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Sheep Color Genetics
Sheep Health Issues
Our Flock Goals are an evolving concept, changing as our understanding of the breed and its history changes. There are some things which never change in priority, however. We will always focus first on sound, healthy sheep, regardless of the type.
In order, our flock goals are:
- Healthy sheep. This goal has several parts:
- We are proactive in making sure our flock will never have scrapie, a degenerative neurological disease of sheep and goats which has been linked to Mad Cow disease. We were enrolled in the Michigan Scrapie Risk Reduction Program as flock #99023, and we genotype not only our rams, but also our ewes. This allows us to make smart choices when breeding, so we will produce more and more scrapie-resistant sheep. It also gave us a jump start as the new federal scrapie eradication program gets going.
- We maintain careful procedures to avoid bringing in unhealthy animals. We isolate incoming sheep until we are certain they are healthy. We test new additions for all diseases we can monitor.
- We use careful management techniques to avoid infestation by parasites. We no longer use mainstream chemical means of ridding our sheep of parasites as we find our sheep to be healthy and resistant without the use of chemicals. However, we are willing to worm a sheep prior to moving it to a new home, if the new owner desires.
- We are free of foot rot and orf.
- Because of our concern about the health of our flock, we do not show our sheep. We feel the likelihood of our sheep being exposed to disease and bringing it back to the farm is too high to risk.
- Sound sheep. We cull rams with horns which potentially endanger their health; we cull QQ sheep except those with outstanding characteristics; we cull sheep with any visible defects such as jaw deformities, and we are constantly working to make the legs, back, and necks are properly conformed.
- Thrifty, hardy sheep. We believe a primary characteristic of Shetlands is their ability to thrive even on poor quality feed and in extreme climates. We don't deliberately feed our sheep poor feed, but we don't spoil them with concentrates and top quality forages either. Likewise, while we provide shelter for inclement weather, we don't expect the Shetlands to need it most of the time.
- Easy lambing/good mothering. If a ewe has two pregnancy/lambing problems, or fails to wean at least 3 healthy lambs in her first 3 years, we would cull her unless she offered other substantial benefits to the flock. We would also cull a ewe who rejected her lamb--we haven't had that happen yet.
- Horns. We breed for open, well-curled horns that are well clear of the ram's face, culling rams who don't meet this standard. We do not believe it is adequate to cut the ram's horns so they don't touch his head. We believe the ram should be culled so he can't pass this bad trait to his offspring. We also breed for horned ewes, as we like that feature.
- Wool. We enjoy the full range of wool types that Shetland exhibit. From short and crimpy to long and wavy, we find all wool types valuable and useful. We also select for consistency throughout the fleece.
- Color. We are actively working to bring unusual color genetics back by careful breeding. We feel color is one of the most attractive aspects of Shetland sheep and don't want the gene pool to lose still more of those colors or patterns. We are currently working to bring mioget (golden brown) and spotting into our flock.