Saturday, February 21, 2009

A fun trip to Michigan, and a new brood ewe.

Last weekend, I made a "last minute" trip up to Michigan when I heard that Garrett & Rayna would be meeting at Stephen's for a sheep day. Normally being an introverted person, I had no problem inviting myself along to meet up with this group! It just has "fun" written all over it!

Sophia, my Scotch Mule cross ewe, went to Pennsylvania last weekend, and I had the opportunity to deliver four sold ewes into a new home in Michigan, so the prospect of being down five sheep was an added incentive for the drive up there.

And I found my cord for the digital camera to the computer, so I'm able to upload photos again. That is why I haven't been blogging lately, I couldn't put photos on.

We went to the Applebee's in Plainwell for a late dinner, drinks, and plenty of sheep talk. This is Stephen and I. Stephen has been a very good sheep friend to me over the years, and has a fun personality.
Garrett & Rayna, two delightful fellow breeders. They are a real trip and we had a great time! After dinner, we looked at pedigrees and fleece samples well into the wee hours.

The following morning, it was time to look at sheep. Visiting the Shelteringpines flock is always a humbling experience for me. I know that the sheep I'm seeing and laying hands on are the product of years of hard work and careful breeding selection and culling. Stephen's knowledge of the breed in both North America and the UK is incredible.

It's easy to fine nice blacks, moorits (browns), and katmogets (badger faces) in a lot of flocks. It is not easy to find really good, well conformed spotted or rare patterned Shetlands, but Stephen has done his homework, and he is making great progress in breeding them not only truer to breed type, but also breeding for the finer fleeces that Shetland sheep are known for.

Feeding the sheep. Stephen and Garrett throw hay. Stephen has a charming old barn on his farm with old hay lofts, pulleys and ladders, made of beautiful old wood. Some of the supports are made from trees.

This was Rayna's weekend for buying sheep, and Stephen had a group of sale ewes rounded up. As Rayna was painstakingly making her selections, my eye was drawn repeatedly to Shelteringpines Arabesque. I'm a sucker for moorit spotted sheep, and this ewe was not only striking in her spotting pattern, she is single coated and has very correct conformation. She even has a nice tail, not easy to find on spotted Shetlands. I held my breath hoping that Rayna would not choose her.

I think Rayna was being nice and let me have her. So here she is, Shelteringpines Arabesque, by Bramble Nick and out of Shelteringpines Nimet (a Darius daughter.)

Arabesque does not carry polled. Last year, I purchased several horned/hornless ewes for the purpose of improving overall conformation in my flock of sheep. These brood ewes have exceptional conformation and will be bred to polled rams, and I'll hopefully be retaining really good ewe lambs by them.
And then, I plan on re-selling the brood ewes into homes that are not breeding for polled. So Arabesque, Queen Anne, and Chalmeaux will be looking for new homes in the next few years.

After a freezing morning of looking at sheep, we lunched at London Grill in Plainwell. I love the Scotch eggs and usually have them every time we go.

Here are a few of my homegrown ewes. This is Lil'Country Meadow (Shelteringpines Pompey Magnus X Lil'Country Sandcastle), the ewe featured on the front page of my website.

Many of my brood ewes are built a little narrower than I would like. However, I would like to retain delicate, fine boned, unimproved, and refined features with my line of this primative, unimproved breed of sheep. I'd like more width without sacrificing the small size that Shetlands are also known for. If I can get more width and keep my lines shorter at the height of the wither (shoulder), that would be great!
I'd also like to keep my sheep lighter in weight for easy handling, lifting and tipping, so fine bones are a must for me. I also want strong pasturns and well shaped hooves. Before buying a sheep, I ask myself if this sheep could walk several miles looking for forage if it had to.
I select against round tree trunk legs, weak pasturns, or waddling "hippo" sheep. They must be nimble on their feet. It is a challenge to find this balance, but that makes it all the more rewarding to purchase or produce a sheep that falls in nicely with one's flock goals, whatever those goals may be.

This is Lil'Country Mudpie (UnderTheSon Silvio Dante X Lil'Country Carmella).

Mudpie's dame, Lil'Country Carmella. (Shelteringpines Octavian X Lil'Country Dandelion).

Here is a recent picture of Lil'Country Damascus. (Pompey Magnus X Justalit'l Twinkle) He is a proven breeder, and is for sale for $250. I'll probably be bringing him on the show circuit this year. He has a sound build and intermediate fleece. Good tail, no health issues, and is respectful. He'd make a nice flock sire for someone breeding for polled.

So that it's it for now. I hope everyone's flocks are doing well in the snow and wind.

I'm very much looking forward to lambing in April. I will probably start shearing early March and hope to be finished by the time lambing gets in full swing.

In addition to my Shetlands, I have three Clun Forest ewes bred to a BFL ram. This will be my first year with Mules, and I'm curious and excited to see how they turn out.


Laura said...

I like Arabesque. She has a "milk mustache"! I you do sell some of the Shelteringpines ewes I may be interested in Queen Anne. I can't wait until lambing either. I did AI and want to see who "took". (I know that 2 did not settle.)Your sheep look clean (from hay)! How do you feed them?

Garrett808 said...

Juli you are so photogenic. Very classic pose. are you sure u didn't model?

i love Meadow. She looks so nice. I wish there was more time to see your flock last week. Maybe a day early before I head to MFF this year?

Corinne R. said...

Ohhhh, let me know when you decide to part with some of your girls : ). Pretty, pretty, pretty!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I really like Carmella. Congrats on your lovely new ewe. Can't wait till everyone's lambs start arriving!

Becky Utecht said...

Garrett's right Juliann, you are so photogenic. Congrats on your new ewe and thanks for sharing all the wonderful sheep photos. It was fun to see photos of Stephen's place in the winter.
I hope you like your mule lambs too.

Juliann said...

Ugh. Thanks, I don't ever feel that I take a good picture, I actually hate having my photo taken.
Laura, Stephen has dibs on Queen Anne but if he passes on her when I'm ready to sell, I'll let you know.
Garrett, I'd love to have you come down and see my sheep. I like getting other people's opinions so I don't get barn blind.