’d like to get six keeper daughters. We retained six Khan daughters from last year as well as one son (Barenfang), so we’re pretty much following the same play book. We currently have 19 ewes, so about a third are Khan daughters. All are very good to excellent, but not exactly what we are breeding for in all ways (the Forrest line typically has a different crimp structure than we like). Structurally, they are all fantastic, and all are fine-to-super fine, but as I’ve said before, we aren’t breeding for two or three traits, but the complete animal.
Below are some of the Khan daughters to which I am referring:

Blue Diamond daughter out of Khan (also a Blue's Clues granddaughter)

As I said, I would like to breed them back to either Pompey or his son, and I currently have no way to do that (they are half-sisters to Barenfang). It’s a bit of a dilemma. In a perfect world, Constantinople would have a keeper son out of Pompey that we could use on some of these beautiful Khan daughters. My gut feel is that we would see great results from such a cross. It’s just not practical to have two thirds of our flock either Pompey or Khan daughters. That would mean we could only keep six of our current adults. Now that I think about it, Constantinople's Khan daughters are also an example of crossing Pompey's line with Black Forrest's. Constantinople is a Salicional daughter, who, as I said, is Pompey's half-sister. Those two are probably my two favorite Khan daughters from last year.
In short, there is a method to our madness here at Whispering Pines. While we have at times become too heavily invested in katmogets, it’s the bloodlines that we covet as well as the future potential of the sheep that we keep. Down the road, I could even see us bring back great sheep that we have sold where it makes genetic sense. When you are trying to maintain a flock of 16-to-18 ewes you have to let some good sheep go each year to make room for lambs that should be better. You rapidly reach a point, however, where you are selling sheep that are different, but not necessarily inferior to the ones that you keep. If we don’t think a sheep fits into our genetic puzzle, it might be a find for someone else with different goals.

I'll close with a picture of Barenfang as a lamb, who, as I said, is a striking example of the Pompey/Khan bloodline cross. Ahh, I can only hope we get one or two this good this year!