Friday, July 13, 2007

I know you....do I like you?

Last time I was in Missouri, I was writing about breeding. And I mentioned saving a couple of ram lambs to try out.
I guess there are a lot of breeders out there who don't have any confidence in their own ram lambs. I did read a post, recently about how nice a breeders ram lamb was. That was nice to see.
Lambs come in both male and female, you know. What's wrong with your ram lamb?
Well, maybe you only have 9 ewes and he is related to half of them. Is he related to the other half? By related, we are talking closely related....son, brother, nephew, grandson.....although breeding granny to grandson is acceptable....it may not be the way to improve your flock.
What if you only keep your ewe lambs....and never use your ram lambs for breeding?....Do you sell ram lambs? Do you wether all your ram lambs....or do you ship all your ram lambs????
Why?
There are a lot of breeding goals wrapped up in little ram lambs. Their genetics are much more testable than those cute little ewe lambs. First; conformation....If you have any problems with hind ends or legs....it will show up when you breed a ram lamb. He might tire easily....he might be slow to breed....he might throw all cow-hocked lambs....and he just might....throw bad fleece.
Then there is the issue of tails, the ram lamb, because he can cover more than one ewe....will show what tails he has in his genetics. No, not all tails out of a ram are the very same as his own....so you may want to test what you are breeding and putting out there in the marketplace....before your clients start complaining to someone else. And my last pet-peeve is horns. Good gracious! What are all those terrible shetland horns doing out there in your fields!
If you are culling (wethering) all your bad horns before others can see them....all you are doing is putting more ewe lambs out there with the same close-horned genes. And I'm not even going into the polled questions. GET something with wide horns....period!
Frankly, if you have no confidence in your ram lambs...then I don't have any confidence in your ewe lambs either. I don't care if your ram has a micron of 15 if his horn hits his jaw a year after I buy him. I am not going to come back to buy any more sheep if every ram lamb born at MY farm from YOUR sheep has bad horns. Where is the pride in that?
Oh, in a perfect world, we shetland breeders could sell all our lambs for breeding stock. Unfortunately the world is not perfect. Your shetlands will have a hard time paying for their keep....unless their shepherd does some value-added work with their fleeces.
Have you ever kept track of all your expenses, on our little beloved sheep?...and what about your time?....and what about you husbands time?....or your childrens' time? Nope....partner or no partner.....you need a plan to make sheep pay for themselves.
How many lambs did you sell this year? How many lambs are you keeping? Why?
How many lambs did you TRY to sell this year.....I mean REALLY try to sell. Not just answer email or the phone. I mean get out there in peoples faces and promote.
WHO?????? are you breeding sheep for?????
I am breeding sheep for me. I like spotted shetland sheep....I like to breed sheep together to see what will come out. I would LOVE to just keep all my lambs.....in fact some spring, I may just do that. They are all mine!...I bred them, I'm keeping them. They are pretty, and cute, and I like them best! You can't have ANY! It could happen. I've thought about it....I have several sheep left in my flock that I have bought. Truthfully, I prefer my own. Sometimes I sell those "other" sheep....sometimes I can't....even if they irritate me with their faults....real or imagined....because I feel they depend on being in their own flock. Why dump an old girl into another flock just so you don't have to watch her grow old and have lambing problems....isn't that kind of heartless? I know! I don't really think of my sheep as sheep...they are my friends, my children, my companions, I spent too many years as a care-giver to relax and read my uncle scrooge comics all day. Did I tell you I collect comics?...uncle scrooge is my hero. Something about childhood imprinting.
Now, I read stuff too. We all know some breeders are better at hyping their lambs than the rest of us. LEARN from them. If someone actually "sells" a plain black ram lamb for multi-bucks....we should study the method. Copy the method.....repeat the method!
Bother! If someone sells a plain black lamb they deserve a medal!
Now, I had six mostly black ram lambs....maybe half of them are good big square rams with good tails and lovely wide horns....am I marketing them? No.....why? Because I would rather be known for spotted rams....I also have three moorit spotted ram lambs left.... to show you where I would put my marketing time....if I wanted to market ram lambs. But I have sold enough ram lambs this year. I will over winter a couple....I may breed a couple....I'll show a couple.
I'll ship the rest...spotted or not. A ram is a ram is a ram.....I don't care who is selling it. Sometimes they are useful for answering someone 's breeding goals....sometimes they are just extra rams. If you continue to outcross your sheep with unrelated rams....you will NEVER know if you have accomplished a breeding goal or not. No proof....those horns could be from some other breeder's sheep....those tail's could come from another flock....and that fleece....the one that you don't like....THAT one could be yours!
Maybe you should go back out and look at your ram lambs again.....if you still don't like any....then I would advise you to go look closer at your ewe lambs. Maybe you know them...but never looked at them. Do you really like them? Are they WAAAYYY better than their moms?
Are their mom's better than their grandmoms? What you don't have grandmom? How long have you been breeding those sheep? You should have a grandmom or two left in your field.
Got to go feed a granny now.
Peeps

2 Comments:

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

You make some excellent points. I hope that those who need to, read and heed. I think we ALL need longer lives and more land and resources so we can really explore all the genetic angles. I know I would love to!

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

You always write something that really makes me THINK, Mary Ellen. This time you put out several points that I agree with. And several I want to ponder. Thanks for writing your blog and putting yourself out there. I think it's great when someone nudges us toward self-examination. Hope your summer is going well.

 

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