Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Lambs Part 1


Well, lambing season is upon us, and this year is particularly exciting for us here at Ye Whispering Pines Farm. It’s exciting because this year is five years in the making. We used two incredible rams last year. Both were fawn katmogets. Why these two rams? Because I think they both rate within the top five Shetland rams I have ever laid my hands on. I have visited 15 farms since we have been in the Shetland business and handled, I don’t know, a thousand sheep? More importantly, perhaps, we have raised Shetlands with all different fleece types (and I do mean all) and these two are the best of the best that we have raised.

I think that’s the exciting part also for us. These two rams are home grown and they came into being as part of a long term plan that has brought us to 2015.

Canterbury is a two year old ram who has a 19 micron fleece with a very low coefficient of variation (around 17%). He’s the finest Shetland that we have raised so far. More importantly, his fleece has the type of uniformity and consistency that we raise here. He is also a very refined ram, almost feminine in appearance. Beautiful head, and just very fine boned. He is out of Winter Sky Khan (one of the finest Shetland rams in the country) and Whispering Pines Pearl, who is a Wintertime Bond daughter. We were very excited to see lambs on the ground from him because of both his bloodlines and his appearance. We would like to have more Shetlands like him, in other words. Plus, he’s mioget. So far, his are the only lambs we have had in 2015, so here is where we are as of today:

Turin (who is out of Winter Sky Vogue (a very nice ewe in her own right) and Sheltering Pines Pompey Magnus. I thought this two year old ewe was pretty special when she was born and she has developed nicely. The thought was that we would combining some pretty excellent bloodlines with this breeding, which should bring us lambs with special qualities. Although, I was correct, I didn’t expect what we got this year.

This fawn katmoget ram is a yuglet sokket with an excellent fleece! As you can see, he’s very flashy, but uniform. He doesn’t fall off in the hips like a lot of Shetlands, and he will be very crimpy. Also, he is polled.

 
 
I didn’t realize Canterbury carries spots, but that’s a nice bonus, since I really would like to develop a line of super fine spotted sheep. The problem is that it’s difficult to produce spotted Shetlands that don’t suck. I like this guy. It gives us the potential to bring the top Shetland bloodlines together at some point in the future with spotted offspring in mind. A few people in the country have been able to do that successfully, but we have not unfortunately. It’s very difficult.

Next in line was Blue Sapphire on April 18th. Sapphire is an example of a successful spotted Shetland strategy, but one of the few that we have had. Keep in mind that our bar is pretty high for Shetlands, so we have produced good spotted sheep, just nothing that measures up to her. She’s kind of our gold standard for spotted Shetlands. Her fleece consistently commands a high price. She is out of Blues Clues, who was out of Wintertime Blues, an F1 Jericho. That’s a bloodline that I really like, which is why she is so valuable to us. You won’t find a better spotted Shetland in the Jericho bloodline.

She had two ewe lambs this year (big smile) and both have great promise.
 

 
The moorit is a smirslet sokket, who arguably has the nicest brown fleece that we have lambed here. You never know if a fleece will mature as nicely as you think it will, but this one has promise.




Her sister is a fawn katmoget, perhaps even nicer. I find that the katmoget fleeces tend to be nicer than the unpatterned ones, but I don’t have a good explanation for that. In this case, however, it’s close. Very pleased with these lambs because there’s the potential to get Sapphire’s strengths AND Canterbury’s in one sheep. These are the best lambs that Sapphire has produced, except maybe for Egyptian Autumn, her first lamb.

On April 21st, Whispering Pines Florence (another Pompey daughter out of Blue Sapphire…see what I am saying) produced an absolutely stunning fawn katmoget ewe lamb out of Canterbury. Pearl was probably the best ewe lamb ever born here, but this one is even better.
 



 
Her fleece is like velvet. I love this ewe lamb! You might ask how one can know how lambs over history rank against each other, and I don’t have a good answer except to say, you just know. It can’t be measured at this age, you just know.

Vittoria is another fawn katgmoget ewe out of Pompey and Sommarang Isla. She had an identical twin that we still own and I like both of them still. Vittoria has matured nicely as a two year old and this is her first lamb.

 
This very dark chocolate fawn katmoget ewe lamb is also out of Canterbury. No spots, but the quality is excellent. I would say this lamb is much like her mother was as a lamb, but slightly finer.

This is the funny thing about Shetlands. You can see that we have a lot of fawn katmoget ewes, but you get a lot of variety within that bucket. The fleeces are different colors and types. Now none of the fleeces are the shaggy North American Shetland type that you see, but they would look right at home in the breed’s homeland in the UK, which is what we are after.

This dark chocolate color is a Pompey attribute that I like. The grey katmogets are often the same way. It’s clearly genetic because we get it quite often.

Winter Sky Vogue is one of our best moorits and she had two very nice lambs on April 22nd out of Canterbury (he was a very busy ram during the first few days of breeding season…apparently). Vogue came to us from Karen Valley’s farm in the upper peninsula in Michigan and we have always liked this ewe. Good brown Shetland ewes are very rare. Great ones are anyway.


 
The fawn katmoget ram came first. Notice how light his fleece is. That’s the difference between Pompey and other rams. But I like the diversity in color and this ram lamb is excellent! I really like him. He will be polled.


 


The ewe lamb is moorit and also very nice. I think she compares favorably with Blue Sapphire’s moorit ewe, but they are both superb examples of what the Shetland breed can be (but often isn’t).

Venice also lambed later on that day, giving us a very nice fawn katmoget ram. Notice he is darker. That’s because Venice is also a Pompey daughter.




That brings us up-to-date. The lambs so far are the best we have had in the 14 years we've been doing this, which is always the goal. It gets tougher each year, however, to produce lambs that are better than their mothers. The mothers are the best-of-the best that we either have been able to produce or find. Our goal each year isn’t to produce the finest Shetlands on the planet, but rather to create sheep that are as correct to the standard as they can be. You never want to lose sight of the fact that Shetlands are famous for being the finest of the British breeds, but they are not Merinos either. After doing this for years, in my opinion, the best Shetlands will have fleeces around 3” – 4” as adults with average microns in the mid 20’s. The key is to maintain correct lock structure as well as the myriad of other fleece characteristics. It’s rare for us to get low 20’s microns without losing the other things, but that could be the bloodlines that we have. It’s equally rare for us to have 5” fleeces that have good Shetland properties.
But that’s a topic for a future blog post. The key right now is that we are still progressing toward our goals and I am very pleased with this year's lamb crop so far. Who knows, these may be the best lambs that we ever produce here. Like I said, there has to be a point where you strike the balance and can then focus on things like color and spots. There’s always something else you learn each year about Shetlands, however. Another layer to the onion, if you will.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Ram Lamb Sales List

After much soul searching and analysis, we have finalized our sales list for our 2014 lambs. We have eight top notch rams for sale from some of the top bloodlines in the country. I will provide very detailed answers to any of your questions, so don’t hesitate to ask. I would use all eight of these rams in our own breeding program, so let me just say that to start. I do not have micron test results, but I do believe that each of these will be grade 1 premium FFSSA rams as yearlings. That’s a projection based on my own evaluations.
 
These rams are also either polled or half-polled. Most have very small scurs. Two have longer scurs. It’s debatable whether the ram with the longer scurs is fully horned or half-polled, but I do believe he carries one gene for each.
 
Our mission continues to be to produce fine fleeced Shetlands that resemble what you would see in the UK where the breed originated. All eight of these rams are an example of our work toward that mission and I believe virtually every flock in the country would benefit from the quality of these rams and what I think they can produce.
 
I will not be keeping any of these guys, so if they don’t sell, they will go to market. That would be a shame, but it’s the same problem everyone has, I guess. If you can find better rams than these guys, my advice would be to buy them. Great Shetland fleeces are relatively rare in this country, and if you are interested in that, the ram is arguably the most important ingredient to obtaining them. It took us years of work to consistently produce animals of this quality, which we could not have done so without having access to the best flocks in the country. I am grateful to those flocks for their help and we want to work with new customers to extend the same courtesy.
 


What I like most about the moorit ram above is the wool on the poll. It's a trait that is authentic Shetland, and in all the years we have been doing this, we haven't produced it very often.






This grey katmoget ram is out of Constantinople, who also exhibits wool on the poll. Very nice ram!





 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adult Rams For Sale

We posted our ewe sales list the other day, but as I said then, we would have two adult rams to sell as well. Here they are:

Winter Sky Khan

An excellent polled moorit son out of Wintertime Black Forrest. Forrest, as he is known, is largely responsible for the salvation of the fine fleece Shetland in the US, and one of the finest Shetland rams in North America. Khan didn't fall too far off the tree. I've always liked Khan better than Forrest, to be honest.

Khan's three year old micron test was: AFD: 22.2/SD: 4.9/CV: 22.2%/CEM: 8.2/SF: 21.9. I would say that those numbers put him in elite company in the North American Shetland community. His comfort factor was 96.3% as a three year old! His fiber diameter has held pretty constant for three years now! That's also pretty rare for a Shetland! Extremely rare.

He's the real deal and would certainly help both new and established fine fleece flocks! This is a rare chance to own one of the foundation fine fleece Shetland rams! You aren't going to find many like him in North America.



Don't be misled by the fleece picture below. It is about 3" long. I know it looks shorter in the picture. Plus, it has great elasticity/bounce/movement (choose your term).


Whispering Pines Barenfang is an example of the type of home raised ram that we once said we would never sell. But that's the way it works with a breeding program. As you get better, you either move out really good animals, or you become overwhelmed with too many sheep. Such is the case with this guy. He is a fawn katmoget son of Khan (sounds like a movie title) and our own Siena.

His yearling micron numbers were: AFD: 21.5/SD: 4.3/CV: 19.8%/CEM: 7.4/SF: 20.7.

Between the pictures and the numbers, there isn't much else to be said about this guy. He is a flock sire waiting for a chance to shine! Note the perfect Shetland tail. I have also found him to be a very laid back ram. I should keep him, but there is virtually no chance he will be used in the next two years, so there really is no point. He is too good to put on the shelf that long.

 
Barenfang's fleece is also about 3" long.


 
 
Above is Barenfang as a lamb. Pretty striking right off the bat!

Two great and rare rams!

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Whispering Pines Shetland Sheep Ewe Sales List

When we began working on our flock improvement program in earnest five years ago, we always imagined a day when we could offer for sale some of the best Shetland sheep and bloodlines available in North America. Along the way we have certainly already offered that, but we have never offered a complete lineup like this that is so consistently top notch. I have visited 15 Shetland farms since we have been doing this, and have put my hands on several hundred Shetlands along the way. Having done that, I can say that these sale sheep are better than you will find in most parts of the country, but certainly out east here.

Here is the Whispering Pines 2014 Ewe Sales list. I will provide brief descriptions below each sheep, but can provide much more detail to interested parties. What I will say in general is that these are the best ewes we have ever offered, and all are sheep that we have and would use in our own breeding program. All the fleeces are fine or super fine. I have no hesitation in selling any of these ewes because they are that good. Each has produced for us in a big way and will do the same for you if you put them with the right rams. Breeding is a bit of an art, but you can't go wrong with ewes of this quality. I hate to let them go to be quite frank, but then again, I like the idea of helping other people improve their flocks in a way that we never had when we got started. That's always been in our plan, and I hope we can do that for someone. But, if you don't ask, we can't help.

We'll start with the ewes and follow with the rams at some point. We have way too many ram lambs to list, but we will post some pictures for you to get an idea about what we have. We also have two excellent adult rams that we will be offering, and I will post about those in the coming days.

1.      Sommarang Isla – Age: Three (Sommarang Ginger x Firth of Fifth Avyt)



Excellent conformation and fleece. Moorit, spot carrying ewe. Parents are award winners. Superfine fleece. Does not carry polled gene. Has lambed three times for us. Kept both ewe lambs from last year. Ram lambs this year are excellent.

2.     Sommarang Ilke – Age: Three (Sommarang Comfrey x Firth of Fifth Avyt)



Very good conformation (she is on the small side) and excellent fleece. Superfine fleece. Moorit, spot carrying ewe. Does not carry polled gene. Has lambed twice for us. Lambs this year are excellent!
3.     Whispering Pines Kiyah – Age: Three (Whispering Pines Egyptian King x Whispering Pines Blue Diamond)

 


Excellent conformation and fleece. Fawn katmoget ewe with superfine fleece. Very small and tight crimp. Top notch ewe. Has lambed twice for us. Superb bloodlines. Lambs have been excellent
4.     Whispering Pines Irish Rose – Age: Four (Wintertime Bond x Sheltering Pines Constantinople)




This ewe is as good as it gets in the spotted Shetland world! Excellent conformation and fleece. Spotted fawn katmoget with fine/superfine fleece. Bold crimp. Very light color, almost tan. Superb bloodlines. Lambs have been excellent. Such luster in this fine fleece.
5.     Whispering Pines Coloma – Age: Two (Winter Sky Khan x Wintertime Itasca)

Excellent conformation and fleece. Moorit ewe with fine fleece. Nice crimp. Rich brown color. Has been bred once, and lambed once. Lambs this year are excellent! This is a Khan daughter, which is significant both because of the quality of Khan, and the fact that we hardly ever sell his offspring. She is also out of Itasca, which is significant for the same reason.
6.     Whispering Pines Irish Mist – Age: Two (Winter Sky Khan x Sheltering Pines Constantinople)
 

Excellent conformation and fleece. Superfine. Bolder crimp. Spotted fawn katmoget ewe. Was bred and lambed once. Twin ram lambs this year are superb! Super fine fleece! Nice luster as well.
7.    Moorit bottle lamb – Born this year (Whispering Pines Coloma x Whispering Pines Egyptian Autumn)
Was born small. Have had her on the bottle since birth. Excellent conformation and fleece. Should be similar to her mother in conformation and fleece. Rich dark moorit. Don't have a picture right now, but will provide one if you are interested. The one thing I would say about this lamb is that she will be small and super friendly. If you are interested in that combination, we will make a deal. She is used to attention, and that is the type of home where we want her to go (unfortunately, we can't give her that as much as we would like).