Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ewe profile- Justalit'l Grace

Justalit'l Grace was one of my first Shetland ewes, purchased at the old Converse IN show in the fall of 2002. Not long after buying her, I foolishly almost lost her forever.
I had bought a few ewes and a wether earlier in the year, and attended Converse after reading about it on the yahoo Shetland group. I loved my recent purchases, and really wanted to pick up a few more ewes, and hopefully my first breeding ram.
After hours of talking with exhibiters, I asked some of my new friends to look over my potential picks before I bought them, and Grace passed the test. I don't recall Grace lambing the following spring, but after studying tails and finding out that hers was less than 100% perfect, I threw the baby out with the bathwater, and re-sold her to a non-registered flock the following spring. Dumb move, and a lesson in being too hasty.
Several years later, I began working with polled genetics, and found myself driving all over the Midwest seeking out the rare suspect poll carrying Shetland sheep.
Popping by one day to visit with the friends who had bought Grace, I was shocked to see that she had been producing polled ram lambs, when bred to a horned ram! You could have knocked me over with a feather as I put two and two together. Bramble Dixen daughter + polled ram lambs = rare poll carrying ewe. Duh.
And I had let her go.
As much as I tried to pursuade the owners to let me buy Grace back, they let me know in no uncertain terms that they were not interested in parting with her. Period. As in "stop asking"... So I stopped asking.
Three long years passed, and then the call came that my friends were looking at their stocking rate, and we're willing to let Grace come back! And here she is, better late than not at all, and Grace is now producing NASSA registered, poll carrying lambs here on my farm.
She has a ram lamb in MN, a ewe lamb in MI, and two of her daughters are staying here to pass on her genetics.
Grace isn't a super fine fleeced ewe. Her 5 year old micron test came back at 30, which suprised me as she has a very soft handle. She currently has no iset. Her conformation is strong and she has a lovely Shetland head. She is my last Bramble Dixen daughter, and I named this years ewe lamb "Dixie Cup" in honor of Dixen's legacy.
Grace exhibits what would be called "leader sheep" qualities in other primitive breeds. She is as wild as a deer, and will struggle aggressively when caught for routine maintenance. Always wary, always sassy, always leery of all humans.
Head up, alert, and bold, Grace is the ewe who leads the ewe flock out onto pasture each day. The rest of the ewes follow her submissively.
Some Shetland breeders view this refusal to be domesticated as a negative. Some even cull it out. To each their own, but personally I respect this rugged individualism as a primitive breed trait. I don't expect sluggish commercial dumbed-down docility in a flock of Shetland sheep.
Imagine a free style Arabian horse show, where the horse is loosed in the arena to frolic and show his graceful way-of-going and beauty in front of the cheering crowd. Put a natural peanut roller in that class.....yawn...
Don't get me wrong, I love my tamer girls and my "snuggle-ewes", and I would be pulling my hair out with an entire flock of stubborn Grace attitude, but I won't cull this characteristic when it shows itself.
When my husband helps me trim hooves or vaccinate and he catches a particularly wild lamb, he'll say "This must be Grace's lamb", and he'll be right.
Grace is getting older, but age has not dulled her. Since I have several ewes out of her, I decided to let her go into a new home while she still has some good lambing years left in her.
Grace is currently being exposed to Bearclaw, and will be traveling to TN to help start a polled flock down there.


Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

She's a pretty girl. I'm glad you got her back.

Little Red Oak Ash, a Grace great-grandson, is going into a breeding pen here at my farm this fall. He has the tiniest little buttons way down deep in his noggin. And the tiniest little tail you could imagine. Thanks to you, Grace is contributing to polled flocks all over the place! :)

Nancy K. said...

What a lovely tribute to your friend! I'd say Grace was/is a lucky ewe...

Jen and Rich Johnson said...

Come on, where's the rest of the ewes?