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.

New BFL show opportunity in Michigan

Member Robin Ryan would like to let the membership know that the Lenawee County Fair in Adrian, MI has added BFL classes to their breed show this year. The fair begins July 24th and is located in Adrian, MI.

Says Robin, “It is a fun fair and we all have a great time. We had a fiber day last year and want to expand on that this year. We are also looking at holding a potluck for the sheep barn participants and their families sometime during the week.”

Here is the website for more information.
http://0315134.netsolhost.com/lcfair/

You can find Robin’s contact information in the membership list on this website.

Buying Trouble with New Sheep – All about CL, OPP and Johnes by Heather Landin

Three diseases that have become frighteningly prevalent in the US sheep flock are little understood by the average shepherd. All three of these diseases are slow to show symptoms, are contagious before they are detected, and will significantly shorten the life of your ewes and otherwise lower their productivity.

CL is contagious to humans and there is some suspicions Johnes may be associated with Crohns disease (although there is more risk of Johnes from the cow’s milk in your refrigerator than your sheep). Given the prevalence of all three and the myriad myths surrounding them, taking some time to learn the facts can save you plenty of trouble.

The good news is that there are now excellent tests for all three diseases that are conclusive and not difficult to find a lab to do. Due to some incidents of false positives when a sheep shows positive for the disease on the OPP ELISA test, a different immunological test can be used to back up whether the sheep is really positive. There are a variety of tests for Johnes, depending on whether the feces, blood, or milk is being tested.

The Synergistic Hemolysin Inhibition (SHI) Test is used for CL and results are graded on intensity – pick an experienced lab for this one. The University of California, Davis lab has a high degree of proficiency in CL testing. Many state labs do both Johnes and OPP. Frequently, testing is subsidized by the state, so if you test in your own state your testing costs will be significantly less than if you use an out of state lab.

The bad news is that there are no cures and no really effective vaccines available for any of these diseases. Testing and removing positive animals as soon as they are identified is the only effective way to eliminate these diseases from a herd.

All three of these diseases have been found in the BFL herd in the US. It helps no-one to point fingers or keep the disease status of their animals secret. These diseases are too prevalent in the US to be sure that any herd that is not 100% closed has not acquired at least one of these infections.

All three diseases can be spread at shows. They come into your flock with perfectly healthy looking stock that did fine in quarantine. Your neighbors’ animals, their boots, and their equipment can be vectors if their flocks are infected. That dandy stud ram you borrowed can be carrying one of these diseases. What will make a difference is honest cooperation to minimize any potential risk of transfer and willingness to test our herds and the sheep that we sell.

Some sheep are more susceptible than others. Some can carry one of the diseases without ever being affected by it; some will be chronically afflicted by it very quickly. But, once exposed to the bacteria (including simply being with another sheep that has been exposed), a sheep must be considered infected unless testing proves they are not. All three diseases have been studied extensively and it is clear they all create a drag on the animals system, resulting in shorter lives and greater susceptibility to other problems and diseases in most infected individuals.

It is possible to continue to obtain clean lambs from valuable but infected breeding ewes if they are still reasonably healthy. In order to prevent infection of the lambs, the lambs need to be removed at birth, allowing as little contact with the mother as possible. She shouldn’t lick them. The lambs must be prevented from drinking any of the infected ewe’s milk or colostrums. In the case of Johnes, no feces contact is critical.

Ewes with CL should be examined carefully before they give birth and any CL cysts treated with antibiotic and cleaned out in order to minimize the possibility of a cyst contaminating the lamb. Any ewe with a chronic cough should be monitored very carefully to be sure she doesn’t contact her lamb.

Studies have shown that the likelihood of the disease agents crossing the placenta and infecting the lamb prior to birth are next to none, unless the ewe is very ill and her immune system has started to shut down. In any case, the lambs shouldn’t be introduced to the clean flock until they are tested at 6 months of age. By then any passive antibodies they have received from their mothers would be gone and a positive test would indicate active infection. While they still have antibodies from their mother, they may test positive, but not be infected.

The OPP society website has excellent directions and advice for anyone wanting to raise lambs that have been removed from their mother at birth. They have directions for pasteurizing colostrum and methods of feeding groups of lambs to get them off to a good start. Remember that cow colostrum often carries Johnes, so don’t use it without pasteurizing.

Caseous Lymphitis (CL or Cheesy Gland) is caused by a tuberculosis type bacteria that lives inside of cells, colonizes the sheep’s lymph system, and forms cysts in the lymph nodes that protect the bacteria from antibiotic. The disease is also common in goats. The bacteria is passed when cysts close to the skin, in the lungs, or in the mammary glands burst releasing thousands of bacteria into the environment and the bacteria is rubbed on skin, inhaled by other sheep, or passed through milk to the lambs.

The bacteria can live over a year in the environment and is quite good at entering through the skin of the sheep, even in the absence of a wound. Initial skin cysts may not be noticed and internal cysts cannot be seen. The animals system is weakened by the disease and production is seriously affected. Most animals are shipped before the CL becomes advanced, due to poor production.

The first cyst is typically confined to skin, but the bacteria move from the initial infection into the lymph system, where they encyst and hide from any antibiotic treatment and the animal’s immune system. CL will eventually take over the lymph system and the animal becomes emaciated and covered with oozing cysts. Many countries condemn the meat of animals when cysts are observed during slaughter. The US does not, but requires cysts in the meat to be cut out.

CL can infect humans and treatment is painful, expensive, and takes years. Sheep shearers are at risk because shearing commonly bursts any cysts present at the surface. The dipping bath post shearing has been identified as a major avenue of transmission for sheep in Australia and New Zealand. Injections cause a break in the skin that is another easy route of entry for the bacteria. Don’t use the same needle on different sheep and use an antiseptic to sterilize the skin at the site of the injection.

There is an inoculation called Colorado serum for CL, but it is generally considered only about 75% effective in preventing infection, it does not prevent cyst formation in already infected ewes, and it seems to cause some severe adverse effects in ewes that have already been infected. The biggest problem it poses for a purebred herd is that once an animal is inoculated it is impossible to tell if they have an active infection or if the antibodies in their blood are only due to the inoculation. The inoculation has been useful in reducing the economic impact of CL in commercial herds.

If you do decide to manage CL in an infected herd kept for meat production or in quarantined ewes being kept for breeding, there are some newer penicillins and tetracyclines in carriers that penetrate the puss in the cysts better. Cysts are best cleaned up by injecting them with one of these antibiotics well before they start to burst. Once the bacteria in them are dead, they dry up and are much less of a risk to other sheep. Talk to your vet about the best antibiotic to use.

Shearers , mostly in Australia and New Zealand are known to catch CL. They are probably exposed frequently through cysts that burst when they shear. There are other infrequent examples of people contracting the disease. Anyone cleaning and treating a cyst should be very careful not to expose their skin to the bacteria if they suspect CL. The disease is very expensive and takes a long time to eliminate in humans, frequently requiring surgery to eliminate infected lymph nodes.

The incident of CL in sheep is growing and has gone from a minor problem in the US to a major one in the last 10-15 years. Many commercial flocks are infected through new rams brought from purebred flocks. This is an unacceptable situation and it is paramount that purebred breeders behave responsibly to prevent the spread of the disease.

In Australia, neglect of the disease created such a problem that now vaccination of sheep is required by law and movement of animals from known infected flocks is restricted (they have a better vaccine in Australia). Unfortunately, many sheep farmers in the US feel that since CL is a slowly progressing disease, they do not need to remove a ewe until she becomes unthrifty and they have ‘gotten their money out of her.’

John Glenn, DVM at UC Davis has published some articles that clearly explain your options. A description of the tests can be found at this link for www.goatworld.

Johnes disease is found in sheep, goats, and cattle. It is another tuberculin type bacteria that infects the intestinal wall cells and becomes systemic as the disease advances into late stages. It slowly destroys the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients. Poor doers, due to this disease, typically start to show low condition in spite of a good appetite during the second to third year and ewes commonly need culling at age 3-4.

As the disease progresses, the animal will starve to death while demonstrating a healthy appetite. The bacteria is present in the milk of an infected animal and infection of nursing young is almost 100% in calves. Little investigation has been done on sheep, but the organism has been found in sheep milk and is likely just as infection to lambs. Lambs will also contract the disease from cow colostrum.

The disease is endemic in US dairy cows and programs to address it in cattle have been started in states where dairy is an important part of the economy. Johnes bacteria have been linked to Crohn’s disease in humans, but there has been no conclusive evidence yet that it causes the disease.

In cattle and sheep, the bacteria is passed from one adult animal to the next through fecal contamination and ingesting the bacteria. The bacteria are shed from the intestinal wall during all stages of infection. Sometimes in early infection, a blood ELISA test will not be positive, but fecal testing will show the presence of the bacteria. Feeding off the ground and frequently moving pasture is recommended to minimize contamination.

Both blood ELISA testing and fecal testing are used for Johnes. If you want to find out if Johnes is an issue with your flock, collecting a representative sample of your flocks droppings and having the mixed group tested is a low cost approach to finding out if you need to investigate further. There is also a milk test used for dairy cattle, but most sheep producers will want to know if their animals are sick before they produce lambs.

There is a vaccine for Johnes for cattle, but it isn’t used in sheep. It has nasty side effects in both species and causes serious illness in humans if they are accidentally dosed with it. There is a new vaccine for sheep developed by Cornell University, but it has not been approved yet and is not on the market.

Johnes is less common in sheep than OPP and CL, but the problem is growing and if ignored will only get worse. It is a huge problem in the US dairy herd and major testing programs have begun in states where dairy is important. Check out the Wisconsin Johnes website for more resources at www.johnes.org

Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP or Maedi Visna) is a retrovirus disease similar to AIDs in humans. It is does not infect humans. It causes a wasting disease in sheep, the common symptoms being hardened and unproductive mammary glands and chronic pneumonia that will not respond to antibiotics. The virus slowly destroys the immune system in the sheep, just like AIDs does in humans.

In advanced cases, neurological damage causing trembling and uncontrolled spasming of muscles may be seen. The disease is usually passed through breathing the virus in aerosol from a coughing sheep or to lambs through their mother’s milk. Studies shoe 30-50% of lambs born to an infected mother will test positive by 6 months of age. Other lambs in the herd frequently come up positive, also. Up to 17% of lambs from uninfected mothers have been found to have become infected in herds that include infected ewes.

Because lambs like to try and steal milk from other ewes, that may be a mode of transmission. OPP does not survive long in the environment and apparently needs to be transmitted via body fluids, similar to aids. Close winter housing seems to be a very high risk environment for transmission according to some studies. Needles are another route of transmission. One needle to one sheep is the rule for preventing transmission of all of these diseases. Extra needles are a minor cost compared to the economic damage these diseases do.

Research all three of these diseases and learn all you can so you’ll be prepared for the inevitable brush your herd will have with at least one of them. Quarantining and testing new sheep is one of the best preventions. Use the internet. There is a host of information available. New vaccines are being developed so it pays to keep up with the news.

The OPP Society website is a marvelous resource for breeders looking for solutions to managing infection in their herd. They recommend testing all animals and separating them into two herds. Routine testing at least once a year of the negative herd will pick up any animals missed or that contract the disease later. New positives are moved to the positive herd. The negative herd should not have nose or fecal contact with the positive herd, ideally separated by at least 200 feet.

The positive herd is slowly reduced by removing animals as they would normally be shipped. Ewes with valuable bloodlines are bred by AI and their lambs are removed at birth and not given any chance to nurse or be licked by their mothers. The OPP society page has some very good articles on successfully rearing orphan lambs. Colostrum can be saved from the negative herd or the lambs grafted to a negative ewe. Visit www.oppsociety.org

It’s recommended to continue testing all animals for two years after all known positives are off the property. Testing ewes after they give birth will give lots of false negatives because a majority of the ewes antibodies go into her milk and won’t be found in the blood. Testing lambs prior to 6 months, especially if they have nursed from a positive ewe, will give false positives because they have ingested their mother’s antibodies but may not have contracted disease themselves. Johnes antibodies frequently do not show up in the blood until an animal is 2 years old, even if it is present in the gut and shedding contagion in the feces.

One of the barriers to having more flocks test and eliminate these diseases is the cost of testing. This is not a huge problem if you have a small flock and collect your own samples (draw blood for all three diseases or collect feces for Johnes). Ideally, anyone starting up would test while their flock was still small and test any incoming animals. But there are many large flocks that cannot afford to test due to the number of sheep involved.

It would be a huge advantage to the whole industry if we could work with the USDA and the states to subsidize testing and start making progress eliminating these diseases. Many states are already trying to help with this and commonly, if the tests you need are available from you own state vet labs, the cost will be subsidized for you as a resident.

Our industry is small compared to the cattle industry and we need to make ourselves heard on this issue. Discuss your situation with your vet and call your state labs to find out what is possible.

It is much less expensive if you learn to draw the blood samples yourself. In most cases the serum is all that is required by the testing lab. You do not need to pay your vet to spin the blood to separate it.

Simply set the tubes of blood in a warm place over night and then use a clean hypodermic needle and syringe to carefully draw the clear serum off the coagulated blood cells and transfer it to a clean red top tube. Be careful not to cross contaminate your samples. Package them carefully, use an icepack in warm weather, and mail them overnight to the lab.

Purdue has an excellent web article demonstrating how to locate a sheep’s jugular vein and draw blood at www.ces.purdue.edu

Don’t bring a problem you don’t have into your herd. Don’t buy from herds that don’t test. Quarantine and test any animals you have any reason to be unsure of. Test your own herd regularly so you can catch any accidental introductions before they spread. Remember that shows, your neighbor’s flock, or other contact with the sheep community can bring infection into your flock unexpectedly. CL is also carried by goats. Johnes disease is spread by cow manure and cows milk.

Reputable breeders know that testing helps sell sheep. Good records allow you to market your sheep as disease free. Its good ethics, it’s good for our breed, and it’s good for your business.

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

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for our newly imported rams

By Lisa Rodenfels, Jared Lloyd and Kristen Barndt

If you would like to see EBV charts on some of the latest imported UK rams, please go to the IMPORTED RAMS page (under BREED INFO, and BFL RAMS). Links to the EBV charts for most of the 2010 imported sires are at the bottom of each ram’s entry.

A few EBV insights

EBV data is simply a tool to help you make choices for your flock and your needs. Use the data to select for what you need. It may depend on whether you are eating the lamb (lean at higher weights) or trying to raise the sheep and want an easy keeping ewe.

If you are selecting a ram for breeding replacements, you may want to choose a ram that has a moderate fat level. If you are selecting a terminal sire, then the one with low fat might be better.

For instance, since most Hill breeds put on fat easily and early, you may want to select a ram with moderate fat numbers to produce your Mules so that the Mule wethers don’t get too fat at too young an age, and so that his Mule daughters get a moderate amount of fat cover.

It is likely that shepherds in colder climates may want higher fat numbers than would shepherds in more moderate climates, or in flocks that are managed more closely – fed grain and have access to a barn in winter.

Everything in moderation, and select for what you want and need. Another example is the Suffolk lines that are used for club lambs, which have been selected for very low fat depth. These lines excel at staying very lean no matter how old the lambs get, and how fast or slowly they are grown out. However, the ewes need to be fed very well, or they don’t do well. This type of ewe would never do well on a farm with minimal input, grazing native Kentucky 31 pastures year round.

We’ll want to be cautious about how much muscling we develop on our BFLs – balancing that with milking ability. Think about the carcass qualities of the dairy goat and cow and you can see how milk production and carcass quality are diametrically opposed. So these two traits must be balanced to keep from going too far to one side or the other.

In the context of balancing carcass and dairy characteristics, the Longwool Index Project and the Sire Reference Scheme (SRS) programs were developed in the UK with this concern in mind. The progressive UK breeders we are now working with are enrolled in these programs. Our progressive US flockmasters will be able to take advantage of the rams these programs are producing. See links below for information on the SRS and Longwool Index.

For the most part, you’d like to see all of the graphs in an EBV chart leaning to the right (positive values), except possibly for fat and muscle depth, depending on what decisions you are making.

EBVs: only one part of the whole picture

EBVs should be only one tool in your selection and planning. Seeing an animal, looking at conformation, general health and vitality, fleece quality, and seeing how the animal moves are all immensely important. An EBV chart by itself can’t show you foot quality and health, fleece characteristics, a less-than-excellent bite, testicle size, temperament and many other important attributes.

Info to help further your understanding of EBVs

Basic understanding of EBVs

Go to this link for Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (UK) basic explanation of EBVs.

Go to this link for NSIP basic explanation of EBVs.

Go to this link for an NSIP presentation on EBVs.

Presentations at Ohio Sheep Day 2010: Breeding Sheep for a More Profitable Flock

Key Presenters at Ohio Sheep Day 2010 included Dr. David Thomas from the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Kreg Leymaster from the US Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, and Dr. David Notter from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Go to this link, and then click on the individual presentations to view:

Presentations at Ohio Sheep Day 2010

Basics of Sheep Breeding for Commercial Flocks, by Dr. David Thomas
Building a Ewe Flock, by Dr. Kreg Leymaster
Selection and Crossbreeding Systems for Dairy Sheep, by Dr. Thomas
Selecting Your Next Terminal Sire Ram, by Dr. David Notter

All of these presentation are in MS PowerPoint. If you do not have PowerPoint, you may download MS PowerPoint Viewer for free; go to this link to download it.

Longwool Index info

Introductory 2004 article from Hybu Cig Cymru, New Longwool Index a Boost to Welsh Breeders (PDF)

Informative Hybu Cig Cymru PDF file on Practical Sheep Breeding explains EBVs, breeding in a stratified sheep industry, and the Index programs, including the Longwool Index.

Sire Reference Scheme (SRS) info

Sheep Sire Referencing Schemes (PDF) article by G. Simm and N.R. Wray, The Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh

Older Bluefaced Leicester Sire Reference Scheme brochure (PDF) from Signet with graphics

Further reading

Go to this link for an excellent article at Farmer’s Weekly Interactive (UK):
EBVs are icing on the cake, by Jeremy Hunt
Select rams based on both good conformation and positive traits seen during a visual inspection, as well as their “figures” (EBVs)

News From New England… from Joan Chapin

In spite of back-to-back snow “bombs” in January that resulted in building losses around the area, New England sheep and wool folks are looking forward – to several planned activities that signal spring.

Connecticut Sheep Breeders and the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture will hold its Blue Ribbon Sheep Forum on February 19, 2011, at the campus in Storrs. Margaret Howard will speak on color genetics. Her seminar will present concepts and techniques that can be employed to control, replicate and predict the fleece colors you produce. An overview of pigment production will precede a discussion of how to identify your lamb’s color pattern. Curiosity and a pen are all you need bring! Margaret will probably have copies of her book on this topic available. Other workshops will be held on wool quality, grass-fed lambs, and predator control.

The New Hampshire Spinners’ & Dyers’ Guild is ready for its annual fashion show, pot luck, and afternoon mini-workshops on February 13th. The fashion show will operate differently this year and I will report back later on how it went, as it will be my first time attending.
When NHS&DG meets in different available halls (fire dept., church) for its activities, a new and difficult issue has been raised. The president of the Guild wrote in the last newsletter, “Some groups have been asked to have liability insurance if they wish to use a facility. We have a picker, wheel and dyepot to lend out which makes us open to additional liability. We looked into insurance and found that in addition to this type of insurance, the board members must also be covered in their role of running the guild…I would not be willing to put myself and family at risk of legal action against the guild, nor would I expect any members to be at risk. The board decided not to lend out equipment until the issue is resolved.”
Since we have been thinking about this issue, I’ve learned that vendors at the November New England Fiber Festival (Eastern States Exposition Grounds) must show proof of $100,000. liability insurance for the two days of the show including the day before and day after.

And I’ve also learned that local Farmers’ Markets also require that you pay for liability insurance in order to sell your products. I raise this issue, wondering what others have found to be a reasonable solution particularly for sheep shows and for individual vendors.

Planning for the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool festival is gaining momentum. Merrilyn Patch wrote: “New to the NH sheep and wool festival (May 14 -15) this year is the wool breed sheep show on Sunday. This is a chance for NH breeders to show their wool breed sheep. It is being judged by Mr. Joe Miller from Starks, Me. longtime breeder of many wool sheep including merinos, moorits , lincolns, and many others. He will also be giving a talk on how to get the most money for your fleeces following the show Sunday afternoon. The show will be split into fine wools, medium wools, long wools and primitives. We are hoping in the future to expand on this show by adding more classes and opening it up more.” Now that’s exciting! Another place to show off Blues! The other contest that I find exciting is the fleece competition, where the judge gives reasons as (s)he evaluates fleeces, and the public is invited to attend. Now there’s a learning experience, denied to us at most fleece competitions!

2010 Flock Book to be available on the BLU website

Work has begun on the 2010 Flock Book. After much discussion, the Board has decided this year that we will now offer the flock book electronically on the BLU website. This will save BLU quite a bit of money, as printing services, paper and postage are getting more expensive with each passing year.

The 2010 flock book will be published in the same format as before, but will be loaded onto the website as a PDF file. Paid members will be emailed a password so they can access it. Members may choose to save it electronically, or print out a copy for inserting into a 3-ring binder. We will still aim for an April publishing time frame.

National BFL Show to be held May 25-27, 2012 in Wooster, OH

BLU reviewed the National Show venue proposals received in January and has made its selection.

It’s official! Our National Bluefaced Leicester Show will be held on May 25-27, 2012 at the Great Lakes Fiber Show venue (during this festival), in Wooster, Ohio.

Banner Sales also holds a show and sale during this festival, and BFL breeders will have the opportunity to enter their sheep in the Banner sale if they so choose.

Other exciting activities are in the works, with plans for a Fashion Show showcasing items made from BFL fiber. There are plans for a breeder’s social and dinner, a fleece show, a breed display, and other special classes.

Please contact our National Show Committee Chair Robina Koenig for more information… we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with information and plans as they develop.

2011 Membership Drive Kickoff!

Don’t forget to renew your membership with BLU!
$15 Active
$5 Youth
$10 Associate

Click on the membership “How to Join” button above for more information. We encourage you to use our PayPal feature.

Don’t risk missing even one minute of the benefits of membership. The deadline to renew without interruption of your membership is March 1st.

Please remember to make the check out to BLU, and to mail it directly to our Treasurer, as directed on the membership form.

Members… Please see our updated MEMBERSHIP DIRECTORY on the website

The Membership Directory on the website has been under further development. It now shows membership information such as:

  • Your membership status (Full (Active), Junior, or Associate).
  • Year you joined BLU and/or date you renewed.
  • Your membership expiration date and/or a reminder to RENEW.
  • Your “flock number” (or ASR number, or BLU number), if known (this will assist you and ASR).
  • Your Prefix, if known (this will assist you and ASR).

Please review your information and contact me with any changes, updates, or missing information for this directory. Contact Kris Barndt.

Remembering Anne Priest

Anne Priest with first lambs
"Spring 1976. My first lambs on the island." Anne Priest and some new friends.

A wonderful friend to the Bluefaced Leicester breed and those involved with it (as well as the Border Leicester breed), Anne Barclay Priest traveled on to greener pastures in late November of 2010. She was 83 years old, and just shy of her birthday on November 23 by a couple of days. She passed on while feeding her beloved sheep out in the pastures of her New York State home. For Anne, there probably was no better way to bow out gracefully and exit stage right.

Anne Priest on the dory BETSY Nova Scotia
"Coming into the harbor." Anne and her dog Nell aboard the dory BETSY, 1999.

Anyone who ever met Anne was permanently affected by her zest, straightforwardness, and humor. She lived the kind of life many simply dream of; full of adventures and interesting experiences. It seems she chose them and went after them with determination, although she might disagree with this assessment in some ways, saying, “they chose her” instead. She was a fiercely independent woman (and fiercely opinionated), tough-as-nails, funny, light-hearted, direct, passionate, spirited, and genuine. Anne’s hospitality was near legendary!

Anne Priest shearing for the first time on Blue Island Nova Scotia
"Anne's first attempt at shearing!" Shearing party with Dr. Brian Nettleton on Blue Island, Nova Scotia, 1977.

She was an accomplished off-Broadway actress (and also a locally-performing actress right up until just a few years ago), a farmer and shepherd, shearer, spinner, knitter, weaver, traveler, dog breeder, a friend to many, a mother and grandmother, an author, and much more that I will never know. She even ran for Massachusetts State Representative in 1968. Those who have read her book will attest that she lived a fascinating and adventurous life indeed.

Editor’s Notes: K. Barndt

Anne Priest at home farm in New York State
Anne in the pasture outside her New York State home, circa 1998.

I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Anne on a number of occasions at her New York State home on Old Mountain Road. If anyone has been there, you remember it is high on a windswept “mountain” overlooking the far reaches of the southeastern New York State landscape… turning right into the driveway at the bottom of that hill, the battered old mailbox reading “Priest”, the lower pasture and pond to the left as you turn, and cursing the steep-sided, narrow driveway until you reach the more open hay fields and the gate beyond.

Anne Priest with bottle lamb at home in New York State
Bottoms up! Beer bottle baby BFL with Anne, on her farm in New York State, late spring 1999.

I only wish I had been able to visit her during the summer at her Nova Scotia home as well, to see the great beauty of her beloved point, beach and island. I bought my very first sheep from Anne in 2004. She taught me a few fundamental shepherding basics that I committed to my mind like unbreakable law that I carry with me to this day.

On one visit a while ago, I sat in her “office” and went through piles of photographs. I saw a black and white photo of a stunning young woman in Paris, France… Anne when she was young and looking to all the world just like a fashion model.

I garnered a set of photographs that I wanted to make into a display board for her book, as Anne was going around promoting the book at the time. Also there were a few photos that I wanted to archive for the BLU library, regarding Anne’s first BFL ram.

Anne Priest hearding sheep on McNutt's Island beach
Anne herding sheep on the beach at a sheep gathering on McNutt's Island, July 1990.

A number of these photographs were actually submitted to her agent and publisher; Anne wanted these to be included in her book to illustrate the many stories and experiences that are portrayed in her memoir. The publisher ended up rejecting them for the book, except for one (the photograph used on the cover of the dust jacket).

Perhaps they will help to illustrate a tiny bit of Anne’s extraordinary life. I turned the place upside down in my search for these, still buried away in an unpacked box since we moved halfway across the country, and I finally found them (after much frustration!).

seeing the property in Nova Scotia for the first time
"When I first fell in love with the place." Anne sees the point on the property she would buy for the first time, August 1971.The previous owners are in this photo (Rodney Koehler). Photo has been fully restored.

As I began to process the photos and work on restoring some of them (some are partially restored, a few needed some major work), I felt sad that these were never included in her book. You may read the words of her stories, but to see a few of the images that go with them is to better understand Anne’s piece of the world, and the telling of her stories. I am really going to miss her.

Anne Priest herding sheep on the point
"Working sheep on the point." September 1991.

If anyone has any other special photos of Anne to share, please be sure to contact me. I can add them to our BLU Library collection (Anne Priest Gallery) on the website. Please feel free to post some of your own memories about Anne here if you’d like.

Here’s a blog called the Nova Scotia Island Journal: Life on McNutt’s Island, by Anne Yarbrough, with some posts about Anne Priest.

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