Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why micron and venting.

Its been a LONG time since I"ve used my blog for venting...and I can't take it any longer.

For someone who is learning like me, I think microning is a great tool to learn stuff about your own sheep.

I can 'feel' how soft a fleece FEELS but I can't tell you how fine it will be. I can pick any number and say...16 microns...but who am I bluffing? I have shown evidence of my testing, unlike others who claim to have such fine fleeces but never have the data to back it up. Handle yes is important as are all other things...scales, density, etc. Its just a tool that I use and am happy with using to get my desired results. And its working for me, and I couldn't be happier with it. Are my sheep perfect? Absolutely not! Am I a genius? FAR FROM IT! I'm still learning and want to learn all I can. Its the bashing that I cannot take.

With less than 15 known breeders of single coats I'd say we are by far the underdog here in this NA flock of sheep that are getting too coarse, too big and way too primitive.

Where is the historical evidence of THREE fleece types? The double coats here in the US are not anything like the UK double coats they call beaver or scatter. Check out the Stanley Bowie article in the last NASSA News. He said that there is no mention of kindly/beaver coats for centuries and that the classic Shetlands are of single coated sheep, with few scatter fleeced typed animals that happen to have an outer coat ONLY along the back and maybe a ruff/mane on the neck and they aren't even registered.

AKC (American Kennel Club) has a breed standard for all of the dogs that it recognizes. I had heard on the general Shetland list that NASSA is first and foremost a registry to preserve the breed. I think if NASSA keeps this stance up, it will end up like AKC....just a registry that anyone can register animals as long as it has registered parents. My last girlfriend had an AKC registered Pomeranian. Standard calls for a dog of 2-5 pounds (or so, i can't remember) and hers was over TWENTY pounds. I thought it was a mutt crossed with a sheltie. She was offended and said she paid big bucks for this AKC registered Pomeranian.

Do we want to be like the AKC and just allow poor breedings to continue to happen? Bowie also states in his article that the double coats we have are bred down from crossbred sheep and are different than the UK sheep. Bad breeding should not be rewarded. Its time to stop breeding animals together because they are cute or friendly when the structure and fleece is being ignored.

And I do not think that we should forfeit fleece types or animals because they micron at such and such or have a double coat. That was never my intent, but like Linda W said....we need to move FORWARD with what we have and breed towards the standard that's been in place over 80 years to PROTECT the BREED. Let's move forward together to create the ideal sheep...fine fleeced, within fleece and size limits, according to the standard. There is enough room to merit variability without having commercialized sheep.

If you don't want to follow the breed standard, don't register your sheep. I'd hate to see 150 pound horse hair sheep winning at shows that are being called Shetlands. Oh wait, that's already happening. And people are buying them. That scares me. And they are bigger than Icelandics. Why should we allow Shetlands, that should have NEVER looked like Icelandics for centuries to all of a sudden be OK to breed from? They are not following the standard.

AKC allows any registering of animals that have registered parents...even though they have a standard, they don't have a way to examine the animals prior to registering. Let's not go the way of the dogs....let's put good breeding practices into effect, breed forward, learning together, and be good STEWARDS of the breed, without a personal agenda.


Cynthia said...

Hey guy. I'm wondering what is going on? I haven't been on any yahoo lists in over a year and must imagine that SOMETHING there has gotten you.

Remember the facts of show Garrett: The very best of every species/breed has always been ruined by shows.

The birds that can no longer breed or lay or set a nest are so because they have been bred to please judges. The classic, useful behaviors in dogs and cats have been lost to best-in-show judges' whims alone. Horses, cows, a species and the list of lost vigor and excellence can be traced to the show-ring.

Remember that judges cannot do this alone. I'm reminded of the breeder who says they have to breed huge, Icelandic shaggy Shetlands because "it's the only way our children can win." If people with the finances to influence the future of an entire breed make so unconscionable a choice, what possible change can you expect to illicit through all your testing and open dialogue?

People do not want to accept that there are variables that can be evaluated and absolutely stated. For some it is coming to the truth that they have invested (often heavily) in stock that is essentially beyond improvement. For some it is their attachment to their "babies" and worries about those pet's place in the choir.

The simple facts are:

For a spinner's flock these tests and numbers mean nothing; if that individual is happy with the feel (handle) of their fleece, the numbers are understandably irrelevant.

For a breeder, these tests are without question the only honest way of dealing with breeding, reporting and sales. A breeder should hold themselves to a higher standard in the care, breeding and sale of their stock...should

NASSA has never wanted to accept responsibility as the leader in that higher standard. Far too much effort has gone into making "everyone happy." As any parent could tell them, good parenting means knowing that you will be -more often than you care to be- the enemy.

I've always wondered what the UK does with the US nonsense. I've come to assume they do nothing more with us than do we with our dysfunctional breed organization and membership.

Be careful with your blood pressure Garrett. You have been a livestock breeder too long not to know that this is just one more very sad reality. There is a reason so many of us have stopped working on the have been in the game long enough now that the truth of lost investment of time, money, passion and faith has simply caught up with you....yet again and with yet again another species.

Enjoy the sheep but, short of a willingness to engage in an open battle for transformation, it is very likely that nothing is going to change the future for this amazingly unique breed.

Deb W said...

Amen to you Garrett, and also to you Cynthia. I'm glad Cynthia pointed out the obvous parallels in showing different species. I have seen Arabian horses slowly ruined because too many want them to be Saddlebreds (so why not BUY a Saddlebred?), trotting with their knees up to their chins.

I see you, Garrett are a breeder of dogs and cattle as well, so this should come as no surprise to you. It will take people with passion for the best in the breed - like you - to stay strong and resist the tide.

Ever think of becoming a judge? Now THERE's a way to influence a breed. If all there are out there are meat-breed judges, it will be up to folks like you to fill in that need, and not give over your breed to those who want to make it more like their own. (Juliann?)

Cynthia said...

Well said Deb. Come on Garrett, how 'bout a year in the UK for real training for Shetland judging?

I think it is worth reminding that we did have UK Shetland breeders here many years ago. There isn't a shaggy Icelandic type that these folks would have passed on. They were extremely clear on what constituted a true Shetland.

I did, by the way Garrett, go look at the site that so upset you. I want to remind you that there are people that get great pleasure out of baiting and this individual is clearly one (and very clearly stated his desire TO create a fight).

Words do not equal meaning. Fight does not equal power. Religious affiliation does not equal moral behavior.


Michelle said...

Ah Garrett, I sympathize. As you can see, I willingly entered into the debate. I don't really get emotionally involved, though, because it isn't worth it. Sad as it is to admit, Cynthia is correct; things are unlikely to change. We will sell our sheep and state our beliefs to those who are willing to be educated about the breed standard, and those with big, hairy sheep will sell to those who see the blue ribbons and think that means THOSE sheep must be "real" Shetlands. I do think it would be great if you became a judge, but that would be a huge investment of time and money on your part, and those who don't agree with your well-stated and thoroughly supported opinions would make sure you don't get hired for THEIR shows.

I hope you don't give up, just as you haven't given up on good, sound Corgis. Cheers!

P.S. Did you see the histos I posted on my lambs?

Kara said...

Garrett I am glad that the Shetland breed has you. I do also like hearing the other side and for someone like me that has a mixed bag and likes it that way I need to hear both sides. Look past the language, he is just like that, I just take it with the grain of salt. Bottom line is that this debate needs to happen, people need to think, and rethink, educate and do it again, challenge their assumptions and look at the standards and what they mean and tell the rest of us what they really mean. My frustration is that this hasn't happened all along. Similar to what Cynthia said, I invested money, time, and emotion in my flock and trusted the names in the pedigrees to mean something and I like them so I am defensive of them, single, double, and intermediate a like. We needed young passionate guys to call us all to the mat and think about our goals. I have never been to a Shetland show so I don't know what is happening in the show ring. I don't want you to think I am taking sides, I just appreciate hearing both and like having options within the breed. Even though intermediate is my favorite, which is neither side! :) You better not give up, we simply won't let you! I just want to reserve my right to have the option of all three fleece types. Finer of each is a goal for my flock. You are leading the way in that department. Keep doing what you are doing.

Brenda said...

Garrett, one of the above comments was that you become a judge.
In the UK every breeder is a judge, and they are asked to judge their own breed at those numerous local and regional shows. They don't get paid for the job, but the ring superintendent helps them out, gets them lunch & tea, etc... So, you don't need to hire the USA type of judge, your breeders just have to mimic the UK thought of breeders know best what to look for. There will still be disappointed exhibitors at the end of the day, but they will at least all get their chance to have their say of what constitutes a 'prize' sheep someday.

Juliann said...

Garrett, don't let the hair breeders bother you. Remember at the end of the day, it's just sheep, and sheep are not worth losing your health over.
I was one of those people who, in the beginning, invested heavily in inferior stock. I was defensive of that stock because of the amount of money I invested. But the difference was, I remained open minded, I did MY OWN research, and I realized that I was not doing the reputation of Shetlands any favors by breeding hairy sheep. I turned over my entire flock several times, at a great financial loss, and I continue to cull heavily. This is what seperates the serious breeder from those content to take the easy way out.

It is FEAR MONGERING that NASSA has any plans to stop people from registering hairy sheep. I don't want to see the day when NASSA policies what people register. I DO want to see NASSA do one of it's duties, encourage people to breed ot the Standard of 1927 and PRESERVE A FINE WOOL BREED THAT WAS IN DANGER OF BEING LOST!
NASSA should not have to apoligize for this.
I don't lose sleep over what other people are doing or breeding for. They want carpet wool, they can have at it. It only makes my sheep look better. :) If their minds are already closed, they have lost all ability to learn anything, which is a shame but it only reflects poorly on them.

One other thing bears noting. We underdogs for fine fleece have to continue our gentle message, but it must be presented humbley, and with love. Let's not lower ourselves to their bottom-feeding standards of spreading hate, fear mongering, and dissention. We raise a minor breed, and we're all in this together.
Hang in there brother, if you need to vent I'm only a phone call away.

Becky Utecht said...

Well, I have to agree with Juliann here. I'm not in favor of NASSA policing shepherds either. Yes I guess NASSA is no different than the AKC as far as registration policies, but educating shepherds is the key.
Actually I don't think people breeding for fine fleece are underdogs - I'd say most serious breeders want finer fleeces. But low micron numbers are not the whole picture. Keep in mind the standard calls for "longish wavy" fleece as well as "extra fine and soft texture". IMO a 2" fleece doesn't qualify as "longish", so should short stapled animals not be registered? I purposely breed my short stapled, fine fleeced sheep to longer stapled sheep in hopes of getting what I consider better fleeces.

Juliann said...

Hi Becky,

I don't think a 2" fleece meets the standard any more than the 10+" horsehair sheep do. I do have some 2" staples, and I don't think they are ideal at all. But... I have found them VERY useful in softening the overall flock, and that's what I need to do. I still have some coarse fleeces out there and I'm trying to soften them up. I'm nowhere near where I want to be just yet. :(
I think an ideal handspinning/ crafting length is that 3-6 mark.
Education is important, and it seems that is what some people are upset about. The don't want NASSA attempting to educate, because those pesky facts from credible source material keep getting in the way of their personal opinions. So they make NASSA a conveiniant bad guy. "NASSA is trying to take your double coated sheep away! Rise up!"
Absolute nonsense!
I also agree micron testing isn't everything, but not only is it a good tool for estimating consistency, as a breeder I feel I'm obligated to provide potential buyers with as much information about the parent stock as possible.

Theresa said...

A 2" fleece can meet the longish requirement if it is deeply crimped and stretches to nearly double. I don't like them myself.
Shetlands have never been classified in the long wool group and the Brits are very good at putting their sheep in categories. If anything, it was put in the down wool breeds and they are medium length as well (and some are fairly short).
Merinos in the day the std was written were fairly short and the long wools were long, 7+". Shetlands were never put with either length, hence longish. The greatest range, in my opinion, would be 2-7", and most Shetland breed descriptions would put them between 3-5".
Wavy, in 1927, meant crimpy - Benedict showed a photo of a "wavy" Merino fleece picture from then as an example on the DVD. It was highly crimped.
A better description of longish wavy would be, ideal fleece to be between 3-5", no shorter than 2" and no longer than 6/7", and is crimpy. If a 6/7" fleece is crimpy, I would imagine that it stretches quite a bit! Hmmm . . . never thought of that till now.

As to education, from what I've seen in the past in the Shetland world, those who cite credible historical sources and provide stats and good research have always been attacked. It is most unfortunate. That certainly doesn't mean that we (NASSA and serious breeders) don't provide it, just expect to be a big target.

stephen rouse said...

I wonder if Jared reads this blog? lol Somehow I doubt it.

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