Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parasite Resistance

A big goal with my flock is to have as little chemical dependency for worms of all kinds and liver flukes as I possibly can. Using the FAMACHA eye color chart for Barber Pole anemia I am happy to report that less than 3% of all 150+ sheep I checked today were even marginally anemic. The Shetlands had the highest level of parasite resistance, and only the oldest ewes (8 and 9 respectively) were marginal.

By doing my own fecal floats over the course of the wet summer I'm happy to report that I have not found any round worms or other stomach worms in the fecals. I checked nearly every animal individually and had every 15th animal or so also tested at the vet clinic I use to make sure I wasn't just overlooking them.

I have seen tapeworm segments in a few of the BFL poops and they were immediately given valbazen. Hey. Worms happen. Being open and honest about it can only help the greater group of shepherds.

No tapes in the Shetlands. I am sure many neighbors have seen me stooped or crouched over a sprinkling of sheep poops examining them for tape segments....and chasing sheep down that WERE pooping so I can make sure that those are indeed their poops. Yes. Crazy shepherd.

I was really proud of how cherry red the eye lid membranes were for the majority of the sheep. With the lush pastures and wet and soggy grounds, I was nervous about worms. I guess even though I'll continue to check for worms, I can honestly say that I'm doing OK in that department and choosing animals that have a higher resistance to them.

I also was able to separate the sheep that I'm taking to Jefferson. I believe I'm showing 17 sheep and taking about 22 (some will be for sale). I'm also bringing back a few sheep for shepherds and with the new to me trailer I should be able to fit them all in after doing a 'dry run' today with the show team.

i don't grain my sheep and I don't push the envelope with their growth or feeding to win at the shows, but I do like to take them there to give people an idea of the type of sheep that I am raising and breeding for.

I'm also really tickled with the fleeces on the lambs this year. While not every lamb has the ultra fine crimpy UK fleece, the others have more of a bold crimp, but it is still soft. I have only one that is straighter fleeced and double coated (like his mother) but they are both gorgeous modified colors.

The ram lambs all have their 'boy parts' and bites are looking pretty awesome right now too. Horns are good and there are several with scurs that could be beneficial to a breeding program for polled lines.

when and if time allows, I will be getting photos of some of the sale animals before Jefferson so I can bring them along if need be. Growth and condition scores on all lambs and ewes are just incredible due to the STILL lush green pastures.

That reminds me...I better go move the electro-netting again!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shetland Microns and learning new things!

Kara's post to the Chat With NASSA list today made me think of a post I've been wanting to write about for a while.

Before I dive in, I wanted to repost my 2009 entire flock micron average for just the Shetlands. I realize that the BFLs have much lower SD and CVs and would bring the flock averages WAY DOWN for those so I removed those. I did include all ewes and rams, mature and yearlings.

AFD 25.4
SD 5.7
CV 22.5
CEM 10.9
CF 80

I sold 15 sheep since then, all to new breeding flocks (some registered flocks, some unregistered flocks). Once those rams and ewes were removed these were my averages:
AFD 25.3
SD 5.6
CV 22.2
CEM 8.6
CF 93.5

The first three numbers were basically the same, although slightly lower. The CEM and CF however improved greatly. I did sell some animals that had higher CEM and CF. But I also sold some of my very lowest CEM and CF sheep as well. Its surprising what one can improve upon just by selling some animals huh?

At Black Sheep Gathering I gave a genetics talk to the BFL group at their National Banquet. After that talk, Martin Dally of SuperSire Ltd gave a talk solely on Micron Testing and reports.

1. Micron results should NOT be compared between different groups fed differently or separated, or compared to DIFFERENT FLOCKS on different farms!

This mind boggled me. Why would we? Martin told us that there are SO MANY factors that lead to wool testing that each pen or age group or pasture or flock or farm will read differently and not to be compared across the country.

So if my ewe lambs are fed and housed apart from my mature and pregnant ewes, their microns should NOT be compared as equals. Granted you can get a rough idea between the two groups but should NOT be compared with other animals from other pens.

That means that my rams should NOT be compared to my ewes, or ewe lambs, or ram lambs, unless they were all together, for an entire year in the same pen, eating the same food. This also means that my BFLs were house separately from my Shetlands and fed differently, so their microns should NOT be compared to any other group.

Now the ewes have been housed in the same pastures all summer since about May 1st. If I took a fall test of ALL the ewes then I could compare them across the board as they've been house and fed in the same conditions.

2. Sample collection and time of the year will also have an affect on your results!

The month of the year where the fleece will be the finest at the skin level (where you cut the fibers from the animal) will be the month of March through May 1st. The highest number will be in the fall, September/October. March is a good indicator of the finest wool follicles reaching their peak for fineness. In the fall months, the wool follicles have not had an opportunity to work as hard over the bitter cold months. Your finest wool is produced during the winter months.

3. The third to last rib, mid side is the preferred location on Merinos to do fleece samples!

When I questioned this he said many other breeds also do third to last rib, mid side. I told him that YoCom-McColl and Texas A&M recommend last rib. Martin felt that that was too far back on the animal to give a good indication of what the 'average' micron of the animal was.

I still don't fully believe this and still will do last rib, mid side as that is what all of us Shetlander's are doing.

4. Different parts of the fleece will be different in microns.

Now I understood this, but in Merinos (where Martin has had 20+ years breeding them) the change in micron is really only 2-4 microns over their entire body, not 20 microns like many Shetlands are. Also depending on the breed, it will differ.

5. Ideal age for micron testing is 16-18 months of age

Martin emphasized that ewes have not lambed yet so there is no stress from being pregnant, and rams are ideal at this age to micron test. He said never to micron old ewes past age 6 as at that age (six) will be the most coarse the ewe will be, before SLIGHTLY getting finer with old age. Slightly being 2 microns at most. This example was in a 21 micron flock of Merinos. The ewes barely changed from 1.5 years of age until 6.5 years of age, only going up maybe .3-.5 microns. (COULD WE ONLY WISH OUR SHETLANDS DID THIS SLIGHT INCREASE?!)

So take this all for what its worth, a grain of salt. I most likely will NOT take any drastic changes to my schedule as i usually collect fleece samples in March/April anyway, and since I do micron test yearling (even my crosses and old ewes) I do find that the oldest ewes rarely change much and by age 6 we will know for sure what they will be.

So ends today's lesson ;)

Monday, August 16, 2010

700th post giveaway!

This photo was taken the day I brought home my first Shetland Sheep. After nearly a year of emails, phone calls and a visit, I secured this lovely group of animals. After many photos, micron tests, history on their pedigrees, etc, I chose these magnificent animals. I'm amazed that I have not one of these animals left on my property due to various reasons but will always be indebted to Cynthia for her education, thoughts, teaching, laughter, wisdom, friendship, trust and her commitment to the Shetland breed.

I wanted to share this photo as it showed the largest diversity I could possibly get in a group of animals. From left to right: Assam Meleng (shaela), Jasmine Phoenix (Ag Katmoget), Don Telmo Bourbon (mioget), Rooibos (fawn), Sikkem Temi (moorit) and Cleo (non fading black). It is very easy to tell the difference in the three shades of brown. Some may call the middle one still moorit, but when you part the fleece it was definitely NOT moorit.

So on to the giveaway!

I will be giving away one fleece per person who leaves a comment. I"ll try to match what you may like but in all reality the more who comment the more chances that people will touch my fleeces and LIKE what they see! (and maybe buy another one or three!) You are responsible for shipping and box, and processing fleece either commercially or by hand.

The grand prize is 150.00 off of an animal that is for sale here on my farm, or 75.00 off of transportation of an animal from my farm to a mutually agreed destination.

The catch for that however is you have to come up with the best 'charades' guess as to what an object is. Its a bright blue piece of Styrofoam that I found on one of the property's I maintain in Wadena from the Tornado devastation. It can be totally useful or totally ridiculous. I get to pick the best answer. I"ll post the photo of the object tomorrow when I come up for air after my long weekend in Ohio.

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 ...