Thursday, May 24, 2007

Are we done yet?


Are you done lambing?

Were you happy with what you got?

Do you already have plans for next fall?

I don't know a breeder who isn't mentally making a breeding list as the lambs are arriving on the ground. It is part of the turnover of our plans and goals. I'll bet you have different goals now than you had last fall. Maybe you have new sheep that you are really excited about. You have an exciting ram lamb or you are buying some lamb that is the absolutely best and prettiest lamb you have even seen.

Having new sheep isn't the only part of our breeding goals. You need to look at what kind of lambs you produced this spring. How is the conformation....legs....tail....any horn growth? Fleeces. Wow fleeces are hard to deal with. We likely think most lambs feel really good. There is no sun bleaching....no weathering of tips....no mats or dirt....Sometimes I catch a lamb and I really want to linger there. The fleece is so soft...it feels like silk under my hand. Wow....who had THAT lamb.
This is why we need shetlands. We can tame them enough to feel their fleeces. We can make mental or written notes about what you like about the lamb produced from mom and dad....or what you don't like about the lamb produced. If it is a little new mom....there can always be some leg questions. Those little girls don't have much room for a lamb to grow. Maybe those legs will look better at a month old....maybe they won't. I had a lot of ewes born to yearlings this year. Usually they have rams....then you don't have to be so picky....most shetland rams are not meant to be bred.

Did I say that?

I'm sorry. What makes your plain black ram lamb worth breeding?...Don't you think plain black ram lambs are a dime a dozen?...Well some breeders think if they put a high enough price on their black ram lamb they can convince someone that he is the best ram lamb ever born. I don't think he is....YOU shouldn't think he is, and that breeder is using marketing techniques that may mislead. Have you seen the posts about cutting off lethal horn tips?????
Good gracious!!!! Why do breeders keep selling ram lambs with close horns? Don't be a sucker....sure you can always go back and get another one next year....but any ewes from that ram with close horns also have the genetics for close horns. Check the horns on your sires....check them again....if you can't see the sire on the lamb you are buying ask for photos from different angles to prove how close those horns are to the head. Remember as a ram grows older those horns get bigger in width. What isn't too close at 1 year could be too close at four. As if anyone these days keeps a ram that long.

What to do if some of your lambs are disappointing....well, check the ewe first....she will always have HER lamb. Some ewes like to have rams, some like to have ewes....if you are having lots of ram years it could be you are breeding the wrong ewes. If your ewe has a long or fuzzy tail....you HAVE to make sure the ram used will correct that. I don't care if you have a special gulmoget ram you want to use on everyone in the radius of a mile....correct your faults anyway.
I use several single coated rams. Sometimes they can add a wonderful crimp to a long stapled ewes lambs fleeces. For me it is a plus that these are also spotted rams. I also have old favorite ewes I don't breed. As ewes get to be 7 or 8 they lose a little in the lambing process. Some girls just don't want to be with their lambs all the time....some don't have enough milk for two....some have one lamb born weak...or you lose one. I know....your sheep are supposed to pay for them selves...several words come to mind on that one.
Most not printable.
Maybe you bought or raised the wrong ewe. Hey, we all buy sheep that later don't meet our goals.....Maybe your ewe is just tired and needs a year off. Maybe she just needs to retire and enjoy the spring eating for herself. You are responsible for her. If you were raised on a farm...maybe you can eat her. If you weren't maybe you can pass her on to someone else who isn't picky about their sheep....they just WANT some....and cheap enough that they won't look at your ethics later when they discover why you wanted to sell her.
Same thing comes to mind about rams. There are some faults in rams that require culling around here. Aggressiveness....what a long word for nasty habits, did i spell that right?...oh, who cares. If your ram isn't afraid of you....beware. If your ram hit you or someone else you need a new ram. If you caused the ram to be too aggressive by leaving him bored, or handling him too much or feeding him treats...shame on you. Rams are rams....polled rams are still rams. Ram lambs are still rams. If your ram isn't the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth...you need a new ram. That is half your genetics....why are you even considering breeding with that old scruffy ram. Do you keep you ram in the front of the house...or in the back so no one can see him....dang! Get a new one. There are plenty out there. Now....you need to judge your ram lambs the same way. There are qualities in ram lambs that make them worth keeping past the ninety-five cents a pound stage. Maybe there is one ram in your group that has a really nice fleece....make a mental note to repeat that breeding and let him sit long enough to see what his horns look like. If his horns aren't great...ship him. Yes, you could...and can breed him....but what you get will be more of the same....and you may be getting lots of ewe stock who won't be able to have lovely rams with horns. I have gone to a couple of shetland shows now....the trend is for the biggest ram to win....if you want to win ribbons....breed a bigger ram. If you want to take fifth or eighth...breed for smaller rams. Sorry I LIKE small shetlands. I am not getting any younger here....did you know a sheep can pull your tendons just by catching them?

HORRORS!!!! I WANT smaller sheep. I can't afford to be injured. I live out so far, my son actually offered to buy me a defibulator....NO....I just want my little nice shetlands that come around to talk to me....and only trip me when I have a full grain bucket.
Actually, faced with breeding with one of those tall winning shetland rams...I would take home a polled ram. Which may tell you why polled shetlands are gaining in favor. Well discussions about cutting lethal horns may tell you something too. Oh, that may be construed by some picky people as not-politically correct. Polled Shetlands are part of our breed description. So you can breed with them or not breed with them...your choice. My choice.
Out of four hundrd and some shetlands born I have had bad horns on a sold ram once. So it happens....but not often if you know what you are breeding.
On the subject of ram years and ewe years....look at your ram's statistics....I'm guessing you will breed him more than once....if one ram is having more rams than ewes...and you switched ewes with him too....Then, sorry, if you want more ewes born you need a different ram. Bother!
There are some breeders who stay small. One or two rams and their companions....and ten ewes or under. I salute you! Good for you. I'm sure there are some goals you can achieve in a few years. I just don't have that much patience...or working life left to cut back that far. I still have a few goals I would like to achieve....in the line of spotting and maybe fleece....some day I may even sell fleeces....It could happen....well maybe.
Oh heck...I doubt it....

I do like to sell lambs....he heh....I do even have some for sale now.... A few are pictured on my new web page www.missourisheep.net Someone actually tried to sell me my old web domain back...for 90 dollars....go get a job. Oh, that is their job. Well, I don't mind starting over.
Lambs for sale...get 'em while they're hot....well, maybe not. First you have to have a goal. Get a goal for your flock, if I can help get you a lamb that fits that goal.... I would be happy to work with you. If I don't have what you need I will NOT try to tell you you should buy mine anyway....but I will be really happy to help you find some other breeder who does have exactly the lamb you need.
I had a ewe year...now to figure out why.

2 Comments:

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

You're right-let the buyer beware- just because someone says it's so doesn't make it so.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Juliann said...

Hey peeps!

I agree with you, I'll settle for 6th- 7th place before I breed for the "super-size me" Icelandic shetlands that I could put a saddle on and ride home. Our little breed will unfortunately just keep getting bigger and bigger until we stress to these judges that "size doesn't matter." Good conformation and fleece does matter, and can happen in a small package. And the health, vigor, and good mothering cannot be measured in the ring. :(
If massive size is what it takes to win, then I'm a happy loser!
THANK YOU for your endoresment of the polled rams. To each their own, personal choice. I was also extremely frusterated with lethal horns in my rams. I did not trim horns, I culled them. Soon I hope to never have a fatal horn again. :)

 

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