Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lil'Country Breeding groups for 2009 lambs.

I finally put pen to paper and have decided on my fall breeding groups.

Shelteringpines Octavian, my full-poll black gulmoget ram, will be bred to
-Shelteringpines Queen Anne's Lace, a white. Hoping for a nice white ewe lamb (or two!), which will be retained.
-Lil'Country Babybee, a moorit. This breeding has produced magic the last few years, I'm hoping for another gorgeous moorit gulmoget.

Sommerang Eragon, a spotted grey katmoget, will get:
-Lil'Country Adriana, moorit spottie.
-Lil'Country Cleopatra, moorit spottie.
-Lil'Country Meadow, a fawn kat.
-Shelteringpines Chalmeaux, a spotted fawn kat.
I should get some loud bling-bling back into my patures next spring. I can't tell you how much I miss getting spotted lambs!

Twin Springs Bearclaw, a spotted musket from Sandy Truckner, will get:
-Justalit'l Grace, a black
-North Wind Netty, a moorit.

I've decided to use Windy Acres Hickory this year after all. I just can't wait, and he'll allow me to avoid double patterned lambs:
-Zephyr Easter Day, a black gulmoget.
-Shelteringpines Niobe, an Ag grey gulmoget
-Valient Valora, an Ag grey.
-Lil'Country Carmela, a moorit gulmoget.

I'm only breeding about half of the numbers I did last year. I did not enjoy lambing last year. We had trouble with some of the ewe lambs, and the numbers were just too much for our limited pature. This coming spring should be much easier on us.
Instead of pumping out a larger number of lambs, I'm concentrating on producing much better lambs. Very simply, I don' t have the pasture for a million lambs and lactating ewes. My pastures are not very healthy right now. They need to be fertilized, and I need to get rid of the weeds. Game plan right now is to do it BY HAND next spring, and that will be a lot of work. Wouldn't hurt to re-seed, and that is going to cost some serious money.
A cull shetland lamb only brought me about $15 at market. So as you can see, it's just not worth it. High numbers don't guarantee you will be "rolling in the dough".
So anyway, I should finally get some loud spots next year, I'm so happy about that. Due to some hard culling, the conformation on my lambs should be better than ever.
I'm able to avoid any Ag to Ag breedings, and also leaning away from double patterns like gulmoget/katmoget. I also don't want Ag katmogets.
I may, one of these years, eventually and gradually move my flock towards being mostly brown based. Having a recessive base color will provide my buyers with more versatility in thier own breedings. Moorits, fawn katmogets, moorit gulmogets, and of course spots! All full polled, brown based rams, mostly brown based ewes although I'll always keep a few black and Ag ewes for variety.

For mules, Nightwatch, my brown Blue Faced Leicester ram , will go over my three Clun Forest ewes, and Sophie, my Scotch mule cross ewe. I'm really hoping to put a big dent in the feed bill with the mules/market lamb. If I don't, I may not continue with them after next year.
Like Nancy K., I didn't get into sheep just to ship them off to market. Although I admit it's much easier to simply dump them off at the auction, sit back, and wait for the check than deal with the work of thoughtful pedigree breeding. Advertising, careful evaluations, breed standards, registration and paper transfers, dealing with buyers etc. can be a challenge. Sometimes, I just get so tired and so frustrated.
And despite the troubling economy and oversupply/underdemand for purebred Shetlands right now in the Midwest, my heart lies with them. I can't help it. I simply love them. I'd miss those colors and those exciting patterns on my hardy, pretty little purebred sheep.
Breeding for anything else, including market lamb, just seems.....incredibly dull.
And I do love Shetland people. Despite our differences and our petty spats, I've dipped my toe in the waters of other sheep breed groups and found the water way too chilly for my tastes.
It will take several years for the overstocks and the products of the flock reductions/dispersals to be absorbed. The lower quality lambs and their lower quality offspring won't sell to our increasingly savvy buyers, they will go to market and we'll be through with them. Or they can make themselves useful in crossbreeding programs for market lamb, of which I am extremely supportive.
Look back in the archives of the Shetland yahoo list from six years ago, and you will find the same concerns about dropping prices, people not evaluating sheep before papering/selling them, and heated disagreements about breed types.
If we are patient, if we continue to strive to breed good Shetlands true to breed type (breed standard), if we demand fair prices for the products of our hard work, if we continue to beat the drum for them, the market will eventually purge itself and things will be okay again.
Don't stop believing.


Nancy K. said...

I believe!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Thanks for a good post, Juli. I appreciate your "angle" more than some others', and can't wait to see your beautiful, colorful pollies next spring! Mine probably won't have spots, but I can hope for a few full-polls, and I'll be VERY excited if I get any gullies.