Saturday, June 12, 2010

A side sample.

This side sample is from a purebred, registered Shetland ewe lamb. The breeder felt is was a long, fine, luxurious, silky, lusterous and proper Shetland fleece. Don't ask me who it came from, I'm not trying to be a mean bitch here, or be hurtful. I'm not going to lower myself to the bottom feeding level of the idiotic scum who attack breeders on their blogs.
   I am trying to share that we do have a little bit of a serious problem here in North America with this "fine fleeced" fiber animal, where "coarse and open" fleece was thought of seriously enough that it was listed as a disqualification in the Standard.
Note: the bill was added as a scale to reference size. The sample measures 14" long. It would be considered an extreme at the far end of an acceptable continuum, and in light of the recent discussions and diatribes, I've finally decided to share it because I think people just don't know how bad some of this stuff is out there in the big world. THIS is what the kindly, classic breeders and some of our Board members are trying to discourage by supporting the Appendix. 
Because it should be discouraged. Variation is all well and good, but how can anyone argue that fleece like this is quality stuff?    

This ewe existed not because she had uncommon, or other valuable traits that the breeder was trying to tease out. If that were the case, then I can understand her existance. She was sold to someone else as registered breeding stock. This monstrosity is horse hair twine from top to bottom. There is not even a soft undercoat to seperate for the longwool breeders who like that extra step. 

  I obtained the sample from the buyer, who was quite displeased and shall also remain nameless.

 I don't even like looking at it, much less do I want to spin it.
I've spun ICELANDIC, a REAL double coated sheep, that was finer than this!
If I were a non-sheepy handspinner walking through a Shetland show and I saw this trainwreck on the hoof, it would leave a very poor impression of Shetland sheep in my mind. Of course, if this lamb were at a show she'd be washed, shampooed, conditioned, and brushed to give the temporarly impression of some resemblance of softness. For now. And who knows what her mature fleece (3 years +) would even look like. I cringe at the thought.    
   If this were "historical Shetland", I don't know how on God's green earth the Shetland got its reputation as a fine fleeced sheep. Is this Scottish Blackface influence? I've seen Scottish Blackface, I've felt it. Looks that way. You tell me. 

 This was a 100% Dailley ewe, no recent UK genetics through AI. Where did the characteristics come from?

   Of course, I do realize that not all longwool Shetlands are this poor of qualilty. I've heard that in other areas of the country there are soft, fine longwools. Good for you guys for at least keeping them soft.
   But stuff like this is not soft, it is being sold, and people are buying it and breeding it. In a way, none of my business, and my life would be much easier were I to simply look the other way. But is it the right thing to do? 
    I AM a Shetland breeder, this does affect all of us. I guess that's why it matters to me. If I bred horses or dogs and observed my breed being degraded I think I would be obligated to say something. This is a hard fleece type to breed out once it gains a toehold. That toehold can turn into a stronghold in one's flock. Once you got it, good luck getting rid of it. And nobody wants to admit they bought crap. So they are stuck in the position of defending their crap or fear looking like fools. It is perfectly understandable. I've been that fool. I defended my crap for a long time until I humbled myself enough to start listening to people who knew more than me.      
Disclaimer: My sheep are FAR from perfect. I have my own struggles with coarse fleece, and other cosmetic traits. But if I had a lamb that looked like this, she'd be in the freezer. Or she could be someone's beloved pet, or perhaps she'd be useful in a crossing flock. No way would my farm name be on registration papers for this hairy beast.  
   So I guess what I'm trying to say is education on proper fleece characteristics is not necessarily a bad thing. Some people think it is. Some people are more concerned with their own pocketbooks than breed preservation. We see that a lot with fad, exotic breeds, which the Shetland was until pretty recently. Shetlands are no longer selling for $2,000, so...time to start culling. No breed can maintain strength without removing inferior animals. Let's get more semen imported, let's start collecting our own F1's and other higher quality sheep. Let's do what we have to do to save this breed and its reputation.
    A lot of people are satisfied with the "status quo", good for them and I wish them the very best in their breedings and sales. I hope that some of us can disagree and still respect and think highly of each other. I know I am capable of that.
   I'm happy to see the NASSA apple cart of tyranny and censorship has been upset, it's about damn time. I hope some good can come out of it. 
   Hopefully my next blog post will be more pleasant and light hearted.


stephen rouse said...

I just had to empty my vomit pail. Please warn me when you are going to post ugly pieces of shit like this on your blog! :-)


Juliann said...

Stephen lol!
You know, I should send this in for micron testing. I'm real curious to see what it would test out at.

stephen rouse said...

I wish you would...I'd be curious to know what a fleece that looks exactly like bindertwine would micron at. My bet (and I"ll put money on it....) that is OVER 40+ microns.


p.s. can you tell me if any of my genetics are in that fleece? (LOL)....God, I hope not.

The Hansen's said...

Holy Crap!! That's digusting!

Juliann said...

Okay, I'll send it in! And NO your genetics were not in it, lol!

Although I know a lot of early spotted stuff wasn't too far off the mark from this, hey you guys pulled out the spots and just bred them better and better. Now we have really nice fleeces on spotted sheep. How awesome and satisfying is that? :)
I think people underestimate how much people like you have contributed to the breed, expecially the spotties. Do you remember back when we were FLAMED for breeding spotted Shetlands?

The Hansen's said...

Juliann, are you coming to the Michigan Fiber Fest? I should bring you my sheep's fleece (4 of them) from last year for you to look at.They aren't the best,(But they aren't as bad as THAT!) because I fed my sheep grain all last year and now know how ridiculously HUGE and coarse shetlands can get when fed grain year-round.I have now banned the use of grain permanently with my sheep. :)

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Wow, I have mentioned that some of my double coated sheep have been quite nice. But that is the most exaggerated fleece I've ever seen claim to be Shetland.

My friend with purbred Icelandics has fleeces similar in length, but her "tog" or long fiber is actually quite silky. When I bred my first two Shetland ewes to an Ice ram, I got fleeces like that in the lambs out of Classic type Shetland Fleece. So I think the distinct double coat is definitely a dominant trait.

In my own limited experience, the Shetland double coat has been a lot closer to mane hair from a horse than the silky stuff the Icelandic breeder has shown me.

You've inspired me to post some fleece photos of sheep I have owned. Just to help get more visuals into the discussion.

But honestly...I had no idea there were fleeces like that out there that people were calling Shetland. The most extreme fleece I ever had my hands on was 10". And I do think it had superior qualities to your example. But I'll put up a photo and let you make your own choice about it.

Garrett808 said...

Juli - I remember when I visited your house and I had to UNFOLD the sample as it took up the entire notebook paper length :)

I agree with everyone. It felt very harsh and I made reference to the horse tail hair, but the mane would do too.

This is NOT Shetland, and that was my point in the Chat With NASSA group. I am all for silky, fine, soft double coats, but isn't 7" a LOT anyway? This certainly cannot be Shetland. I don't care what the pedigree says. You don't see photos of these sheep in the Shetland Island Museum!

Thank you for sharing !

Laura said...

That is LAMB! Wow that looks extremely coarse and hairy! Yeh it probably is 40 or more microns.

I thought I had a few coarse ewes (they are getting crossbred and gradually culled out), but that looks coarser than even their britch!

That looks a lot like Scottish Blackface (except longer.) I had to wash 40 fleeces worth of SBF...Truly icky stuff!

Michelle said...

I sure wish this could be disseminated to a wider audience than just those who read your blog. I think there are a lot of people that think those of us pushing for softer fleeces of more moderate length are extremists; maybe they haven't seen what we are reacting TO! Perhaps this could be uploaded to photos on the Shetland list. Does the Chat list have a photos section, too?

Theresa said...

The chat list has a photos section, and Juliann, you should put it there. I also have a fleece from a reg. Shetland ewe (not my breeding) that has 12" of fleece - mostly horse hair. It is shown as a fleece that should be disqualified in the judge's packet. I would really like to hear the defense of these types of fleeces as something that should be registered or bred. I'm not looking for more debates, but reasons. There are no facts to support it - just bad genetics/bad luck, just like bad hocks.

No, I'm not an extremetist - never have been. I like 4-6" fine fleece - perfect lenght for anythhing. I believe the majority of the breeders like that as well.

Thanks Juliann, for putting this up.

Mary Wick-Morning Star Shetland Sheep said...

I would never have thought that fleece like the ones in the photos would have existed. Good to see-explains a lot.

Nancy K. said...

Jules, I love you dearly. You know that. And I respect your opinion on this matter. But you are taking the MOST EXTREME example I have ever seen (and it sounds like pretty much everyone else who's read your blog) and implying that THAT is what the people who are opposed to Appendix A want. That's HOGWASH and you know it! I am disappointed that you would stoop to such grandstanding.

You guys can go on tooting your own horns and claiming that anyone who doesn't agree with you are breeding for binder twine but the fact is, we want soft, fine Shetland fleeces just as much as you do. Perhaps not quite as fine. Most definitely longer (although I personally have no problem with seven inches being the max). What I do have a problem is being tied to the whims of the Shetland breeder in the UK who breeds their sheep for commercial wool mills. That's not how we use them in North America so I don't feel we should HAVE to breed to the same standard the UK is. The Standard was fine with it's vague language. I believe it was deliberately done that way to ALLOW for differing opinions as to how to interpret it. I have no problem with guidelines. But not "rules" being set forth to tell us that we have to breed our Shetlands like those in the UK.

In my opinion, the statement "Certainly not over 7 inches" is setting a rule. Perhaps breeders NEED those 8 inch fleeces to try to improve the functionality of a 2 or 3 inch fleece...

OK. So we disagree. Vehemently. I still love you. I still respect you. I don't think you MEANT posting the fleece sample you did to be an example of what those opposed to Appendix A want. But it can easily be taken that way. And some of your friends will take full advantage of that...


Your Friend,


Ok Acres said...

Thank you Juliann for your picture and explanatory post that followed.
I have only been breeding shetlands for about 5 years, but I think if we are truly committed to preserving the breed, then we have to take a serious look at how the UK views the breed standard. It only makes sense to follow the UK standard, when that's where the breed originated. I also think that if the US breeder want something apart from that standard, then they are really breeding for something else entirely.
Look what personal preference has done for purebred dogs & horses, we've bred them into what we perceive to be the ideal animal, instead of the very thing that has allowed the breed or species to survive for generations.
I love the look of the double-coated fleeces, but I have culled all of those from my flock because I stumbled onto a few single coated sheep and had my eyes opened. Not by someone that talked to me and convinced me, but by the quality of the fleece.
Thank you again Juliann.

Respectfully submitted.

Franna said...

Juli and Nancy (and others)- your words are well thought out and well said for both "sides". I think that most of us are really aiming for the same result - a traditional Shetland with desireable handspinning fleece. Read many of these replies and you'll see why there needs to be clairifcation and visuals of what Appendix A intends to clarify. Newcomers need to know that the photo above does not represent the traditional Shetland. Yes, it's extreme and that degree of extreme makes a valid point. These Shetlands exist and are being sold as registered quality. I don't think any of us wants that.

Franna said...

btw, I have Scottish Blackface, and this sample looks very much like a (colored) SBF. Excuse me, but they are not "icky". They are what they are. If you want "fine" don't get Scottie. If you want sturdy, hard wearing, very warm, dyes well, felts well wool, Scottie might be the right one. Their undercoats, if you're into separating coats, are quite soft and have decent length - unlike some of the Icelandics that I've seen. Outercoats are good for rope (yes!), halters, rugs.

See? There is a place for all kinds of fleece. I want my Shetlands single coated and fine, and my Scotties double coated and coarse (though I select for "finer" Scotties).

Franna said...

...another quick comment - (sorry to dominate your comments, Juli) - Scotties are the primo ewe breed for the 3 tier UK market lamb system. The Scottish Mules have a very single coated fleece without kemp, much more like BFL fleece than SBF. It's quite nice for handspinning, and Spin-Off had a good article on them a while back. So, no, double coats don't seem to be dominant.
- Franna

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Thanks for the info about SBF, Franna. And thank you for the correction about the distinct double coat not necessarily being a dominant trait.
I did speak from limited experience: 2 rather Classic 4-5 inch (just a bit of tip) Shetland ewes to a double coated Icelandic ram. The lambs had long double coats.

This just goes to show how limited our opinions and view can become when we are only looking at our own small flocks spread far and wide across NA. Even if we are standing resolutely in our own truth with our first-hand is rarely the whole picture.

I still appreciate taking the Standard very seriously and I also appreciate the adoption of App A. My feeling about the fleece Juliann posted is this:

Everywhere it states that Shetland wool is supposed to be fine and soft. People breeding for softness that end up with a 2 inch fleece at least were trying to approach the main distinguishing character of Shetland Fleece. People that are breeding for length, at the expense of or without much regard for softness are not trying to honor the requirement for soft, fine Shetland Fleece. And lets not get hung up on the fact that some long fleeces are soft and some short fleeces are harsh. We all know that. Both ends of the spectrum are too far away from the ideal. But which extreme, disregarding length, approaches the SOFT/FINE requirement?

Publish and read micron tests where possible. Try to get your hands on as many samples as possible. Try to listen; and read as much as you can.

My limited local handspinner customer base told me for the first three years of my membership with the spinner guild that Shetlands were "long and hairy and harsh." No one wanted to even look at my samples. I kept bringing in samples and saying "some Shetlands are soft!" But NO ONE would get up from their spinning and knitting to come over and view those samples! One day a lady felt some of my samples, liked it and showed it around the group. They all asked what it was. When I told them for the 100th time that it was Shetland...they argued with me that it couldn't be because they KNEW FROM EXPERIENCE that Shetland was "long, hairy, and harsh" (Really, those are the words I heard dozens of times.) It took a long time, but now those ladies do believe there are soft Shetlands out there. I feel like I have made a small contribution to the puplic image of Shetlands in my own tiny corner of the world.

I guess I believe that long, hairy, harsh fleeces, like the one Juli posted, are truly hurting the breed. Regarding the shortest, finest, crimpiest fleece I've ever owned (Bombarde) one lady said she wished it was a bit longer..."but ooooohhhhh it's so soft!" she exclaimed. I never offered Bombarde's fleece for sale after that as I realized the length was not ideal. But it didn't turn away a customer from Shetlands. That lady just bought a different fleece with 4 inch length.

Sorry for my longgggg story/explanation. I just don't see how adopting the Appendix is going to do as much harm as letting people breed for whatever length of fleece they want to at the expense of softness. And we have to be honest...that is what has happened.

Juliann said...

Hi Danny,

I'm not sure I'm coming to MFF or not as of yet. I'm not supporting any shows right now until I see what NASSA does with the judge's packet, but I might go just to hang out with friends.

Sabrina, the Icelandic people were comenting last year that some of the Shetland fleeces would even be too coarse for Icelandic. I've felt some Icelandic that was finer fleeced, even the outercoats.
If I wanted to buy Shetland fleece like the sample I posted, I know exactly where to go to find it. This is not a unique sample, fleeces like this are out there.

Juliann said...


While I certainly respect your opinion, we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't and never have thrown out extremes as the norm, nor make presumptions about what the anti-Appendix people are all about. I recognize each of us as individuals, with individual opinions. But opinions have to stop where facts begin, and the fact that the anti's will not concede on ANY of the factual information shared makes this look like stubbornness born out of ego and an unwillingness to admit even a little bit of error on their parts.
I don't think the anti-Appendix people are encouraging fleeces like this, but it seems they are encouraging characteristics that are NOT Shetland sheep characteristics. The evidence continues to pile up that the Shetland is not and never was a longwool breed.
Nancy, I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself. I feel like I'm talking to brick walls half the time. This is not about rules, nor running around with tape measures. Such arguments are fear mongering. We are not subjecting ourselves to "whims from the UK". It IS about guidelines for breeding for Shetland characteristics, versus pulling out crossbred characteristics and breeding for that. The SSBG put so much work into all this so we could recognize crossbred traits such as roman noses, long wooly tails, and overly long fleeces so we could breed Shetlands true to breed type.
NASSA had this information years ago and swept it under the rug for the personal profit of some breeeders. To deprive the membership was wrong in too many ways to count. NASSA is only now providing it, and again it is OPTIONAL if people want to apply it or not. Some of us find it very valuable.
If you think this fleece is rare for Shetland, I'm sorry but you are not getting out too much. It is out there.

Juliann said...

Franna, no disrespect meant to the SBF. They are really, really cool sheep, and I had briefly considered getting some except for those horns. :)
I used to say there there was no such thing as a "bad fleece", just different fleeces for different purposes. Now I would add that there are bad fleeces on Shetlands, and that is fleece listed as a DQ on our Standard. If people want rug wool, use the britch or buy SBF, Lincoln or whatever. :)

Juliann said...

Sabrina thank you for your thoughts! You are "right on", as always.

Becky Utecht said...

I hope you don't mind if I put in my two cents here too Juliann. I agree with whoever said that most purebred Shetland breeders select for sheep that fall within the confines of Appendix A, but I think a person's stance on NASSA's acceptance of Appendix A boils down to whether or not they believe the Colonel imported Shetlands to NA in order to protect them from the influence of the British selection processes. If that's a person's outlook, then they cherish the dual coats and diversity we've seen within the breed here in NA (not to defend the extreme in Juliann's photo) and they certainly don't want NASSA to follow in the Brit's direction eliminating that diversity. Yes, the Appendix does say NO Shetland should have a staple length over 7", but it also says fleece in the britch area will be coarser and longer, so is longer than 7" acceptable there?
I never sold Bombarde's fleece either because it was a VM magnet and needed to be combed to be of any use. I didn't have time to do that myself so I gave it away to a woman who loved to comb fleeces. She's a very vocal member of the Spinlist who writes about her experience with that fleece quite often, she LOVED it! I knew she would. :-) Like Franna said, there's a place and a use for all the different types of fleece.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Becky, I'm glad you wrote in. Your comments are always thoughtful and I know from way back that you try to be as diplomatic as possible. (I shudder to think of all the statements I made as a total newbie that you KINDLY responded to.) Thank you for that.

You mentioned something that I was unaware of:

"I think a person's stance on NASSA's acceptance of Appendix A boils down to whether or not they believe the Colonel imported Shetlands to NA in order to protect them from the influence of the British selection processes."

I was only aware of the importation being a desire to be a part of preserving Shetlands. Not necessarily a desire to preserve them from the Brits influence. Could anyone point me toward some literature that might clarify it? Or could someone explain a bit more about this?

Juliann said...

Hi Becky,

I always appreciate your comments as well. You're responses are always non-biased, non emotional, non-hysterical, and level headed.
I have never, ever heard that Dailley imported Shetlands to protect them from the influence of the Brits. This is the first time I've heard that. I have to wonder about the credibility of that statement. We do know that the original importation did have fleeces that were not overly long and were crimpy and tippy. Have you seen the photo of Stearman's ewe that was voted "most resembling the orignal importation?"

I would imagine that the Colonel would have choosen a very different fleece type to import if that was what he wanted to preserve?
Stearman knows Carole Precious personally, I wonder what she would have to say about this?

Juliann said...

I can honestly say that when I was on the Board, we didn't pass the Appendix so breeders would have to split hairs and measure britch wool, etc.
I'm not a legalist. In weighing the "spirit of the law" versus the "letter of the law", I tend towards the spirit.
I don't want to see all diversity limited per se, I don't want to see cookie cutter sheep. But NASSA does need to preserve what a Shetland IS, regardless of personal preference for fleece type.
If people want to breed very long, extremely double coated fleeces, I don't know what they are "preserving" except crossbred characteristics, and I guess if they want to justify that, that's on them.
I think some people are using "diversity" as an excuse for breeding long coarse fleece, though. That's taking the easy way out, and it does hurt the breed. Breeding for fine fleece is hard work.
If NASSA and the membership really want the Shetland to truly be a "landrace", which is impossible to do in a country this size (North America) there is no reason for NASSA as an organization to exist.

Lynn said...

Hi Juli, I appreciate your willingness to post information. As a relatively new breeder (2005) I’ve found it challenging to gain information/feedback about individual animals produced on my farm. There seems to be a hesitation to comment for fear of sounding critical of an individual breeder or breeding line. I’ve been chasing the elusive quality spotted sheep - confirmation and fleece with horns that can survive past 2. It is discouraging that some breeders will continue to sell any animal they can find a buyer for but as was commented on early it no different for other animal species. I’m not sure what the answer is to change attitudes to only register animals that fit the bred standards as long as there’s a buck to be made selling inferior stock. Anytime 1 trait is selected for without regard to the whole something else will be lost. Thanks again for all your assistance, Lynn