Wednesday, June 07, 2023

From ram famine to feast!

When Spot died, I reached out to his breeder to see if she had any rams available (she doesn't). At the same time, a different breeder reached out to me, asking if polled breeders are ever interested in ram lambs with small scurs as she has several nice prospects this year. I told her that yes, in fact, we polled breeders do use scurred rams, and that I myself might be interested because my flock sire died. That started a flurry of communications back and forth about the ram lambs she has available, as well as some side consultations with another, more experienced breeder. The end result is an agreement to trade lambs around Black Sheep Gathering this year; she is getting flashy little Bailiff in exchange for this handsome fellow:

If he has scurs, I can't see them!

fleece at shoulder

fleece at last rib

fleece at mid-haunch

Sanson (standing) as a wee one with dam and twin
V V F Sanson will bring new genetics to my little flock, but he is also a distant relation to most of my sheep! His maternal great-great-grandsire was my first polled ram, Valiant Braveheart, who is Bridget's grandsire and the great-grandsire of Bree and Bernadette.

My two unsold ram lambs, Bijou and Bench, are just too nice to castrate, so I'm going to overwinter them. Sanson will make three – a merry little band of young gentle(I hope)men. It's been a long time since I've had more than one ram on the place, reluctant as I was to risk putting a ram lamb with a mature ram or a young ram with an aging ram. And it's rather exciting, because I did a bloodline comparison of my ram lambs with my mature ewes, and realized I could breed Bijou to Bridget and Bench to Blaise (if she has a good enough body score to breed again this fall). Not only do the genetics work out, these two pairings are good combinations in regards to structure and fleece. Sanson could be bred to all the rest, but, mindful of space, flock size, and his unproven status, he'll get just one girl as well. Since Sanson is an Ag (fading/greying) gulmoget, he will pass on one of those two patterns to all his lambs, so I'm thinking solid moorit Boop is the best candidate. (It remains to be seen through test-breeding whether Sanson carries one black and one brown gene, or is homozygous for black.) That will mean juggling three breeding pairs this fall – and then waiting five months in eager anticipation to see what I get. Next year, Bijou and Bench will have their fleeces tested and hopefully have lambs on the ground, making them more marketable than they are as unproven lambs. In fact, Spot's breeder and I are already talking about the possibility of swapping young rams next year.

In other reproductive news, the barn swallows are back. At least one pair is nesting in the main barn, and another pair is in the Sheep Sheraton. After a few years of unsuccessful attempts, I'm hoping this year will see a bumper crop of these beautiful bug-eaters.
I think this doe has a fawn or two hidden somewhere on our property. I saw her down in the wooded SE corner Sunday morning while doing chores and Sunday afternoon while riding, then again yesterday afternoon in the upper pasture. I hope the dogs don't bother her – and I hope she doesn't have reason to attack the dogs! Years ago a doe with fawn went after Jackson, teaching him to give deer a wide berth for the rest of his life. Our current, smaller dogs might not survive such an encounter.

Puff, the half-Crévecoeur  I got from the neighbors, has gone broody. Too bad, girl; no chicks without a rooster!

And currently on my (newest) spindle, I'm plying dyed Wensleydale and white suri alpaca:

That's it for now from . . .


A :-) said...

Oh Yay!! All good sheep news!! :-)

What does it mean when a hen goes broody? I know nothing about chicken sex, other than there has to be a rooster involved somehow . . . :-D

Michelle said...

A, when a hen gets a strong motherly inclination and starts setting on eggs as though to hatch them, she is said to be broody. Some breeds are notable for this; many never do. If you want to raise chicks (which requires a rooster to have chicken sex so the eggs laid are fertilized), this is a good thing, but if you don't, it's a hassle. A broody hen takes issue with anyone reaching under her to check for eggs (not just hers; she'll set on anyone's eggs), pecking aggressively.

Tim B. Inman said...

Gregor Mendel would be smiling! The genetics are amazing, but what is even more amazing to me is the fact that we keep track of it all!!!

The language of the shepherds is also very interesting to me. My use of wool (wrapped in a linen cloth) to make a French Polishing Rubber is about as deep as it gets. I seem to be allergic to wearing wool garments, but they are beautiful. Thus, I'm a sideline enthusiast.

Hopefully, Google's elves will let me post this note. I haven't been able to for several attempts recently.


Michelle said...

It worked, Tim; so glad to see a comment of yours come through! I must admit I looooove plotting out genetics, and Shetland sheep offer so many fun options!

Jeanne said...

It's such fun to get caught up with you again. I always enjoy your posts!

One question - what does the term "scurs" mean?

Oh, and have you ever used "Brewster" for a lamb's name?

My daughter and I are really looking forward to going to Black Sheep! We will be bringing two friends, plus little Rico, of course. I really wish we could meet there. :(

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mokihana said...

The genetics are so interesting to read about. And thanks for the explanation about what scurs are; I didn't know that. I do love your photos...I especially love the barn swallows photo. And the doe. And of course, the sheepies! I do miss having sheepies here.

Michelle said...

Scurs refer to horn material on heterozygous polled sheep, Jeanne. If a ram inherits one gene for polled, it affects his horn growth – a little or a LOT. (Because of that variability, it is suspected that there may be more genes involved, but we don't know that for a fact.) A ram may have non-existent to barely visible little horn points on his head ('chocolate chip scurs') or he may have what look regular horns but aren't (called aberrant horns), all from having one 'horned ram' or 'horned both sexes' gene and one 'polled' gene.

The genetics are so interesting to study and observe, Mokihana! From one appreciated photographer to another. 😊

Retired Knitter said...

Wow, there is a real science to this sheep breeding. I love the look of your new ram! Handsome.

FullyFleeced said...

congrats on the new ram! Such a handsome boy :)

Michelle said...

Oh yes, there IS, Elaine! And I think it's fun.

Thanks, Denise!

Fat Dormouse said...

Sorry not to have commented recently. I know nothing about sheep, genetics or fleeces, but it's still interesting to read.