Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wool - 20 points - Sheltand 1927 standard

Wool Extra fine and soft texture, longish, wavy, and well closed. Wool on forehead and poll tapering into neck, likewise wool on cheeks. Colours: white, black or brown , moorit (from reddish to fawn). Greys (including Sheila). Other known colours - Mirkface (brownish spots on face); Catmogit (dark under parts from muzzle to tail and legs), Burrit (light underparts); also Blaegit, Fleckit, and Sholmit
20 pts

Wool is the highest point earning, one item topic in the standard. As such, it would obviously then get the most influence and priority right? Well yet 80 pionts are conformation, but at the end of the day if two animals are equal in all other conformation points, wouldn't it be safe to say that the 20 points for a nice fleece would then win?

let's break it down.

"wool extra fine and soft texture" - EXTRA fine! What does this mean? if the average micron for Shetlands is supposed to be 23 microns, and anything over 30 microns is considered coarse, then I would think extra fine would be under 23 microns.

I have three that fit that category. How about you? And no guessing or saying " i think its really soft" or 'the handle is soft'. Prove it! Micron your sheep. its only 1.25 per sample!

"longish, wavy and well closed" this is more debatable. It was presented to a group last year and it was agreed it was hard to distinguish was longish and wavy MEANT in 1927 versus today. If fleeces are 2-4 inches then longish was probably considered 3-4 inches for this breed, but i'm only assuming. Linda Wendleboe does a great job discussing this bit of the standard well. With evidence and research to back it up. I can't find the links right now to those sites but when I find them i'll keep you posted!

Did wavy mean crimpy? Or did wavy mean what we mean by wavy? large crimp? losser crimp?

Wool on forehead and poll tapering into neck, likewise wool on cheeks"

It seems as though most of my sheep do NOT have wool on forehead or poll or on cheecks. However I bred them to AI rams and all lambs have wool on poll and cheeks. Not even my domestics have it on their polls or checks. Isn't that crazy? And how many points are these parts of the 'wool' section? 5? 10? Should it be defined? does this mean I'm going to cull my ewes? no! But i'll breed towards sheep that DO have wool on polls and cheeks , and not ignore the standard. Just as I wouldn't ignore the standard about extra fine and soft :)

Ok eat me alive! I'm ready!


Kara said...

Zeus does have wool on his cheeks and poll so ha! LOL. According to Zeilingers Corriedale is a fine wool and I know a lot of people who love to spin it but my Shetlands were all softer by handle and micron testing than my Corrie. Now I know you and I like many of the same things, but different quite a bit on fleece preference. I just like longer fleeces. My goal will be strive for softer and softer fleeces each year but I don't think I will go in the direction of the single coats, unless it is to breed it to an intermediate. As a spinner and knitter and someone that wears the wool from my sheep, handle and spinning quality just as important to me, if not more so. As this is a handspinners/pet flock first and foremost. With that being said I will continue to send my samples in to Texas A&M to help me evaluate my flock and strive to accomplish my breeding goals. I want to be a responsible breeder. It is just like golf for me. I want to be a good enough golfer to enjoy the sport and not hold back the people I play with but the LPGA is not a goal of mine. I want to do service to the Shetland breed but I don't need to be the best, just a responsible one. I will leave being the best for the you all in the big league and learn from your inspiration and challenging us all to improve the breed.

Angela Rountree said...

I think handle and fiber diameter are equally important, and am breeding/culling for both. Also trying to improve the slick heads in my flock. I have also wondered about "wavy", but have lots of other improvements to make in my flock. I already think I have culled out all the "open" fleeces in my flock.

Jen and Rich Johnson said...

I'll keep my comments brief because once I get started...

Let me ask this - if two sheep are identical in terms of structure, but one microns at 23 and one at 29, who wins? According to the standard, the finer animal. I'm assuming a judge could tell the difference in handle, but it might not be that easy.

The 20 points assigned to fleece is a collective assessment of all wool characterstics. It would help to break it down into sections much like the other elements are. I think your interpretation is pretty accurate. I think the literature supports 23 microns as the "extra fine" threshold just as it clearly calls out > 30 as course. I know not everyone will agree with that, but all we can do is compare wool standards to the shetland standard and make inferences. I believe the SSS calls out 23 microns as an average. I may be wrong about that.

But 23 microns at what age?

And perhaps more importantly, what do we do with all the sheep between 23 and 30. They would be considered fine, but not "extra fine" as the standard suggests. Do those sheep not meet the standard? I hope they do, because that defines 95% of the shetland world. I'm not really sure though.

So, I think if I was writing a clarification of the 1927 standard, I'd assign points to the various fleece attributes, and I'd clarify the micron requirements according to age. I thing we'd all agree that 23 microns as a yearling isn't the same as the same reading as a three year old.

And are all the plus 30 micron sheep disqualified? They are course by any standard. They are neither fine nor extra fine. Again age plays a role in that assessment, but it's something to think about. I certainly wouldn't want to cull excellent sheep for having an average micron of 32, but one could make that argument. And some of those fleeces have a nice handle because they might have low standard deviations. The standard doesn't even mention that.

Good stuff Garrett! I hope you'll be as objective and passionate about the other 80% of the standard that truly defines how a shetland does in the show ring (or as a breeding animal). Fleece has to be near the top of the list in terms of things to breed for, but we can't lose sight of the other 80%. It all comes down to whether a fine fleece is a reason for disqualification. The standard doesn't suggest it is. Extra fine sounds like a guideline or suggestion as it's written.

I'm ready too. Especially since it's your blog. Seriously though, this is the kind of bold debate the breed needs. BTW, I like the clarification to the standard that was written, but it doesn't go far enough. That's probably true of all standards though.


Laura said...

Talking about poll wool.. (this is a bit off topic, but) I was talking to Tracey Ross the Texas Angora breeder and she said that the more mohair her goats have on their heads the more and better the mohair on their body. She said that her goats with mohair on their ears have 1# more mohair than the goats without mohair on their ears! So I started thinking about sheep!

I'm going to breed for poll wool! (Jim Chastain has a flock with good poll wool and his sheep look like Rena Douglas'es.)

Ok I have to say the handle (how soft a fleece feels) is more important to me than the micron count. (A Suffolk has a finer micron than a Coopworth, but the Coopworth is MUCH softer.) Also did they even do micron testing (in large no.)when the standard was developed? I think that they would have had to go more by the handle. I'm not saying that one should not do micron testing as it can be helpful.

I'm not sure what they mean by "longish and wavy" but I would guess it is more like the single coated or intermediate. The "hairy" double coat really does not fit anywhere. (When I say "hairy" double coat I mean the really coarse scratchy ones.Some double coated sheep are soft and silky, but most are very hairy and should be culled!)

Mim said...

I'm with Kara. I spin, knit and felt with my shetland wool. My flock is here to give me spinable/sellable wool and the most meat I can get from these small sheep. I seldom sell pets and no weed eaters! Micron count is a good thing, I don't do it yet, but "comfort factor" means more to me. Shetland wool makes wonderful sweaters when you use the intermidiate type wool. Soft smooth and sheds water and I'm sure it's not 20 micron's. I am now getting some single coats in my flock and do not like the "downyness" of them in our climate. They are vm magnets. Same reason I would not want merinos. I like imtermidiate fleece the best and it's the only way so far I can get a 12 month fleece that weights in the 4-5 pound range and I think I could do better. My single coats are 1-2 pounds. Not worth the feed for a year plus it's full of vm and I do not want to coat my sheep. I want my sheep to fit the standard and I see shetlands as having a degree of differences in the same breed. Are shetlands not an unimproved breed of sheep, it would be a shame if you couldn't have your single coats and we our imtermidiate just to be the perfect show animal. Fleece must be dense a certain length with crimpe that can vary, uniform and either single or intermidiate because I believe both types fit the standard. I love to show animals but at the same time the show rings developes animals that look to be stamped out of a cookie cutter. I like our shetlands with their differences!

Rayna said...

I have a few too! But mine are all younger than yours :P lol. Good discussion, but remember, this is for the judging standard, not the breeding standard. I don't think anyone is going to eat you alive because anyoen who doesn't at least remotely agree with you isnt' going to post :) Handle is important too, and a at a show, a judge isn't going to know who's a 25 micron and who's a 19 micron. I agree though, more needs to be done with fleeces...no more 35+ microns at a year old...ugh...

Juliann said...

My thoughts. The Standard of Perfection for any domestic species is a goal. The Shetland is a wool sheep, and fine wool put them on the map as a wool sheep.
I do have some higher microning sheep in my flock, however I have been gradually culling just about everything above 30, expecially those with higher SD & CV.
My goal Micron under 28, SD below 7, CV below 25.
Diet also affects micron count. Park feed sheep may micron higher than scattold fed, and a ewe supporting twins may micron lower than a ewe who didn't settle that year.
I think micron counting is a fantasitc tool and I do try to buy sheep mostly from people who do micron count their flocks. One person's "exquisite fleece" may not be my definition of it. i've seen some "exquisite" fleeces out there that make me wince.
Most of my flock microns in the high twenties. I have had several individuals who microned in the low 20's.
About wool on the poll. Yes, it is in the standard, so should be a goal with anyone who is breeding. We are all trying to breed with in the breed standard, right?
But we would NOT have any spotted sheep at all, and probably not any katmogets, if we culled everything slick headed. In fact, if we culled every Shetland out there that fell outside the breed standard, we would have a very small gene pool to select stock from.
We need to be honest about the strenghts and weaknesses of each sheep out there in our fields. Very few are perfect specimens, but some flaws are more serious than others, and part of the fun of breeding is seeing what we get, what we can improve on, and when we fail completely, when we produce a Shetland that has absolutely nothing worth passing on, remove that animal from the pool of registered Shetlands.

I DO want to be amongst the best breeders out there! I have a small flock, but I want to someday produce amongst the best Shetlands and here is why.
If I take someone's hard earned money for a breeding stock quality sheep, if they trust me enough to spend their resources, time, feed, on one of my sheep, I want to sell them a darn good Shetland. I want to be honest about the strengths and weaknesses of each animal, so they can make an educated and informed decision. I want them to be confident enough to become a repeat customer, or recommend me to other breeders. I want them to have the very best I have to offer.
It costs just as much to take care for a good sheep as it does a poor quality one. I have been judged pretty harshly for publically talking like this, but TAKING PEOPLE'S MONEY AND PROVIDING A GOOD PRODUCT IN RETURN is very serious to me. If I were just breeding for myself and not selling breeding stock, then it wouldn't be such a big deal.

My first few years with Shetlands, I played around and bred for what I liked. I think it is a good idea for a new breeder to do this. Keep it fun, network, learn about the breed.
Then after a few years, I said "Okay, I like this breed. Let's take it up a notch and try to breed better and better." I began to cull harder and harder, and be much more careful about what I purchased. I was very lucky to have some good mentors here in the Midwest to lean on and guide me.

I would like to see less emphasis on single coat VERSUS double coat, both existed historically on Shetland. More emphasis on what is really important, fine and soft!
If we can breed double coats soft, let's breed them softer.

Kara said...

I need clarification. I like intermediate the best I think. It seems more single coated in character but long, lusterous, and my favorite to spin. Is is intermediate that I am describing? Maybe not. All I know that my "graphs" on my favorite fleeces all looked the same. Also that is why I made the distinction that I want to be a "responsible" breeder. Yes I think it is important to provide a good product to my customers, and I am constantly spending time trying to learn and improve what I am doing, I don't think many of you can argue that about me...at least I hope not or you really don't know me at all. I do want to be a tribute not a determent to the breed, but I am not going to throw my favorite hanspinner's fleeced ewe and beloved pet that has produced outstanding lambs in the freezer because she as the oldest in my flock has the highest Shetland micron at 32. However when I have been in this for a number of years and my little ones aren't my first priority by a mile, then maybe my focus may change completely. In the meantime I strive to improve without making myself crazy and "do no harm" the best I can and provide my buyers with much information as I can and let them make their own informed decision. I think what Juliann and Garret is doing is great for the Shetland breed and have a tremendous respect for them both and again so glad they are willing to challenge us to produce the best Shetland we all can.

susan said...

What is the adress for the lab you have your wool tested add. I'm thinking of trying to get some sent off.

Juliann said...

Hi Kara,

I hope you don't think I was directing my post at you, honestly I wasn't. You remind me a lot of "me" maybe 5 years ago. I found myself in the position of feeling I had to defend some initial purchases (and some of mine were pretty fugly). Please don't feel defensive, we are just throwing ideas and opinions out there. This is the kind of chit chat that stimulates the mind.
I'm personally happy to see anyone having fun with their flock and enjoying it as much as you are. And hey they are YOUR sheep, not anyone elses. :)
There is nothing wrong with intermediate, all shetlands have an outercoat to some extent. It is a breed characteristic, and protects them in harsh weather.
I don't think every high microning ewe is a throwaway, either. Your ewe that microns at 32 might produce magic under the right ram. I have a few ewes here that micron at 30. One has low SD/CV so feels soft. The other (Niobe) I've bred to a much softer ram, and retained 3 ewe lambs out her. The lambs should hopefully grow up to be softer than her. Plus her conformation is outstanding, so that along makes her a good breeder in my book.
I've got another ewe that is quite the trainwreck. I'd be mortified if someone saw her out in my pasture, lol. I'm trying to see if I can't get something better out of her, but she is different than Niobe. When she is through here, she'll be culled either to market, or a pet home without papers.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Shetlands are supposed to be "extra fine and soft." Shetlands average at 23 microns. Therefore 23 microns (not lower) IS extra fine and soft! That was the way I read the standard. It is describing the breed, not saying "your average Shetland doesn't meet this." And I agree, in 1927, I don't think anyone had a better way to determine "find and soft" than by rubbing a skein of Shetland wool on one's neck or face. Like others, I prefer what some call "intermediate" fleeces to spin and wear. My definition of "intermediate" is NO discernible difference between inner and outer coats (doesn't that define them as "single-coated"?), longer (at least 4"), with a more open/looser (wavy) crimp and silky texture. They are soft, silky and lustrous. I have yet to see a truly lustrous UK-type fleece! And I don't see how someone could define high crimp as "wavy;" those are very different descriptions to me.

On wooly polls: something I've noticed in my little flock is that this trait is seasonal. In the spring, poll wool roos off. Anyone else see this?

Garrett808 said...

i think that the appendix Juilann and Rich are talking about gives a lot more detail and understanding of the terms 'wavy', what extra fine means and the length of the fleece. I hope Juliann shares it with everyone.

I'm not saying you shouldn't like what you like, but let's breed them all fine! No sheep is perfect I will attest to my own flock for that, but we should all be striving for breed type, even if its 'unimproved' or whatnot.

In AKC there are 'show' breeders and backyard/hobby breeders. My friend had an AKC Pomeranian that weighed 22 pounds! YES! TWENTY TWO POUNDS! And did not have the undercoat to make the outer coat look fluffy/fuzzy. Poms are 'supposed' to weight 2-5 pounds and yet people sold those 22 pound dogs as AKC registered dogs even though they looked nothing like the breed. At that point the papers mean nothing because they don't really look like the breed anymore.

Anyone who has commented on here obviously has shetlands, or they would raise another breed like Icelandics or Scottish BlackFace if they didn't want to raise shetlands. I do however think the greater population of breeders don't necessarily cull as heavily or think of all of their sheep as pets or perfect, and not livestock. Those folks I would think wouldn't be in the breed long term (I hope not) as they would just be breeding to say they are 'registered' and then you lose the qualities that make them Shetlands and why we fell in love with them. Am I missing my point? Just b.c. it CAN be registered doesn't mean it should be. There are many a ram lambs that I've raised that I have put into the freezer b.c. I didn't feel that they were of breeding quality. I hope others are as stringent!

I love the discussion but it wasn't meant to say yours are better than mine or vice versa. It was dialogue to discuss the wool characteristics of the sheep. I would love to see extra fine double coated Shetlands! :)

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Garrett, I think "extra fine double coated Shetlands" is an oxymoron. I know Jared breeds for any easily separated double-coated Shetland with super-fine (under 20 microns) inner coat, but I always wonder, if you want to separate coats, why aren't you breeding Icelandics?

Jen and Rich Johnson said...

This is a tough one. I think everyone should breed for the type of sheep that they like as long as they stay within the standard. I think the standard, unfortunately, allows for the kind of variation we are debating here.

First, where did the idea of having three categories for fleeces come from? It's not in the standard. But the standard doesn't explicitly forbid it either.

I also think there is too much focus on the category of fleece and not enough on the quality of it. I think we would agree that you could have singles, intermediates, and doubles that all meet the standard (in theory). My issue with the three categories is that, in reality, the sheep are either double coated or they are not. And if the coats don't separate into distinct groups, how can you tell? A histogram should show it. That's what I think. But can you have a 4-6" staple length (intermediate), and still be single coated? I think so, and I have histograms to show it. I don't think you can have a tight bell shaped curve with a double coated sheep. How could you? By definition, you have two distinct population of fiber.

And what's the definition of primitive? A good number of people consider double coats primitive. Is that the true definition (if there is one)? Or is it more of a lock structure thing with primitives being long and open? Because most of the double coated sheep I've seen part right down the middle in a good rain. That might not always be true, of course. Whenever I see a sheep with long wavey wool, I think primitive. I don't think double coated (although some of them certainly are). That's not a judgement of one style being better than another to me, but it's an observation. An intermediate could be either one. That's my point. It's more of a question than a point really.

What I'm wondering is whether the words "extra fine" cut through all of these distinctions. Either your sheep are "extra fine" or they aren't. The coat type is somewhat irrelevant? But I struggle with that because a sheep can have an average of 25 as a three year old, but have a standard deviation of 10. Does that meet the standard? I'd like to hear what people think about that, because I don't see that addressed in the standard. Maybe it can't be addressed, but every histogram I've seen with SD's that high were from fleeces that were double coated. Again, an observation, not a judgement.


Garrett808 said...

I don't think this standard is the 'show standard' but a breed standard. Most standards in Europe (at least with my pigeons and dogs) are very brief, with much wiggle room. The American versions of the same breed are very precise and therefore the birds and dogs to some extent are nearly different breeds. heck look at the Suffolk! The British Suffolk are not what us American's are breeding. Americans always think we can make something better or bigger. What's wrong with 1-2 pounds of Shetland wool on a 70 pound animal? If you want 10 pounds of wool I get Cormo or Icelandic or something with more wool growth.

Remember people on the Islands depended on that wool as their only source of income. They needed it to be fine (regardless of length) so people would buy it.

I think there is wiggle room to 'have what you like' but there is also a limit. Once the characteristics of the Shetland are hard to distinguish, I think that's the limit.

My reference to the above paragraph was last year at Michigan Fiber Festival the Champion Shetland Ram and Champion Shetland Ewe were both double coated sheep and were both yearlings. The Champion Icelandic ram and Champion Icelandic ewe were MATURE adults and they were SMALLER with LESS 'wool' than the Shetlands! Truly you cannot call those shetlands anymore by our standard if their fleece is not extra fine, or even wavy (it was straight). They were well out of range of our weights too and were not 'fine boned'.

To answer rich's question about where the three fleece types came about....A few years back the BOD for NASSA changed the standard to fit the sheep they were breeding. Most of those on the BOD were breeding the double coats and there was no mention of them in the standard so they added them. Without asking the membership.

I guess if you can't breed 'towards' the standard just change it to fit your sheep? I don't like that at all. Was the membership contacted for a vote?

Hopefully someone knows that answer

Theresa said...

The latest issue of the NASSA News has a graph on pg 21 that gives the percentage of the Shetland clip for each "grade" as is used by Jamison and Smith (who buys >90% of the island's clip). The super-fine wool accounts for only 1.2% and is an average of 24.6 microns. WHAT?!? Yes, 24.6 microns. For the record, the "average" of all the documents that I could find several years ago that quote what Shetland wool is and grades(I believe it was 10 different sources), is 25 microns.

Shetland wool historically is supposed to "feel" softer than it's micron actually is (documented by Sinclair, I believe). This has to do with the scales on the wool fibers more than anything else. This is why, as Laura says, Suffolk wool feels harsher than Coopworth. Suffolk fibers are composed of lots of tall, small scales. Coopworth wool is composed of low, large scales - smoother feeling and light reflective. Think of a road made of rough, irregular bricks vs. smooth marble. Which road would you rather drive on?

Breeding Shetlands of fine microns is great, but if the handle isn't there, you don't have the right Shetland wool. "Extra fine and soft texture" is of utmost importance in my book in breeding for fleece and it speaks of the handle of the wool. It has to be soft FEELING first, low micron second. I am speaking here as a spinner, knitter, felter, and weaver - feel is what sells wool, roving, yarn, and finished goods. And sheep.
(this is part one)

Theresa said...

(part 2)
Funny thing, the graph also states that "good" Shetland wool averages 30-34 microns and the "fine" Shetland averages 28-30 microns. Granted, this is on the Shetland Isles and not in the UK, but we do have to take this into consideration. Especially since this is the point of origination for the breed. Why isn't there a category for an average of, say 22 microns? Is it that these few fleeces are saved by the local lace handspinners to spin?
We also have to consider that nowhere in the standard does it say what the Bradford or blood count (as used back then) should be for the Shetland. It is all about comparing to what were the British breeds in the 1920’s.

After stating all of this, I do want to point out that breeding for fine Shetland fleece is one of my top goals. Fine as to what normally is thought of as fine wool, below 25 microns. This means that I will use higher micron ewes sometimes to breed to lower micron rams. I will also do the opposite as, paradoxically, I’ve gotten some really nice fleeced ewes out of the match. It is all about breeding for “the nick”. My average ewe flock micron, 2 years ago, was 27 with a CV of 6. My rams then were 22-25 microns (adult) with a CV of 5. I was very pleased then. I will know shortly what it is now as I sent a great number of samples out a couple of weeks ago for testing. Even if it stays around that I will be pleased. Why? Because I’m making great strides in improving conformations and fleece densities. I’d rather have a good size ewe with a 27 micron fleece that is 5 lbs and 5” with a top notch conformation and good productivity than a small ewe that has a 22 micron, 3 lb and 3” fleece, is hocky and narrow fronted. Obviously, micron size is the only factor to improve in the first ewe. Everything needs improvement in the second ewe except the micron. As it is, I have very few lambs that I consider cull quality this year. Yeah!
Fine fleece is only one variable. As stated, 80% of the standard is devoted to conformation issues, of which is the foundation the animal is built on. Without the foundation of a good conformation, fine fleece is only on a pet or fiber animal or an animal that is used for "breeding up". Why breed for poor conformation when there are so many others available with excellent conformation?

Ok, back to fleece to wrap this up. We’ve seen the extra fine and soft texture. Now, longish. This is 3-5/6” in length. Below is short, above is long, comparing using Merinos and Leicesters (what was used back then to compare with). Wavy = crimpy (see Shetlands -Then and Now DVD where a Merino lock in the 1920’s/30’s is called wavy). Well closed – forms locks. Wool on forehead and poll tapering into neck, likewise wool on cheeks – as stated, though you don’t want so much as to get wool blindness (too excessive). Yes, not enough wool on poll and cheeks is a problem in this country. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Long post, sorry, but I could say tons more!


Theresa said...

Shetland sheep on the Isles only produce small fleeces because there isn't much to eat. They also don't normally twin and if they do, the twins don't do well. Shetlands that are moved to the mainland do MUCH better (read Bowie's book).

Here is a chart I have regarding microns for the USDA grading system:
AFD range - Max SD
for 20.6 to 22.04 AFD - max SD is 5.49
for 22.05 to 23.49 AFD - max SD is 5.89
for 23.5 to 24.94 AFD - max SD is 6.49
for 24.95 to 26.39 AFD - max SD is 7.09
for 26.4 to 27.84 AFD - max SD is 7.59
for 27.85 to 29.29 AFD - max SD is 8.19
for 29.3 to 30.99 AFD - max SD is 8.69

(I didn't put the grades down) If the SD is higher than the max, it is moved up to the next higher grade (feels coarser than it really is).

Ideally the CV should be lower than 20%.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Thank-you, Theresa, for such enlightening (at least to me!) comments! Some of what you said was a big confirmation to what I have felt (both in my hands and in my gut).

Garrett said...

Thanks theresa! Its always great to have written proof to educate us. I don't feel there is enough of this literature to quench my thirst for knowledge on the subject!

Also in Bowie's book it says that variation in the fleece is normal with neck wool having sampled at 10-20 microns, midside 20-25 microns and britch 25-37. (page 47)If that is the case most sheep would then 'average' around 23 at midside, right?

Staple length they also comment on page 48 is 1 3/4" - 4.5" with an average of 3.25"

As a side note on wool poll, check out the katmoget ewe on page 31. No wool poll or cheek wool! Crazy huh?

Garrett808 said...

"I’d rather have a good size ewe with a 27 micron fleece that is 5 lbs and 5” with a top notch conformation and good productivity than a small ewe that has a 22 micron, 3 lb and 3” fleece, is hocky and narrow fronted."

While I understand and agree with you completely Theresa on this quote, I do want to point out that I've seen hocky and narrow fronted ewes (and rams) that are over 30 microns and more double coated :) So it is possible to have a nice 22 micron ewe that is conformationally correct too :)

We just need to balance them out and I think you are one of the few that is doing both. Just look at Apache's build!

Theresa said...

Actually Garrett, the samples from Shetland in Bowie's book are from prize-winning fleeces, NOT average run of the mill fleeces. Therefore, all results will be skewed towards the finer end for everything. That is why it is so important to look at the Jamison and Smith numbers to see what is "actually there". Several thousand samples are much more statistically significant than around 50 hand picked superfine ones.
One also has to remember that in the UK, the sheep have been purposely bred for decades for mostly showing and finer and finer fleeces were of top importance. In Shetland, I believe they are looking for an animal that is more dual purpose - fine fleece with more meat on the carcass (which makes them APPEAR bigger, but they aren't). This is what makes it so difficult for the US breeders to comprehend - there are differences in the breed over there too. You have to remember that there are "Foula" type breeders as well. It is much more involved than most breeders think.
On the katmoget ewe, it appears to me that she does have a bit of cheek wool, certainly as much as the moorit ewe on the next page.

Theresa said...

I've seen the coarse double-coated Shetlands that have bad conformation as well too. And yes, you can have fine micron with good conformations; I've got some and so do several others. I'm just making a point, as you know.

You have to take the good with the bad and make a decision in your own flock based on what you have as no sheep is perfect. Evaluations and rankings are the best place to start. Who is the best in each area (fleece and it's components, head, tail, conformation, productivity, etc.)? Assign a value to each characteristic. OK, once that is done, who ranks number one overall? #2 and on down the line. Can you work with the bottom ranked sheep? If not, they go. If they happen to be the finest fleeced but are lacking quite a bit in other areas, you have to do some serious thinking as to what direction you want your flock to go. It takes years to get what you want and doesn't happen overnight. I've done a lot of culling - and of perfectly "standard" quality sheep - ones that look exactly as they should. If they don't have exactly the fleece I think they should have, they go. I've even culled really fine ones with top notch fleeces!! Why? Conformation. It is, as you say, all about balance.

Jen and Rich Johnson said...

I just want to express concern about there being a show standard and a breed version. If that is in fact the case, we will end up with very different shetlands. The ultimate test is whether a UK inspector would agree with the placements in our shows.

Here are the things the people in this discussion seem to agree on:

* The threshold between coarse and fine is 30 microns (AFD)
* There is a definite correlation between handle and the standard deviation. The AFD alone doesn't define a sheep
* There seems to be a gap between the show and 1927 breed standard
* All shetland attributes must be balanced in a breeding program

That's a good starting point. I'm not sure everyone agrees on some of the other things like what "extra fine" means, but that's to be expected. That part of the standard certainly means < 30 microns on average, but I'm not sure there's a definitive answer to that. Plus, age has to be considered as part of that answer.

We probably won't agree on a preferred fleece type either. That seems to be very personal. The standard provides some guidance in terms of length and crimp, but that still leaves personal preference as a source of variability.

I will say, however, that average micron by itself won't help to answer those questions. The SD plays a big role (sometimes bigger role), than the average. A low standard deviation fleece is always going to feel finer than it's average suggests it is. The reverse also true. I'm basing that on things I've read and fleeces I've felt. If you try and rank your fleeces by feel and then do it again by the numbers, what do you come up with? Try it sometime. You might be surprised.

Juliann said...

"First, where did the idea of having three categories for fleeces come from? It's not in the standard. But the standard doesn't explicitly forbid it either."

To make everyone happy by saying "anything goes". I can't think of another reason for trying to fit different fleece types neatly into compartments like this. Why not just say anything anybody wants to breed for is okay, even very coarse fleece?
I'd like to see NASSA get away from "primitive, classic, modern".
I REALLY don't like seeing the term "primative" used to describe coarse wooled sheep. It's confusing. The older NASSA News articles used to state the Shetland as a "fine wooled, primative breed". This isn't an oxymoron.
I've seen a lot of people defend coarse fleece because "shetlands are supposed to be primitive sheep" and suggest in breeding for fine fleece we are "improving" them. Not so.
Primative breed characteristics as fine boned, slow growing, hardy & healthy, good mothering, small, milky, strong lambs, agile, nimble, low maintenance, easy keepers feed-wise. Not improved like "big whites" are, where we lose all the good traits while trying to get larger carcass.
"Moderns" are, I guess, the commercial big whites, and although I can understand the attraction from a commercial standpoint, I don't predict them getting much of a toe hold here in NA...Seems so many of us like the different colors and smaller sizes of the "classic" shetland.

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 ...