Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More on Lil' Rainbow

Dear, dear Michelle...sigh! Let's look at what deformity means for a minute. I would consider a jaw deformity to be a structural problem in a sheep that prevents it from living a normal, fair, and thrifty life; free of ongoing extra care. For example, last spring, meat lambs were born just down the road from me with NO lower jaws. I would call that a deformity. Unable to nurse, they were not able to live a normal, fair, or thrifty life. Teeth that are off pad are just that; certainly not a jaw deformity. Lil' Rainbow's jaws are completely normal, as is her face and head. She tears grass, chews cud, and snorkels hay just like all the rest. In fact, the shepherd who owned her before me is well respected in agricultural circles, has an advanced education from an outstanding, world-influencing agricultural university, and knows sheep better than most. That shepherd also chose to breed this ewe. After easily shearing her, spinning her beautiful fleece, and wearing the resulting garment, I have chosen to breed her, too. That is a change of mind for I originally thought I wouldn't. Wheely Wooly Lerwick was the lucky ram.

Our breed standard protects us from deformities by disqualifying stock who birth lambs with no lower jaws or misshapen, severe underbites as also sometimes happens. I cannot speak for other breeds, but apparently, that is not a priority outside Shetlands. I have not heard of a Shetland sheep being born with a jaw deformity and I've talked at length with many Shetland shepherds over a period of years now, but I hear of it every spring, every year from commercial breeders. If it has happened in the Shetland breed, it's rare. Teeth off pad in a thrifty ewe would be a loss of points in the show would legs not nicely straight, or ears a bit too high. In fact, in some breeds of animals, the toothy smile is considered an endearing trait...such as in llamas and some breeds of dogs; not a deformity.

This ewe has never required deworming in my one and a half years of care, nor has she ever been inflicted with any kind of health issue. She manages her parasite load on her own and has the cleanest health record of all the ewes in my flock. A healthy, thrifty older ewe who is in excellent condition on grass in summer and hay in winter is not "deformed". But I know you know that.

So if you take out your handy NASSA Handbook and turn to the last page, you will see the 1927 Breed Standard. Near the bottom, it says 'Disqualifications' which are: broad heavy tail, coarse and open bad wool, very coarse wool on britches, deformities of jaws, undersized animals, defective colors, and badly shaped animals as sires. Boy! I've seen all of that in our local show ring!! Especially badly shaped sires! I've seen terrible tails, uncharacteristic wool that more resembles other breeds, severe under bite (once), broken down beefy bones, very weak backs, massive heads, tiny adult ewes, and fatal horns...all in the ring. But I've never seen Lil' Rainbow there (giggle, giggle). I've never taken her. I personally would be much more leary of purchasing lambs from a breeder who uses a ram for a season or two, then "gets rid of him" because he's "mean". Mean?? That can be a far worse consequence in the breed than a sweet ewe with a glowing, toothy smile!!

Lil' Rainbow is an excellent specimen of the breed with her outstanding fleece, sweet temperament, strong mothering instinct and thriftiness with excellent conformation and size...and nice tail, too. She is very easy to care for, which the genuine Shetlands have earned a reputation for, and she contentedly lives behind a three foot fence (well...except for the day she tried to steal Gwennie's lamb for herself in her despair at losing her own lamb the year before.) Her one fault is that silly, toothy smile. It's not desirable, but every sheep has a fault or two. But I know you know that, too. :) And thanks for the compliments on the socks. I hope you are enjoying sock making, too!

Meanwhile, I hope all is well with our Shetland friends in California and up the coast! Gettin' a bit o' Shetland weather there I see!

Speaking of the Shetland Islands...they are in a lot of darkness now! I don't know how they do it up there with no sunlight! I admire you Shetlanders, for sticking out the darkness and faring well! We are currently getting about 10 hours of daylight.

So everybody... guess what today is? Swifty is restriction free! It's a GREAT day! He is currently tearing around the house like a wild banshee........

No comments:

Post a Comment