Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creating your own line

Having gone to school for genetics and growing up around animals my entire life, this seems really 'basic' to me. However I'm sure there are many who wonder why they aren't seeing results in their breeding programs after a litter or two (or lambing season/calving season,breeding season etc).

Since I've been breeding cattle and pigeons the longest I'll talk about them mostly. This can be related to dogs and sheep and just about anything else.

First of all. Find something you like to look at, and stick with it! There are so many people in pigeons who are raising for example the English Trumpeter. I"ve been breeding them for 14 years and still am having inconsistent results. Why? Because I'm going solely on color or gender, not on overall type. On the opposite side of the coin, I have been raising Homing Pigeons for 15 years. I started with all out crosses (still all homing pigeons, just different lines and different 'families' within lines. From that beginning I closed off my flock, and have only brought in SIX birds for colors/patterns/ or pedigree. Pigeons are great because you are guaranteed a new generation every year, if not twice in one year! The genetic advancement you can make with them is amazing! While most of my homers are from the "Janssen" line (a man in Belgium who raced them and made his own strain), I am able to tell MY birds from everyone elses. I can tell at 3 months of age which are cocks and which are hens, and they are almost like cookie-cutter birds. All the cocks are the same, all the hens are the same structurally, except for color/pattern! Of course with line breeding you get the very best to come out and the very worst. My biggest problem now is that the backs tend to be weaker, so I've kept back my strongest backed birds to breed back to my best of the 'other' patterned birds. Its working :)

I laugh when dog people or sheep people say "well in my breeding program" or "in my lines". Really? Looking at pedigrees or both species would be an easy answer to that. I personally don't think you have your "OWN" line until at least 4 generations! When it says EBONWALD or WHITE PINE in my pedigrees for four generations, then I can say that I have my own line. Until then, I'm just breeding someone else's lines!

In my dogs, in all of their pedigrees, there are several generations in a row with the same kennel name. That's a line. In the sheep, when the farm name is in three or four generations...that's a line. I can only think of a few people in both dogs and sheep that I'd consider have lines. Get mad. Its ok. I said it. Why are you mad? Its because you don't have your own line? I don't have it in my sheep or dogs. My sheep are mostly Sheltering Pines, Underhill, WinterSky, Bramble, Justalit'l, FirthofFifth.

In my dogs...almost all of them go back to Pluperfect, Cardiridge, Coedwig, Phi-Vestavia, Chandler, Kennebec, Davenitch, all long time breeders. I have to decide what i like best and bred to that.

In pigeons guys make me laugh...Person A buys person B's birds. He breeds only person B's birds for three, four generations and claims to have his own line. Really? Aren't you just breeding person B's birds? Do they look at all different? what makes them different enough to be their own line?

More times than not I've tried to cross two different lines in any given pigeon breed, only to have failure. Sure both parents are amazing birds in their own rights, but bred together all that crap that is hiding in the lines shows up. You can sometimes get a pair that 'clicks' and have amazing babies. Never split them up! They are a Godsend!

Is it any different in sheep? No! I've breed line A, to line B and gotten amazing stuff. I've also taken line A to line B and gotten terrible stuff. And just because its the same marking or color of the unrelated parents doesn't mean that you've now created a line.

Wow, am I rambling? I meant to have this all laid out in order but I seem to be jumping around a bit. Oh well. IF yo know me, you know I have ADOS....Attention Deficit ............OOOOH Shiny!! LOL

Maybe this has helped you at least realize that you need to create your own family/line before you will have guaranteed results,and even then you might still get a few 'uglies', but much less often!

And while we all breed towards the same standard, we all have different takes on what we feel is the prime example of the breed we are breeding. Heck that's why we have so many religions! ONE BIBLE, all different points of views. We all interpret it a little different, don't we? But that's another days' discussion :)


Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

I'm very interested in your thoughts...keep blogging this! *U*

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Really helpful, Garrett.

Right now, after 4 years with Shetlands, I'm still combining other peoples lines to get my own. I only have three years worth of Boston Lake babies on the ground. I've kept the best of those ewe lambs, and butchered the others.

This year I finally allowed myself to sell a lamb with the Boston Lake name on it. It was out of a B.L. ewe by a Windswept ram. (Bam) I was very proud of him, even though only one of his generations had Boston Lake on it.

My dream is to someday have my own line...where Boston Lake lambs come from Boston Lake ewes and rams. I expect that will be a bit farther away than I would like. I am still bringing in rams to put over my best ewe lambs.

But this spring, I did get one ewe lamb that I feel is the most perfect ewe lamb I have ever seen in person or in photos. (That doesn't mean she IS, but she is what I consider to be an ultimate example of the breed) (B.L. Lyneth) Everytime I look at her I pray to God that she may live to give me many babies as wonderful as she is.

Clancy reminded me just this week about how hard I have worked to get this get to the point where I am proud to sell a breeding ram lamb. And proud to see the best traits I have plucked from other lines to manifest themselves into a Boston Lake lamb crop that "has it all."

Now the goal is to continue to produce lamb crops of this quality, and then combine the best of those as adults to get a consistantly good sheep again and again.

One day all the ewes and rams out my window will be products of my own effort. I will be surrounded by evidence of my dreams and hardwork. It means somewhere along the way, I will have to let go of the wonderful foundation animals that helped me get to my goal. That is the sad part. Which is what allows me the patience and discretion to move SLOWLY toward my goal. Those animals are dear, it will be hard to part with them when the time comes.

It is all very much a balancing act, isn't it.

Here's to all of us that have a clear view of the "perfect Shetland" in our mind's eye, and are willing to take the time and expend the effort to create that beautiful animal. :)

Alaska Shetland Shepherd said...

What fun!! Talking lines. It's interesting. If you aren't willing to do a tight linebreeding, it's hard to set a type as they say. I have 4 generations of my own breeding in my cattledogs. This year I hope to be producing my 5th generation. Linebreeding, until you see what all you have hiding back in there, then going forward again to see if you can get rid of some of the not-so-great things that are behind every animal on earth.....genetics. Give me a few years on the registered sheep tho - haha!

Juliann said...

Bravo Garrett! Thank you as always for making us think! You are one smart cookie!
I'm hoping to have my own lines in oh...about four years, lol. Hard to do when I keep culling everything! :)

dreameyce said...

Bravo! I fully agree, and we see newbies with *cough* 'their lines' in rats all the time also.

Much like Pigeons, rats have the benefit of faster breeding, and with that, changes (And disasters ;) are seen sooner. My rats are well known, to the point of the type being almost world famous. Same for a couple other rat breeders, with very typey rats.

I've only been breeding rats for 10 years, but that still makes me one of the longest term breeders out there (Many breeders get into rats for 1-2 years, then leave and never look back)

One of my favorite things about breeding for consistent type, is the strength of the type-breeding. Typey line-bred studs esp stand out, as even when outcrossed, they consistently throw that type. While many people are afraid to line breed, and breed for type, I'm very grateful that many breeders do breed quality animals, with lots of set-in traits :)

Theresa said...

Cool post Garrett! I like your ramblings. In breeding Shetlands for several generations and having most of your stock with your own flock name on them is a good feeling indeed. And, yes, A to B can produce great things, or not, and sometimes in the same breeding! That is just how diverse the Shetland genetics are!

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