Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Microning lambs

I'm writing this post in response to Juliann and Michelle's questions in one of my last posts.

First of all I'm not expert on this subject! Several people who ARE are Cynthia Allen, Linda Wendleboe and Karen Valley. All three I consider great mentors in my micron learning. If at any time I'm wrong, please do correct me.

I was told early on that micron testing was just one more inexpensive tool to use when doing breeding groups and trying to improve your flock.

I micron test as I truly believe that Shetlands should be fine (average 23 microns according to SSS 1927 standard) and having had zero experience with sheep or wool before my Shetlands, I needed all the factual help I could get!

When I first started micron testing and first got my sheep there were very few people who micron tested, and fewer who shared those results. Now, several years into it, there are many more people micron testing and sharing the results, but still, not everyone is sharing, for whatever reasons.

Its my personal opinion that if you micron test you should make them public as we are all working together for breed improvement, for the betterment of the breed. Its not to say that Farmer A has better sheep than Farmer B. Ultimately we can all help each other out by sharing this information.

Its kind of like testing your dog for Hip Dysplasia and then not submitting the results (even if they are not passing) to the open database. What is that proving? Why hide it? I have a dysplastic dog and he is in the open database. I would think if you spend the money and were hoping to better the breed with good results, bad results are also 'good' for the betterment of the breed because maybe someone has something out there that can help you (in terms of softer rams or ewes).

I digress (gosh I do that a lot on here too don't I?)

I had been told that a fall lamb micron test will be the very softest the lamb will be with very few exceptions. In my area of the country we tend to get shorter days and cooler nights around mid September and the colder nights is what is needed for the micron to really start turning out to be what it 'should' be as they mature.

A lamb fleece in the fall that is over 25 microns is really too high for me at this point as it will more than likely coarsen up to over 30 microns by old age. Again...more than likely. I've had only once instance where they've gone down in the 100+ animals I"ve already microned, in my experience, 1 in 100 is quite an unusual feat.

IF you are truly going to cull coarse animals (my goal is mature ewes (meaning 6 years or older) under 27 microns) why hold them over to do a spring sample when a fall sample would suffice?

Here are several links to YoCom-McColl information on what the staple length should be and how big and what to do with it. They test their fleeces differently than Texas A&M so this should not hold true completely for Texas A&M.

http://www.ymccoll.com/micron_reports.html Understanding Micron Results
http://www.ymccoll.com/archives.html#444 Micron testing is not a fad

I would truly suggest emailing Karen, Linda or Cynthia in regards to why lamb microning so is important. Now at only 2.00/sample its still a very inexpensive way to micron test and I will do it in the fall for lamb fleece, spring for yearling fleece and again every spring after that to get an idea of where my animals will be. Some lines of Shetlands will be very fine as lambs only to get extremely coarse as yearlings (over 30) or as adults. I had several 5 month old fleeces from lambs I bought a few years ago that were already 34 microns! Way too coarse for me and really for anyone who is trying to breed Shetlands to the Standard and the average of 23 micron.


Michelle said...

Thanks, Garrett! I think I'll wait until the end of September or about the time I put breeding groups together to snip samples from my three lambs; only the ram lamb is being used this year and I think he's finer than his sisters. If neither of the ewe lambs are as soft as I'm striving for, I might still find a good market out here as double coats are more the norm. I'll let you know what Bramble's results are, in case both of us are still interested in a trade at BSG next year.

Becky Utecht said...

Coincidentally, there is an article about micron testing in the issue of Sheep Industry News that I got in the mail today. You can view the article on their website,
www.sheepindustrynews.org Click on "Using Wool Fiber Diameter Testing for Flock Improvement"
Bob Padula says fall is a good time to test so you can sort out your breeding groups. But he's advocating it more for 16-18 month old rams rather than young lambs. He says, "Seed stock growers will often begin testing rams at 11 months to 12 months of age...This preliminary information is useful, but should be used with caution because fiber diameter is influenced by the diet and age of the animal. These animals should be re-tested when are being offered for sale....
By 16 to 18 months of age, rams are generally grown out and physically mature so fiber diameter has stablized."

Garrett808 said...

Hi Becky!

I agree, 16-18 months is better, but with Shetlands I've heard that 3 years is more of the stability of fleece for Shetlands.

I don't about you, but I'd rather not wait until they are 18 months or 2 years old to micron them and then use them.

That's why I'll test in the fall and every spring after that. Its not an extra cost, but one I find necessary, and if they micron lower as lambs I"m tickled, but yes, I do realize they will all probably not stay that low, and will stabilize more at 3 years of age.

That's proven with the ewes that I have that are 3 years old or older. They don't tend to change much from year to year.

I'm also very impatient so MUST have as much information NOW on the sheep that I can. I'd die if I had to wait until they were two year olds :)

Garrett808 said...

Also forgot to mention.

I've read on the SRS website that diet plays a very insignificant role while en utero. It only changes it .3-.5 micron or something super low. I DO rememember density was a big issue while lambs are growing inside mom, but not the overall micron itself.

I'm not disagreeing with the article at all, just think that diet isn't entirely the culprit as i have ewes that are 34 microns and some that are 21 microns and all living and eating in the same pastures and same feed sources.

Kara said...

Hi Garret,

I did micron testing this spring as you know, as you were so kind to help me figure out how to read them. Rich also had an article in the NASSA news I found helpful. I will send samples of my lambs this fall and those will be posted on my sales blog which is still public. (Anyone reading wants to read my farm blog, all you have to do is email me and I will add you to the approved reader list). I didn't post the first set for a variety of reasons. One I didn't take it from the mid side last rib before shearing. My shearer just eye balled it and handed me a sample as he was clipping each. I noticed some handfuls were futher back but I didn't want to be OCD on him. Second most my sheep had a various amounts of growth as last year I had my shearer come 3 times to clean up my new comers etc. Many of my sheep were new and the stress of travel and change in nutrition I felt may have influenced the results. Lastly, they were not MY breeding. Results were available and shared with buyers upon request. I will publicly share all sheep lambed here and work toward my goal of a fine intermediate fleece as possible in the future. So why did I send it? Just to have a baseline and to learn what to make of the numbers compared to handle. Luckily my rams were the softest, so hopefully I am going in the right direction. It might take time but I will get there. I am knitting a scarf from my ram blended with Cashmere, and kid mohair and it is delightful to spin and knit.

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 ...