Other Shetland Breeding Programs

"I say, enjoy what you have and if a color you like happens to pop out and you want more of it, and you have a ram of similar color, well, put 'em together and have a go. If that works, have another go, and another go." -Jean Curtis

The Premium Ram Scheme
Began when breeders in the Uk began noticing that they were losing homozygous solid colors. Headed up by Lenice Bell and Peter Hardman, they began searching for rams the age of three or older, so that they would be getting a young, yet mature animal, that was fully grown. They began their search looking for just rams that were black, moorit, or grey. After putting an ad in the SSS Newsletter, the collected responses produced only six rams that met the specifications they were looking for. So, Peter Hardman and Lenice Bell went into the database and looked all the rams that, to their knowledge, would still be alive and fit the specifications, and they saw there should have been ninety-six rams, but after contacting all the owners of these rams, they discovered that only seven of these rams were still living. They had one grey (Hillend Grimster, who later died before they could get him collected), one black (Greeneholme Holly), and five moorits (Heights orion, Willowcroft Jamie, Foxhole Singlemalt, two others). These rams were inspected by a team of five inspectors and scrapie genotyped. Jamie was, at one point, not going to be considered for the Ram Scheme due to his Scrapie Genotype being ARQ/ARQ, but was reconsidered due to the small amount of Aa/Aa Moorit rams.

The Scheme
-Decide on Breeding Goal: Whole colors first focus, patterns and markings later.
-Appropriate Sex Selection
-Design a Breeding Program
-Pay the Owners of animals to keep an animal alive.  Until foot and mouth came along, the Breed Society would not allow owners to slaughter animals in the Program. The breeders would hold the animals until the Society found a buyer.
-Semen Storage
-Record the Animals
-Evaluate the Animals
-Select and Mate the animals again. Breeders would put their animals in the SSS scheme for the good of the Breed.
-Monitor the Progress
-Disseminate the Improvement, Once accomplished with Solid colors, the Society would then move onto the patterns and markings.

This scheme underwent many bumps in the road, and I do not know how long it was even active. But, we can assume that, due to the fact that there are large numbers of colored shetland sheep around the world, it did succeed in some respect.

Color Identification Project
The Northeast Shetland Enthusiasts Group met on September 29 at Maple Ridge Sheep Farm for their annual meeting and potluck lunch, with breeders and owners from VT, NH, NY, and MA in attendance. One topic that received vigorous discussion was the difficulty in finding consistent interpretation and useful descriptions of the eleven whole fleece colors. For example, the NASSA registration form has brief descriptions for most colors while no description of fawn is provided. Linda Doane suggested that the group tackle a project to promote more consistent usage of color names, with the possibility of this being a theme of the 2011 AGM, which the group looks forward to hosting. With little more encouragement, those present designed the following research project that we hope to undertake as a group.

A major stumbling block to consistent color identification is that every person perceives color differently. Munsell is a standardized color system that is a scientifically based and widely accepted method of color interpretation. Munsell codified the basic attributes of color as hue, value and chroma. Each distinct color can be represented by these three attributes. Hue is the property that distinguishes a pure color from another pure color (the wavelength of light reflected by an object). Value is the property of a color that makes it appear to contain more or less light, from black to white. Chroma is the purity of a color; neutral gray has the lowest chroma, while pure hues have the highest possible chroma.

We propose to collect fleece samples to test our ability to consistently identify wool colors. First, we will see if our group can agree on the identification of each sample according to one of the eleven accepted Shetland colors. Then we will use printed Munsell color charts to see what range of hue, value and chroma is encompassed by each of the eleven colors. Finally, we will use digital image analysis software, incorporating Munsell color classification on a high-resolution color-calibrated scanner, to have a computer digitally analyze and classify the colors present in each fleece sample. We hope the results will allow us to evaluate our ability to consistently identify fleece colors, as well as establish an objective measurement of the range of variability within each of the eleven whole colors.

Any flock that houses/raises purebred Shetland sheep is invited to submit samples for inclusion in the study. The actual sample sheep does not have to be registered (e.g. a wether) but must be from stock that can have a pedigree search done on it using the NASSA database. This information may be used for color sequence history.

Qualifying Animals:

• Animal must be purebred Shetland from registered animals (animals that can be traced via the NASSA database).

• The sheep must have been sheared at least once prior to sampling (no lamb fleeces). This is to insure that any juvenile color transformations (e.g. Ag gray) are complete. There will be no maximum age limit on sample animals.

• The animal can be of any color or color combination. The more samples we include, the more accurate and useful the results will be! For example, if you own 10 gray sheep, please sample them all individually.

• Samples should be from fully fleeced animals just prior to shearing. To minimize seasonal variation, samples should be taken between January 1 and February 15, 2008.

Collecting Samples:

• The sample will be taken as is specified on the Yocum-McColl website, and will be a mid-side sample (not the overall sample).

• It will be a 2 inch undisturbed square of fleece a minimum of 2” in length and cut as closely to the skin as possible.

• Samples will be placed in a “zip lock baggie’ of sandwich size.

• Included in the baggie will be our official sample form with animal’s and farm’s identifying information.

• All identifying information will be transferred to a database. Samples will be assigned a ‘blind’ number and become anonymous for purposes of the study.

• Samples will NOT be returned to the donator flock and will become the property of the study.

Mail Your Samples:

• You may obtain the official sample sheet at the Files section of the NE Shetland Yahoo Group, OR HERE, or you may request one directly from Tim Cary at contentedbutterfly@yahoo.com

• Samples and supporting information form will be mailed no later than March 1, 2008 to: Tim Cary, 467 Sunset Lane, Windsor, VT 05089.

Further Requests:

There may be from time to time further requests for samples or information required for this study. These requests will be posted at the NE Shetland Yahoo Group site. The date and location of the meeting to identify each sample according to the eleven Shetland colors, and with Munsell color charts, will also be posted on our group site. All Shetland enthusiasts are encouraged to participate!

The Quest for Non-Fading Spots in North America

 In the early 1990's, breeders began becoming more interested spotting genetics. Not much was understood at this point about spotting, and they faced much opposition. Not only was it hard to find sheep for sale, it was hard to find one that wasn't astronomically priced. It was nearly impossible to find spotted sheep or spot carriers. Many of the spot carriers also carried Ag, so they would all eventually fade out. S0555, shown below on the Dailley Farm, was known as the "Holy Grail" during the '90's and produced many non-Ag spotted lines. 

    Stephen Rouse, along with friend Bill Eatmon, started Sheltering Pines Shetland Sheep Farm in 1996, with the original goal of offering some of the rarer patterns, colors and markings of Shetland sheep, with spotted markings being their favorite. They, and others, began collecting spotted genetics from all over the country and doing test breedings with varied success. Steve was able to buy a couple spotted ewes from a woman in Wisconsin, and the ram pictured below, from Carolyn Kristof in Traverse City.

Wind River Windsor

  Once Steve learned that the only way to get more spots were to bred spots-to-spots, the ball kept on rolling, and he and others went on to produce many wildly spotted sheep. While spotted sheep are now very accepted among Shetland Circles, and non-spotted sheep now being very common, many of the once-famous spotted sheep are becoming less commonly found in pedigrees of Champion stock, due to many of the fleeces being inconsistent (the spots varying in fineness and length from colored parts on a fleece) or simply being very double-coated.

Bluff Country and the '"Heads, Socks, and Tails" Marking'
Wanting a spotted lambs with solid fleeces, breeder Nancy Krohn decided, in 2001, to focus her breeding program on specific spotting expression in only the head, legs ("socks") and tail areas, a marking she referred to as "HST".

With the help of Peter Hardman of the SSS, she developed an "HST scale" that illustrated the progression of spotting which seemed to lead to the desired spotting she desired.

The HST Scale-

0 - Has no visible white markings, but carries spotting genetics.
1 - Has a 'splash' of white on it's head, at birth, that would probably fade as the lamb matures.
2 - Has permanent white markings on its head.
3 - Has white anklets or socks on 1 to 3 of its legs, permanent facial markings (krunet/blesset/yuglet, etc.) and, possibly, a white tip to its tail.
4 - Has yuglet, smirslet, or large krunet markings on its head, white socks on 3 to 4 legs but not necessarily over the pastern, and a white tail
5 - Has yuglet or smirslet markings on the head, all 4 legs have white stockings that extend above the pasterns, and a white tail.

Nancy found that the best results for her program were produced by breeding individuals in the 0-2 range to the individuals in the 4-5 range. Individuals in the 4-5 range bred to other individuals in the 4-5 range had a higher likelihood of producing flecket-marked lambs.

The Plight of Flett Shetland Sheep
In July 1948, George A. Flett of Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, Canada imported three moorit ewes and one moorit ram from Shetland by way of the Orkney’s with the help of G. E. Anderson, a livestock agent in Lerwick, Shetland and a family friend John T. Flett in Orkney. They sailed on the SS Laurentia to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and then were moved by train to Fort Qu’Appelle where George and his son Peter went to pick them up.

The sheep were allowed to roam the Flett's property freely until they had problems with dogs attacking the sheep, at which point they were kept closer to the buildings.

"The Fletts operated their flock as a closed hobby flock with no particular management plan, breeding time, or goals. Because of this, some lambs were born in cold weather, were weak, and did not survive. They used a ram for 5 to 6 years and then switched to a younger ram. There were very few lambing problems. Most adults twinned and about half the lambs twinned. They culled all but the best rams, keeping only the best three."Only the rams with the finest traits were kept, always two or three in case something should happen."  "All lambs with bad horns were culled." "The rest were slaughtered for meat." "All lambs were always straight moorit with no marking patterns. The life span was a high as 13-14 years, but averaged 10-11 years. Jean started working with the flock in 1982, trying to have a more organized program. The flock remained closed for nearly fifty years until Jean brought in a moorit Dailley ram in 1991." 

This ram is known as L.H.E. Flett Dailley, and was bought from Doreen McLean in Alberta, Canada.

At the time Linda Doane visited the Flett Farm (November 7th, 1992), she indicated that the composition of the Flett flock was as follows: One Dailley ram, One six year old ram and one three year old ram, both full Flett, six ram lambs sired by the Dailley ram, twelve adult ewes sired by a Flett ram, and six ewe lambs sired by the Dailley ram.

In 2002, Jean sold the last remaining ewes to Kathy Baker of Nier Lakes Shetlands. Kathy already had a flock of Shetland sheep. The ewes she got from Jean, a lot of them were already bred. The first lambs didn’t do so well because the ewes from Jean were in poor condition. But, Kathy had a “bumper crop” of lambs in 2004 and they are doing quite well. She changed her breeding program so that the Flett rams were bred to her Dailley ewes and not the Flett ewes.

There were a few other breeders along the way who also kept Flett stock, but all were eventually crossed with Dailley Lines.

 In 2005, Kathy Baker and Christine Greene collected the last remaining pure Flett ram, L.H.E. Flett Manson.

In 2015, The Flett lines are nearly completely lost, with very few animals numbering over 50% Flett, and almost no animals that are not offspring of Manson.

Discovering The Light Badger Face Pattern
In 1993, Welglen Barbara Anne, out of Dayspring Glacier and Dailley Irene was born, exhibiting katmoget markings. This was later found to be produced as the result of a mutation. Barbara Anne produced two katmoget lambs in 1996, one of those being Welglen Swoopes, who was then sold to Judy Colvin of Bitterroot Ranch in 1997 as a yearling.

Judy recognized the pattern as being katmoget and also understood that it was a rarity in North American Shetlands. She then went to work on producing more of this pattern as well as doing test breedings to see exactly how it worked. During her trials, it was not known that she was working with the Albf pattern, not Ab.

Judy bred Swoopes to Cochran Randy and got two katmoget lambs; a ewe lamb, Two Medicine, and a ram, Badger. Both sheep lightened up somewhat as they aged but they had gone on to produce offspring that held their patterns quite well. In subsequent breedings to solid rams, Swoopes had only solid and Light Badger Face offspring in both black and brown tones, indicating that she was katmoget carrying solid, not katmoget and grey.

Judy used Badger extensively resulting in an impressive list of katmoget progeny. She consistently found that some had quite dark markings and some lightened to be very pale.

In 1998, Stephen Rouse had a Katmoget lamb, Sheltering Pines Cedric II, born from Hopeful Angus and Sheltering Pines Saffron. Cedric's markings were also the result of a mutation.

Sheltering Pines Cedric II

In 2001, Judy purchased Sheltering Pines Keenan, a Cedric son, from Stephen, and used him to add a second Katmoget bloodline to her breeding program. Expected or not, Keenan also did not retain his katmoget pattern, but lightened to a very pale, as was typical with the Bitterroot katmogets.

Judy bred Keenan to her Katmogets, hoping it would reinforce the pattern and result in offspring with distinctive, darker patterns that would not lighten. Unfortunately, the offspring did not stay dark but also but lightened up in the typical Bitterroot fashion. This was found to be consistent with the colour genetics theory, which predicted that any Albf/ Albf progeny would be quite pale.

 Many Bitterroot Katmogets were examined and were found to display the light chin and scrotum/groin area that is characteristic of the Light Badger Face pattern, it was through this and Judy's breeding results, that people understood that is was indeed Albf.

Many Albf Katmogets hold on to full darker face, chest, and belly markings that is coupled with the lighter chin, etc. For some of them, the light chin is just a dusting of white fibres. Darker Albf Katmogets can also produce offspring that lighten up in the typical Light Badger Face manner.

There are a few clusters of Albf across the United States, but it is not as common in flocks as the other Agouti patterns. The pattern also presents some difficulty due to wide variety of expressions, as it sometimes cannot be immediately discerned from Ab.

Modified Color Genetics
The Perilous Quest for Polled Shetland Sheep
 In November of 2002, Juliann Budde visited Tami Mulder's Justalit'l Farm located in N/W Illinois. It was there, she met Bramble Dixen, a black, naturally polled shetland ram. She was fascinated by this ram. At this time, She had no idea that polled shetland rams existed, and couldn't help but wonder why this occurrence wasn't being actively propagated by some shetland breeders.

At this time, Juliann also raised babydoll southdowns in addition to shetlands. She had many visitors come out to see the babydolls. Many people compared the two breeds side by side, and commented how much more they liked the shetlands, but they didn't want horned animals. In 2003, she began to think about how polled shetlands could offer a useful alternative to the babydoll.

In 2004, Juliann purchased two moorit polled rams from Tami and was pleased with the conformation and fleeces on both. Over the course of several years, she thoroughly researched, located, and collected polled genetics from all over the country, and then test bred, and recorded her results.

In 2006, she was confident that polled rams have no issues with lack of breeding prowess, no fertility issues, or hermaphroditism, and by 2007, her flock was officially "all polled".

Today, polled stock are very much accepted are more popular than they have ever been, and the North American gene pool has much to owe to the few diligent breeders who persevered.

Breeding for Prolificacy
Psalm 23 Farm-
Laura Matthews has chosen to primarily use either twin or triplet rams, but has made exceptions for exception single rams. She reports that she has increased lambing percentage 3-5% per year since she had began selecting for it.

Insel Lyr Farm-

Breeding for "Roo-ability"
Insel Lyr Farm-

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