Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A man of numbers

I guess I'm a man of hard numbers. I weigh my sheep. I weigh them at birth, at 5 months and then once annually. I test for microns. I test for CL, OPP, Johne's. I like to know if my animals have anything and send fecals in monthly. I guess its better to know than to guess. And I'm also a very paranoid person :)

Thanks to my dad for helping me weigh all of my sheep tonight. I decided not to stress the AI group of 12 girls so I don't have an average for the mature ewes...or it will be way skewed as they are my biggest girls.

The heaviest ewe I had in Shetlands was Sheltering Pines Fleur de Lis, who is going on two years old that will be bred for the first time this fall. She weighed in at 90 pounds. The other yearling ewes all weighed in between 65 and 80 pounds, which I think is more typical as they are still growing until they are about three years of age.

My ewe lambs born before May 1st were weighed in a separate group. These ewe lambs weighed between 40 and 65#, with the higher ones being from Sheltering Pines as well! He's got some great grass!

I also weighed the BFLs and had my yearling weigh in at 145 pounds! She didn't look that big, until I had to pick her up!

My ewe lambs all weighed in the 80's, while the two from Kathy Davidson, who lambs in early February, weighed in at almost 100 pounds each.

What are your weights for your Shetlands or BFLs? It'd be interesting to see if mine are within the current 'norm'.

As a side note, I was able to get a photocopy of the NASSA brochure from 1995.

It states that Shetland Rams usually weigh between 90 and 125 pounds. Ewes weigh 75-100. I'm assuming they are talking about mature animals here, so mine are all within what I would consider standard size.

Also of note it states that fleeces usually weigh between 2 and 4 pounds, and have a staple length of 2"-4 1/2". It also states that NASSA is coordinated with the SSBG of the UK and its breed standards and registration rules are based upon those of the SSBG.

When did NASSA change these above rules? Anyone know? I'd love to find out why and how!

For anyone who would like a copy of this brochure I could scan it for you and email it to you.


kristi said...

I think you think too much but I am glad you think because then I realize what I am not thinking about. And since I am thinking now the only thing I can think of to tell you is that my littlest gulmoget ewe lamb born at the end of June only weighes like 14#, maybe 15 or 16 with wet fleece:) As always, I am glad to come your way to see what your thinking about it!! It gives me food for thought!!!

susan said...

When I first got my shetlands around the year 2000, they were described in all of the descriptions that I read as being fine wooled 22 microns I think it said. None of the first shetlands I saw were this fine though!

Someone made a comment, probubly on one of the groups how they had removed the finewool part on the description of shetlands. I don't have quotes, but this is what I remmeber. Since 90% or more of the population of shetlands are probubly not even under 24 microns, it wouldn't be right to keep this in the descrition. Maybe they should have said some shetlands "could" be as fine as 22 microns.
I just skimmed the NASSA home page and couldn't find any reference to the micron or grade of the wool. They have an updated homepage from when I visited it last.

I still think that the original imports were fine wooled. It is possible that the ewes didn't match up well with the rams they imported.
There are different genetic combinations that make a finefleeced animal. The SRS theory for the merinos is a good example. One sheep has lots of fine primaryu folicles(thick skinned), the other has lots of fine secondary folicles(SRS thin skinned).
From my experiences with AI I think that maybe the skeld and drum rams had differet genetics for fine wool than enfeild, holly, and Orion.


Theresa said...

Susan, you bring up some very good points about fineness and genetics. It is my experience as well that there are several ways to obtain fineness. I too have been following the SRS theories and have been incorporating some of the breeding techniques into my plans. It is working, to some extent, as I'm seeing the fruits of my labors in some of the lambs.
As far as the micron average, I remember also NASSA's statements. Linda W. has a list of several publications where they list what Shetland wool should micron at and I've also gathered a few other places where they state microns. In averaging all of these publically stated microns (around a dozen), it comes to 25 microns, with a good range at 23-25 microns. This is where Shetland wool should micron.
I'm in the middle of reading By the Fireside and on the Hillside. It is an enlightening book on Shetland knitting, though not much mention of the sheep that provided all the wool for the knitted goods, especially hosiery. It does mention that wool was very soft and the finest neck wool was used for the ring shawls. "Hosiery" was claimed to be lots of knitted things including next to the skin undergarments. Many thousands of Shetland women sold their knitted hosiery to make money (or barter for groceries) and it was all made from Shetland wool. So, basically, the Shetland sheep should have wool - ALL OVER - that is useful for undergarments as there were too many knitted items made that could NOT have been made with just only neck wool as there weren't enough sheep in Shetland to have that much neck wool!

Garrett808 said...

I was told by a friend, Laura Matthews, whose father is from Scotland, that on their last trip there last year, she got to talk to the gentleman who exported the sheep to Canada and assured them that they were shorter fleeced and crimpy.

Remember the Safari park just let them breed at will and when that happens for years, you tend to go reverse towards the more 'primitive' verison of what they perhaps once looked like.

I wish I would have had them when they were first brought in, in 1986! I'd know a lot more than I do now!

I had heard that the average was 23 (but only from one source). That means they could be anywhere from 18-28 microns. I would think anything over 30 is just too high period, unless its a rare color or pattern, but just my opinion. :)

NASSA used to have the micron on there and I see its missing now, and to the part about the staple lenth, it has been 'modified' to include the primitive fleeces. I just think that that is changing the 'standard' to allow more animals into it. I disagree with that, but again just my opinion!

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