Friday, July 27, 2007

why breed at all?

I thought we were having a fun conversation. Now, I am accused of being flip. So, heck with those rightous folks....I'll write on my own blog and they can come up with something to talk about themselves.
What was I being flip about? Too many shetlands.
What did I say? That because shetlands have so many different types and colors we were forced to have too many sheep.
OK....I did this too. I might have had a half acre of pasture in the woods when I bought my first three shetlands. I fenced over the barbed wire and divided it into four sections to rotate. I started with a moorit ewe who turned musket...a rare emsket ewe who turned grey and a rare ilget ewe who was white. I was hooked. How many sheep do you NEED of each color? Well, theoretically one. But if you breed, you will wind up with two or three.
Here is where I differ from "breeders" who have small acreage. My suggestion was that we statland breeders like to have three of each color. Now some folks are breeders of shetlands who have only four or five acres to feed all their sheep. As I remember in Wisconsin where there was real pasture, you could keep 6 to 10 shetland ewes and their lambs on one acre of good summer pasture. That pretty much limits anyone who has small acreage to either cut back or not breed.
I took three acres back from our farmer who rented our land for corn, the second year. He complained to everyone that I took the best land for pasture....well it was my land. The next year I took the high rocky hill and another five acres. By the time I left Wisconsin, I had 64 ewes who came south with me. Too many sheep.
I may not even have all eleven colors. Eleven colors times two sheep equals twenty-two sheep. You already have the Ag pattern. What about Gulmoget and Katmoget? Add four more sheep. Now you have 26 and you would like a couple of spotted sheep. Now you have are at the maximim number to graze on your land...and in a drought year you better have extra money to supplement with hay....and now if you breed.
You have too many sheep!
How sad....shetland breeders are doomed to sell and sell and sell.
And if sales are poor because of a drought....what happens then? Cull and cull and cull?
If you have enough land to have a nice little spinning flock, you shouldn't be breeding like a big time shetland breeder.
You know, one of those important breeders that charges and arm and a leg for one of their lambs that they don't want. The kind of breeder with name recognition. People flock to their cull sales, clutching money. Been there done that.
Build a better shetland? Some shetland breeders are trying to claim theirs are perfect. They have all the answers. Maybe if you have a question in your flock they can be your salvation. Maybe theirs really ARE perfect. That must be why they are keeping the ones they do...and selling the others to us. I'll bet money after a couple of years in your flock those perfect shetlands don't look as perfect anymore.
As I say, been there, done that. There is nothing more irritating than being reminded everytime you look at a sheep that you don't like the fleece, the ears, the face...the build....being reminded that you paid way too much for that sheep. If you have one like that take my advise sell it off cheap, there is no reason to remember your mistake every day. You want some of my mistakes from important shetland breeders?...I'l be happy to give them to you....You haul. I would feel quilty selling them off to others....poor's not their fault that I don't love them, at least they have a comfortable spot in my flock where they feel safe. Maybe I do love them for their faults.
So why are so many smaller breeders with limited land going to cross breeding with their shetlands? Because they have found they are breeding too many registered sheep to sell, and can't get enough money from the lambs to buy hay for the rest? So why bother to breed cross breds at all? What is that adding to the gene pool? Don't you work just as hard to raise a fat ugly sheep as a cute skinny one? Do you love those cross-bred sheep more than your shetland ones?
You don't really NEED to breed every ewe every year. Who is looking thin? Who had big twins or triplets? Who is a nut case with their lambs? Give them a year off. Breed the ewes you think will give you the best, prettiest lambs to love. For you! Sell off those wethers taking up space. Give your older ewes to a retirement home...where folks don't think they have to be bred, and grandchildren want to feed them cookies. Take it easy and spin for your self.
I will never be a big-time shetland breeder. I like my sheep...I breed spots because I like them, I don't charge an arm and a leg for my lambs....and I don't care if your sheep are bigger, softer, straighter, or somehow better than mine. Those sheep are mine....I bred them, I'm gonna keep them.
What do you think I moved south for? I have enough land to keep whoever I want.
Talk about life style....shetlands move in and take over. Must be their personalities...or their smarts. Mine are out there complaining I am late...How do sheep tell time?


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