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.