Monday, July 7, 2008

Let's discuss it

Hey its my blog! :P

So over the past few weeks I've had the pleasure of visiting Becky Utecht at River Oaks, Kim Nikolai of Kimberwood (thank you both for supper and drinks!) and had the pleasure of having both of them, as well as Rayna Frigon of Northstar Shetlands up to view my flock, discuss fleeces and talk about Shetlands and life in general. I have always enjoyed the company of them (having traveled with Becky and Kim to Michigan Fiber Festival last year) and Rayna to Tennesee to pick up goats and several trips to Cynthia Allen at FirthofFifth Acres.

I'm always nervous about my own flock or pigeons or herd of cattle when people come to visit. I'm not a bragger, but tend to let my animals speak for themselves. I don't claim to know it all, or claim to have the best.

There were several comments made that I really was gracious about, the first being how great my hamburgers tasted (homegrown, homemade Simmental Beef!) Everyone agreed it was delicious. Phew! First round over. Kim was also happy with the heifers she had purchased sight unseen, one for her own freezer, and one for breeding purposes. Becky also had shown interest in aquiring some beef down the road. Mission accomplished!

I was really nervous about them seeing my sheep. I think the biggest concern was I had only had Gail VonBargen and Sabrina Erickson see them so far (and I highly respected their opinions on my sheep also). I have only been in Shetlands and sheep in general for a mere two years, but having had a lifelong experience raising all kinds of livestock, I felt that I might have a good start in Shetlands. With many thanks to Cynthia and Karen for giving me such great starter animals to work with!

I was quite happy to hear the ooooo's and aaaaaah's when they touched fleeces, saw the uniform crimp, and saw the adults shorn fleeces. I think Becky could have gone home with quite a few....hey still can!

To further educate myself I have researched the UK rams that have been imported, followed their offspring and their lineages, hunted down F1 offspring from most of the lines that I felt could be useful here with my flock goals and needless to say I'm happy. I'm happy that I am able to micron my animals without nervousness or anxiety. Its better to know, than to go blindly. Especially when I am supposed to be IMPROVING the animals that I have, and I personally think that I am from what I've gathered from my much respected friends. To know that the handle on my sheep is soft, is backed up by nice low micron reports, that are quite uniform. I can back up the saying that I know my sheep are soft. Can you prove to me, that yours are? Handle is very important indeed but why not micron? what's holding you back? Its a mere $1.25 per animal, that is only a few animal cookie boxes when you think about it. And do they really NEED those cookies? Hey WE don't need them either! LOL

To each is own and if you decide to not raise the same kind of Shetland that I do, that is fine, I don't care if they are domestic or UK, double coated or single, big or little, but let's work at making our fleeces uniform, and FINE. I'd think anything UNDER 30 AFD as a mature 5 year old ewe would be considered fine. And if we all continue to improve them to be softer, the more soft animals will be available to others. Let's get the name of the Shetland "The finest of the British breeds" to actually be true.

(Garrett steps off soap box and exits stage left)


Becky Utecht said...

Hey Garrett, thanks so much for having us up to your place! I had a great time and I know Kim did too. It was so cool to see your flock and feel their wool. And all the birds, the cattle, the gardens -- everything was so interesting and well cared for.
Since that visit I've been studying colors as much as I can. I'm so glad I was able to bring home some of your fleece samples, the shaela ones especially. In fact, I'm pretty sure now that my McIntire (F3 Holly) is shaela too. ;-)
Okay, I get the hint about the cookies, I'll get my fleece samples sent in ASAP. But have you tried those chocolate animal crackers? They are really good. LOL.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Okay, I'll "bite." So which place only costs $1.25 per animal? Part of my delay is that I keep hearing the pros and cons to the two main testers. Another part is that I hate to snip a chunk out of the side of nice fleece, and don't feel like I can interrupt my shearer to grab a piece from just the right spot. Lastly, I keep hearing from shepherd spinners with way more experience than I have that low microns don't guarantee softness and "handle." So I've been going for pleasing "handle" in my flock. I'm getting a new to me ewe whose lamb fleece won the "fine" catagory (22 micron and under) at Dixon Lambtown, CA; her owner says she's gotten coarser with age and guesses over 24 but under 30. That breeder doesn't keep any fleeces that are over 24 microns! It will be interesting to see how this seven-year-old ewe's fleece feels when she gets here next month.

Garrett808 said...

Hi Michelle :)

Texas A&M is only 1.25 per sample. I've tested at both at the same time as have other people. You take one sample..right over the last rib, mid side, and sent 1/2 to YoCom and 1/2 to Texas. All of our results were within .2 - .5 of each other, and yes they do test them differently. YoCom takes a sample from across the entire same, closest to the skin (that's why it should be a uniform cut). Texas microns the entire length of the fiber and gives you a histo on that as well, so you can see how consistent the fiber is. Some of my animals that microned at 33 AFD were quite consistent through out the fiber and are highly 'improvable' to UK stock. Some yearlings microned at 24 but the base of the cut (nearest the skin) was over 34 AFD already and their consistency was all over the board. That will be harder to correct.

Handle IS important, but while you are going for a soft handle, we should also be going towards the standard which states an average of 23 microns. How do you know you are 'improving' your fineness if you only go by handle?

And if you don't care to micron, and think they are so different, why are you telling me that you are getting a ewe from a flock that moves out all ewes that micron over 24? If you don't believe in it, why care about where you get your sheep from as long as they FEEL soft? :) :) :)

A snip of fleece in a whole fleece will not take much out of the overall fleece if you card it or turn it into roving. You only need a small 2 in long piece (i use a Fisker's to cut a small sample no more than maybe 1/2" wide by 1" long)

You are right, I've read a lot about low micron doesn't mean soft handle, or vice versa, but if we all breed towards BOTH then eventually we'll get there!

Where I got most of my ewes, they cull out anything over 25 microns, even as adult ewes, and that will be my goal once I get the fleece structure and conformation set in stone. But right now, all my ewes and rams except two (and they are very consistent in their fiber) are under 29 micron.

I have a lot to learn yet about spinning ( I know nothing) but I am really getting a feel for softer lambs and adults. I can feel quite a difference between 20 afd and 30 afd now, whereas last year i couldn't tell the difference!

Maybe this thread should go on to the finewool or the 'other' list? *wink wink*

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I've been thinking of testing anyway, so for that price and information I'm going to go ahead and do it on those over a year. Should be interesting! How long does the sample need to be? Everyone is pretty short right now.

For the record, I'm getting this new ewe for her polled genetics and jet black color, NOT because her lamb fleece was a winner or her owner doesn't keep any fleeces over 24 microns - although that doesn't hurt. :-)

Juliann said...

Clap clap clap!
Standing ovation.
Garrett, I get nervous having people visit, too. I encourage other breeders to be painfully honest with me, and it may be hard medicine at the time, but it is how we learn!

Bravo, for being such a caring steward of the breed!
I love ya!

Juliann said...

Michelle, it's only a 2" square of fleece off the last rib, you won't even notice it!
I cut it off before shearing.
Hey Garrett you turkey, you made fun of my headgate, I use it all the time for little stuff like this!
I love it! ;)

Available sheep

With my work load continuing to pile up, and less time to spend with the sheep, I am offering the following: My entire flock of BlueFaced ...