Big News from the Big Sky Fiber Arts Festival

This news from longtime Montana BFL breeder Judy Colvin:  

Reporting in from our little Montana fiber festival, the Big Sky Fiber Arts Fest, held in Hamilton, MT. 

The sheep show was held on June 11th and I brought a mix of registered BFLs and some BFL/Gotland crosses. The classes were divided into fine, medium, longwool, and primitive; and among the other breeds in the ring  were  Icelandic, Shetlands, Targhee, and Romney.   

One of my BFL ram lambs took best fleece in the long wool division and eventually took Best in Show for the best fleece on an animal.  I was really pleased.  He is a triplet and a Gigrin Red Kite grandson.   He’s heading to a new home in Idaho after the show.

To AI or not to AI? That is The Question! By Robina Koenig

By Robina Koenig, Tumble Creek Farm

As one crop of lambs arrives, I plan next year’s breedings and ponder this very topic. Should I use AI again this fall or wait until next year? How good are my current rams? These and other questions pile up as I make preliminary decisions for my flock.

There are several things to consider regarding the use of LAI (laparoscopic artificial insemination). The following questions outline my view, and are the framework for my breeding-season decisions.

Does AI  fit into my long-range goals for my flock? I was fortunate to have a friend share her thoughts on goal-setting when I first acquired sheep. There are immediate goals—short term of 2 to 5 years— then the long term of 10 or more years.

Of course these will change and be updated as time passes but establishing goals has helped me keep focused. The obvious goal in using AI is genetic progress at a greatly accelerated rate.

Can I afford it? What will it do to my budget? Who/what/where is my market, and how many ewes do I want to commit to? In the choice to use AI, there’s the cost of semen, hormone synchronization supplies, and the technician’s fees to count. There’s my own extra work in preparing my ewes and facility.

If AI will be done at my farm, I will need special equipment available for the technician plus a crew of helpers; if it will be done at someone else’s farm, I need to consider transport, perhaps for many miles. My own accomodations would need to be arranged as well if it is too late to drive home when AI is finished.

Which ram(s) do I want to use? This query takes me the most time to answer. Studying the rams’ pictures and pedigrees for traits and characteristics I’d like to add to my flock is the basis for this decision. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it can be difficult to evaluate any animal from a single photograph which may or may not have been taken under ideal circumstances. Comments from other breeders who have used the ram, the AI technician, and perhaps the ram’s owner are very helpful.

When shall I schedule AI? When do I want the lambs born? I answer this based on how big I want my lambs for the first show I attend each year, which is the Black Sheep Gathering (BSG), in late June.

Working backward to select an AI date usually runs me into the last show I attend, Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF). One of the benefits of AI is the small window of time for lambing—four or five days—of the ewes that conceived to AI. Timing is everything!

What about bringing in a ram (perhaps an AI offspring) from another flock? The old saying “A ram is half your flock” justifies considerable cost, but that expense may still be less than AI, and it eliminates the investment in time and money involved in the AI preparation and procedure.

Using a first-generation AI offspring ram will carry many benefits to my future lamb crop from very remote and diverse sources. Of course the lambing date widens a bit in pasture breeding if I need to plan lambing time around another event on my calendar.

The questions and answers above will change somewhat if I have my own collection of rams from previous AI breedings. The obvious one is cost, but I seriously consider his pedigree and the less predictable lambing dates.

If I do use my own ram then I’ve seen how he’s grown in body and fleece to evaluate his potential. To me, this is what really demonstrates the benefits of AI genetics for the future. Remarkable improvements in all the traits we value as sheep producers can be obtained using AI or AI offspring in our breeding programs.

When I first considered AI there was only one Bluefaced Leicester sire available, Gwestydd Jamie. Working through the new learning curve of hormone therapy, I took my four ewes 150 miles to team up with two friends for a cold January AI session. One of the four ewes settled and produced two ewe lambs. I was ecstatic!

Rates of conception to AI since then have been quite high; several years 100% of my ewes took to AI with excellent results including a set of quadruplets.

The picture is still changing with new rams that have been selected for import. Choose wisely, my friends.

Littledale Farm makes good use of the 3-tier breeding system

BLU Associate members, Graham and Margaret Phillipson make good use of the traditional UK 3-tier breeding system on their Littledale Farm in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Click on the link below to read an interview with Graham.

Sheep Industry News article:

UK Breeding System Gains Popularity with Some U.S. Producers
by Becky Talley

Also visit the Littledale website at www.littledalefarm.com and the Scottish Blackface Breeders Union at www.sbbu.org

Blue Alliance Investors Import Straws from Six UK Rams

By Heather Landin, Cedar Fen Farm, Baldwin, WI
Originally published in the newsletter BLU Print; October 2010 issue, Vol. 1, No. 3

Additional content/edits by Kristen Barndt for this version

A group of BFL Union Members from both the US and Canada pulled together last fall with a group of UK breeders to figure out how to solve a problem that was looming in the Bluefaced Leicester breed in North America. There simply was not a sufficiently varied genetic base to continue to grow the population of BFLs and broaden its appeal as a commercially viable breed in North America. More bloodlines were needed.

Jared Lloyd got the whole project started by traveling to the UK in 2009 to learn more about our breed. His 20-day whirlwind tour and introduction to some of the best of the UK BFL stock was invaluable to this project. When he arrived back a loose group of people began comparing notes and figuring out which rams would best complement the sheep we already had.

The group includes Carol Densmore, Robina Koenig, Margaret Fryatt, Margaret VanCamp, Lisa Rodenfels, LeeAnne Richert, Kris Barndt, Kelly Ward, Kathy Davidson, Judy Colvin, Jody McLean, Jared Lloyd, Janice Lever, Heather Landin, Garrett Ramsey, Becky Utecht, and Jolene Vezzetti.

In the UK we have been fortunate enough to work with Jo Binns, Matt Drummond, Phil Davies, Maldwyn Davies, Elfyn Owen, and Martyn Archer among the larger group of BFL breeders that showed Jared their hospitality and worked with him to identify excellent stock for possible import to North America.

Martin Dally and the staff at Innovis were also critical to the success of the project, contributing their expertise and advice. Without all these people’s participation and investment of time, energy, and money the project would not have come together. It’s been a learning adventure. After a couple of false starts and some problems getting viable semen collected and shipped, the project started to come together around Christmas 2009.

Some of the UK breeders had voluntarily taken their rams in for collection on the group’s word they would purchase. Some were waiting for firmer commitments and the season was already late for collection. Investors were not sure what they needed to invest. Spread sheets on costs were finally pulled together with the help of Helene Garnham at Innovis. Checks came in, the last rams were collected, health checks finished and after much paperwork, the US straws collected from six different rams arrived in the US a couple weeks ago in time for fall breeding.

There are extra straws for anyone who would like to purchase straws now they are safely stored in the US. Canada is bringing their straws in next year with two years’ worth of collections all in one shipment. We hope to bring several more rams to the US next year, also.

The six rams represent a variety of qualities and a range of bloodlines that we hope will compliment the North American flock. Extra straws are available to any breeders enrolled in the USDA scrapie certification program from three of these rams, and straws from two more are available on a limited basis. There will also be breeding stock with these bloodlines available next year from Blue Alliance investors doing AI this fall. If you are interested in straws, please contact Heather Landin at Cedar Fen Farm.

Llwygy Black Mountain
Llwygy Black Mountain 1706/B67. Photo by Jared Lloyd, 2009.

Llwygy Black Mountain 1706/B67
Sire: Edgton 3945/A2, by Kilfaddoch 3757/W7 E+
Dam: Llwygy 1706/W15, by Firth 1574/R1
Born 5/3/09; Twin; ARR/ARR
EBVs:
Scan Weight: 3.68 (BFL Top 10%)
Muscle Depth: 1.15 (BFL Top 25%)
Index: 122

Llwygy Black Mountain B67
Front and rear views of Llwygy Black Mountain B67. Photos by Jared Lloyd, 2009.

A dark colored ram from Jo Binn’s Great Llwygy farm in Monmouthshire, Wales. Jo breeds with a strong emphasis on performance. His rams are chosen for their EBVs and suitability as crossing rams while still keeping to the traditional BFL standard for type. He brings a fantastic pedigree to the lines carrying color in the North American flock.

Additional notes; He’s a big, powerful black lamb who is four-square and wide made. He is skeletally correct and his bite is perfect. He has a long, wide pelvis with good angle. Legs and locomotion are correct. His fleece is dense, fine and lustrous with great handle and deep color. Straws of this ram available for purchase.

Myfyrian Trueblue
Myfyrian Trueblue 1183/B13 E+, as a lamb in 2009. Photo by Jared Lloyd, Builth Wells, 2009.

Myfyrian Trueblue 1183/B13 E+
Sire: Cernyw 1070/Y1 E+, by Cernyw 1070/T1
Born 3/1/09; Twin; ARR/ARR
EBVs:
Total index: top 4%
Scanning wt. kgs: top 1%
8 week kgs: top 1%
Mature size: top 1%
Maternal ability: top 1%
Muscle depth scan: top 3%
Owned by Phil Davies, he has proven himself to be a superior sire in his first year breeding. Phil says he produced a fine crop of lambs that grew exceptionally well on grass. Coming from the Myfyrian flock with a sire like Cernyw Y1 E+ speaks for itself. This is a super ram and a great addition to the US flock book.

Phil Davies says, “He has an exciting index, putting him in the top few young rams for total index in the UK, being in the top 4%. His scanning weight kgs in the top 1%. 8 week kgs in the top 1%, and mature size in the top 1%. Maternal ability in the top 1%, but more importantly this is combined with a muscle depth scan in the top 3%. His sire Y1 Cernyw Elite plus has turned out an exceptional breeding ram with great scanning results of his progeny but has also bred many show winning animals dominating progeny shows in Wales.” There are straws of this ram available.

Grugoer Welshman
Grugoer Welshman 2188/B1. Photo by Jared Lloyd, 2009.

Grugoer Welshman 2188/B1
Sire: Cernyw 1070/Y1 E+, by Cernyw 1070/T1
Dam: Grugoer 2188/X50, by Myfyrian 1183/T8
Born 1/1/09; Twin; ARR/ARR
EBVs (9/15/2009, as lamb):
Scanning wt. kgs: top 1%
8 week kgs: top 10%
Mature size: top 5%
Maternal ability: top 1%
Litter size: top 2%

Grugoer B1 Welshman lamb
Grugoer B1 as a lamb, 2009.

Maldwyn Davies says, “He (Grugoer B1) was second in the show and sale in Builth Wells; B1 did also win every show that he went to in North Wales.” Used by both Llwygy flock and Maldwyn Davies flock in fall 2009, he will be used again by both as, according to Jo Binns, “he threw lambs with exceptional colour.” Maldwyn is very pleased with the quality of the lambs he throws. Maldwyn was one of the original supporters of the Longwool index. There are straws of this ram available.

Llwygy X1
Llwygy 1706/X1 E+

Llwygy 1706/X1 E+
Sire: Firth 157/R1, by Walton 468/P4 E
Born 2/3/05; Twin, ARR/ARR
This high-performing ram is a Welshpool reference ram. Lisa Rodenfels has brought in a very small number of straws to try on her flock and will hopefully have lambs to offer in the next few years from his line.

The following two rams are available for in very limited quantities under special conditions. They are both older rams belonging to Martyn Archer and are the sires of many show champions from Martyn’s Carry House flock. We hope to see lambs from these rams available in future years.

Heddon Valley X4
Heddon Valley 3246/X4, taken 2008.

Heddon Valley 3246/X4
Sire: Bowder 708/W1, by Red Cottage 1510/V3
Dam: Beeston 3138/R34, by Eskley 2634/N1 ‘A’

Martyn Archer comments, “He (Heddon Valley) is probably the most consistent breeder we have used with his lambs of a very uniform type. Their breed character and style are outstanding with very good mouths, ears, top lines and legs. He hasn’t grown into a big tup – he was small and stylish when I bought him but his progeny are much bigger.”

Carry House A3 by Heddon Valley X4
Carry House A3 lamb by Heddon Valley X4.

A son, 281/Z1 was the top priced traditional type ram sold in 2007. Champion and top price at the 2007 Hexham sale was from Martin Archer, Carry House, with a ram lamb which sold for the day’s top price of 1900 gns. Please note that Eskley 2634/N1 ‘A’ is Beeston Titan’s and Gigrin Red Kite’s grandsire.

Champion 09 Hexham Heddon Valley son
2009 Champion and Top Price at Hexham, ram lamb by Heddon Valley X4. Sold for £3200. Photo from Martyn Archer.

Arkleby Y1
Arkleby 3865/Y1

Arkleby 3865/Y1
Sire: Rosehill 209/W1, by Barlaes Titus 2217/T5 E+
Dam: Ladybank 3746/S26, by Cocklaw 119/P6, by Pennine 78/L1
Born 2006; Twin; ARR/ARR
Jared took pictures of some very impressive daughters by this ram at Carry House. Please note that Barlaes Titus is this ram’s grandsire. Titus is already a US sire.