Most of the time, my flock decisions are based on facts – I like to make these decisions armed with data: average daily gain, fleece produced, the number of lambs produced, etc. I will admit that I have much more difficulty making these same decisions when there isn’t much data available. After all, I am an engineer by training (electrical, if you are curious), and numbers are my friends. Most of what I have achieved with my flock over the years can be proven through the data we collect and a good in-depth look at the numbers.
When any good ewe within our flock comes to what is considered old age – around the age of eight or nine – I begin to look at my flock to see that I have at least one daughter that reflects all of what this ewe has brought to the flock and more. There are so many factors that go into making selections from among our lambs each year for use in our own flock that I sometimes lose track that certain ewes are reaching the end of their productive lives. If I don’t want to lose those lines and the traits that they bring to the flock, I must make an effort to retain a daughter or two before that particular ewe becomes so old that we lose her – or that she stops producing for us. In the past few weeks, I suddenly came to the realization that our very first moorit ewe, Hope, is now over eight years old. Where has the time gone?
Hope has been a great producer for us. She was purchased from Winterwind Farm in Minnesota as a lamb and was brought to our farm in the summer after her birth. She won several awards for fleece in her early years, shearing about ten pounds each year of crimpy, long-stapled moorit fiber that sells well to our customers. She is a lovely, sweet-tempered ewe who has blessed us over the years with a total of sixteen lambs: the first a couple of years with singles, then four years of twins, and the past couple of years, she has had triplets each lambing. The majority of her lambs have gone on to become breeders with stellar records of their own: Ireland, Josiah, Karlisle, Lobelia, Lavender, Myth, and more. I would love to have more of this girl in my flock!
Now, to be honest, I do have one daughter, Myth, who is now four years old, so if we lost Hope, we would not be without this bloodline. Yet, I do worry when I have only one daughter from such a good productive line, so I began to make plans to look closely at Hope’s girls in the spring to see whether I might find another who would work well for our flock – and that’s when I realized that Patience, one of Hope’s triplets from this past spring, is still in our barn and for sale. Perhaps I should rephrase that – she was in our barn and was for sale, but now, all of that has changed.
Patience is the smallest of Hope’s triplets this year, gaining at a rate well below our flock average. She is a sweet gal, though, so I made a special trip out to the barn (where the non-breeding group currently resides) to take another look at her. I don’t mind small so much when I am looking at triplets; both Hope and Noa are good-sized sheep, so I know she will grow to be a bigger ewe. I was more curious why I hadn’t decided to keep her for our flock, so I went out to spend some time with her. What I saw was a very sweet young ewe who was black-based like her sire, but also carried the moorit of her dam. She was obviously carrying a very dark pattern from Noa, since even her white areas were salt-and-pepper. The more I watched her, the more I liked what I saw – so I caught her for a closer look.
Her fleece is beautiful! She has the same crimpy fleece that her mother is known for, but most likely even longer in staple, since Noa produces five inches each year, and she does seem to take after him in fiber length. Although the fleece on her back started out white, it is definitely darkening, so will be a very pretty color as an adult. I recoated her and watched her move around the barn – and I really liked what I saw. She is very correct in structure, with a nice topline, and good, straight legs. There is so little data to collect on lambs when they are this young – it is really hard to know exactly what they will produce until they are at least a year old when they may or may not lamb, and we can test for fiber diameter and length. As a result, I decided to give Patience that time and have added her to our flock.
We moved Patience out into Parker’s group this past Saturday, just in case she is mature enough to breed. We never hold it against them if they don’t – but if they do breed as lambs, I consider that a plus! I’ll give her a year to mature and see how things look next spring once we can do more testing. Until then, she has a place in our flock – and I have two Hope daughters, just in case!