Friday, January 31, 2014

Shetland Islands Day 1

On our first day of being on Shetland, we met two very important people, in the history of the Shetland Sheep breed.

The first stop, was with Hamish Hunter. He is a 3rd generation Shetland Sheep shepherd and runs the flocks of Vementry. These flocks are older than the SFBT (Shetland Flock Book Trust) and older than the 1927 standard.

The moorit flock is well over 100 years old, and the white is nearly as old. An interesting tidbid is the estate is called Vementry, in part, to the island named that is part of the estate. On this island, there are no buildings or people or electricity or roads. Just the entire white ewe flock of Shetlands. This is where the entire purebreeding of the white Shetlands is done. Hamish takes the white rams across the bay in a small fishing boat during the breeding season and collects them again with dogs after its complete. The only time the ewes are taken from the island is when they are injured, will be used for cross breeding, or sold. We were lucky enough to see the white rams and ram lambs and the photos we took I hope help show just how typey and breed standard this flock of sheep are, being maintained for well over a century.

The moorits are kept closer to the homestead and we were able to see the entire ewe flock, the adult rams and ram lambs. There were several beautifully fleeced sheep in this group of ram lambs, but Hamish wouldn't sell the ones Kate and Phillip wanted :) Hamish did have several available for the Annual Ram Sale in Lerwick, however.

The ewes used for crossbreeding are also kept on the Shetland 'Mainland'. this is to make sure that none of the white ewes are crossed by accident. Since only rams are inspected and passed for the flockbook knowing which white ram bred which white ewe isn't necessary. When Hamish told me they run 660 pure Shetland ewes, my mouth dropped. You will see that with the crofts as we go, most are run by men (or families) and are in the hundreds. They retained 44 white ewe lambs this year (so basically the cream of the cream of the crop).

Shearlings are around 45-50 kg, adult rams 50-60kg. only fed grass or haylage (different name that what we use in the States).

Hamish and his family typically roo all the rams, and keep 3 fleeces to enter in to the Annual fleece show, held the night before the Ram Sale. They have traditionally won the Champion Group of 3 White fleeces than not, in the past 25 years. They had some really really nice fine fleeces entered at the show, and we were able to see them beforehand when we had tea and biscuits up at their house after looking at the animals on foot.

Hamish and his family are top notch people. Very knowledgeable, extremely friendly and catering hosts, open to all sorts of questions and we were able to take photos of anything and everything AND take fleece samples :)


The second stop on our journey around Shetland was with Jim Nicholson. For those of you not familiar with Jim, he has been the Secretary of the SFBT for the past 19 years. His father and uncle had crofts as well. Some of his genetics still go back to those flocks, so also back since before the 1927 standard and the SFBT creation. Jim still keeps around 280 ewes, 140 of them Shetland, with the balance NCC x Shetland ewes that are then taken to a suffolk ram for market lambs. He maybe has 20 colored Shetlands with the rest whites.

Jim has found his shetland-cheviot crosses to lamb at 140%, his suffolk x NCC/Shetland 170%.

Jim was extremely helpful in telling us about the SFBT and its beginnings and some information and history on the association, the crofters on the islands and more. I will be blogging about that in a separate post.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pedigree transfers

If anyone has purchased sheep from me, other than Michelle, Rayna or Joe, and hasn't received their paperwork from me, can you please let me know? I will be not renewing my NASSA membership for 2014 and would like to get all transfers done prior to the grace period ending.

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 ...