Sunday, December 27, 2009

To Breed or Not

Perhaps its just that time of the year.........a time to reflect. Perhaps its just life itself. Perhaps its just me. Whichever it is, I have just been doing a lot of thinking about the direction of my little hobby farm. One of my "thinking" reflections is the direction of the sheep. The first sheep I purchased were the Black Cotswolds.
I truly love these guys. Hands down, they are docile, wonderfully wooly babies that just make me smile a hundred times over. Recently, I was looking at the Nebraska Sheep Breeders directory and noticed there were only 28 registered breeders for the Cotswolds. The Shetland, on the other hand, had well over 120 breeders. Of course, I know that not all of them are "premier breeders", some may just be offering wool/fleece for sale and may not in fact, even be breeders. Regardless, the registry for Shetlands has grown quite a bit in the past years. The more people breed, the more "changes" that can occur.
I acquired my first Shetland about 6 years ago, though my first lambs really only started in the past 3 years. This past spring I had a number of lambs born, most not planned due to my oversight on what a 6 month old ram lamb can do when left unsupervised with breeding ewes. Here nor there, lots of lambs came about. The ones that were sold went to wonderful people who took a chance on a "new breeder". The rest of lambs are here, the boys all wethered except for 3 that were left intact. This group of lambs is the most friendly, easy to work with group and basically has stolen my heart. It has made me realize that I did not go into sheep to just breed and cull. There has been way too much "conversation" amongst Shetland people that I really don't care for and I need to step away from it for this breeding season.
This year I have decided not to breed anyone. Now I am saying this and some ewe is out there laughing at me because I forgot to pull someone early enough and is going to surprise me at shearing time. But I have no intentions of breeding anyone. I want to enjoy what I have right now. I also have a lot coming up in April and May and I don't want to stress out about not being around. In April Dixie is going the Cardigan Nationals in Gettysburg with a professional handler (that would not be me:) My Dad and I are going to take a little 3 day vacation with her in Gettysburg. In May there is Washington D.C. for school and I am sure more things will arise.
Space is getting tight right now with the animals and until I put up more fenced pasture, I just want to enjoy what I have and work with some other plans I hope to get started.
One of those plans involves the garden. Lots of ideas and plans in this area but more on that in the next post.

So for now, thats the plan for the sheep. No breeding. No surprise lambs. Just a lot of fun, playing and loving with all the animals and maybe find some homes for some of the wethers.

I have this week off from school so more thinking and planning going on.........can one ever not think too much?


Tammy said...

Hi Kristi,
I understand exactly where you are coming from. It sounds like taking a year off, catching your breath and enjoying the sheep (and wool) you have is a grand idea. I did breed a few this year, but my heart isn't in it. I'm a little tired about all the conversation that has been going on lately too. Each breeder has their own idea of where they want to go and how they want to handle their flock--which is how it should be. However, those who have seperate or different goals need not be made to feel inadequate. I got into Shetlands because they are a primitive breed. Much variety. Period. Anyway, enjoy your beautiful sheep and your garden and your little farm. You are a wise woman to take a break now, before burnout takes you down.
Take care,

Kara said...

I hear you and that sounds like a plan. I wonder how many I will breed next year as the conversations have disheartened me tremendously. Maybe I DO just want a fiber/pet flock. Maybe I am more of a "collector" than a "breeder". I am trying to keep it in perspective, as I don't think the vocal few really represent the majority of breeders and although I think their hearts are in the right place in their passion for the breed, they don't seem to understand the tone of the debate is taking its toll on people like you and me or the Shetland community as a whole. Although it has been toned down as of late...some people won't visit my blog anymore since I called them on it. I'll see how this year goes and take it from there. BTW Champ is looking wonderful so I know he will HAVE to get a few ewes next year. I will have to get some new pictures of him up for you soon. Have a VERY Happy New Year filled with love, joy, and laughter! :)

Donna said...

Hello Kristi....I so enjoy your blog and the pictures and I enjoyed this one, also! I have loved seeing your Cotswolds, as I have been contemplating another breed can you tell me more about them? Are they indeed a more friendly breed than some of the other breeds? Size-wise, how do they compare to much bigger? Don't mind larger as long as they are manageable!!!!

I also agree with "minding my own business"....I sometimes just wish I could be on my own little island doing my own thing and just enjoying my animals without having to explain why on earth would I keep THAT one or hear "I would try to do this or that" if it was me! I went through this when I bred dogs....loved the dogs....couldn't stand the people I had to deal with! I agree with are a wise woman to take a may have just given me the nudge I need! Thanks....I need to remember to trust my own judgement and just enjoy my animals!

Deb said...

It's funny how so many of us are thinking alike. I did not breed any of my shetlands this year. I love them all and the diversity of their wool and their quirky little personalities but it's frustrating trying to market what YOU like, especially when it's not what suits other people. I'll keep my flock and may breed another year or may not. I have a habit of doing what suits me and that doesn't always work well, especially when you are part of an organization.

Enjoy your vacation, spending time with your beautiful animals.

All the best to you!

Juliann said...

Okay, I'm missing out on all the hot conversation.
What's going on?

Nancy K. said...

I agree that it can be a very wise decision not to breed if you still have lambs that didn't sell from this year. There's nothing worse than "suddenly" finding yourself with more sheep than you can afford or manage and worrying about how you're going to reduce your numbers. MUCH better to wait and enjoy what you have.

I actually stopped getting mail from both of the Shetland lists that I had been on for years. I got tired of the negetivity and one-up-manship. I always did resent the people who presented THEIR way of doing things as the BEST or ONLY way of doing things. Do what works for you and your flock. Those people who think they have all the answers will lose interest eventually ~ when they discover they DON'T have all the answers and they can't MAKE everyone do things their way...

It's too bad they have to spoil it for so many others along the way.

kristi said...

Your right on the burnout end. I was starting to feel choked out, like there was something wrong with my Shetlands. Not that anyone was saying anything directly too me but if you look at my foundation stock, indirectly the talkers are slamming those people also in a roundabout way. It just annoys me. I would never breed carelessly and like you, the primtive breed attracted me to the Shetlands. I look at my sheep as a creature from God, to be loved for what they have to offer. After reading probably too much on the Shetland lists/various blogs, I was starting to look at my sheep like they were inadequate but today when those lambs were bouncing and kicking up their heels in the first real snow of the season, I knew exactly why I went into sheep.

I also am trying to keep it in perspective. That is why I want to really spend time learning about the wool, how to spin, knit, and continue with the needle felting. I think just stepping back from the breeding this season will help me a lot. I love the sheep and I love meeting people like yourself and for me, thats what true sheep people are suppose to be. I want to get some pics of Champ's mom who is a mioget and his sister, maybe we can decide on that mioget vs. moorit color:) Enjoy the school break with your children! I will enjoy it without children LOL

thank you for stopping by and enjoying the pics! I love those Cotswold so much....esp. the wethers. They are BIG but are truly docile. My ram TJ is an easy 225 lbs and walks along aside of me like a puppy dog. They just have wonderful personlities and as a rare breed, its just a wonderful addition to a flock:) Your so right, why do we have to justify to anyone? On a littler note since I am single, justifying only to myself, can get me in trouble because I am always right LOL

kristi said...

I had a frustrating learning experience when someone came to look at lambs this year. My lambs and adult ewes were "smaller" than what she had been looking at. My adult ewes are well in range of the standard, the lambs are smaller but previous years lambs were just as small and grew up just fine. But this person had looked at Shetlands that were pushing my Cotswolds size and preferred that size. I am just thinking that Shetlands are not suppose to be Cotswold size. So where is the market for Shetlands going? I know I have some nice wool out there, I need to find and work that market so I just want do that for now. Thank you for stopping by as you know I am a Tyler Homestead fan:)

oh I don't know that its a hot topic. I just was expressing my feelings on breeding this year and I am comforted to know that others are understanding and having similar feelings about it. You know I love my Shetlands and I just am dishearted in how the breed seems to multiplying but not in the direction that a primitive breed, a breed that should be preserved, is going. And I just feel down on the way "clicks", for the lack of a better word, have formed and seem to be pushing new people out, perhaps not directly, but words have a way of going in a round about way. I look at a ram like Jed, who in my opinion, is outstanding, and his full polled son Jasper, is the spittin image of him, but just black, and yet through "talk" I start to wonder if my stock is quality stock. I just have to step back and refocus. I love my sheep way too much to look at them like they are inferior so this year, I just play and learn about wool:)

I have always admired your level headness and not getting caught up in the chit chat of Shetlands. And though I may not always comment on everything on the lists or blogs, I do read, and I read well, and words may be words but they might as well be actions in my book. I have worked very hard to have what I have but I never try to be one-up on anyone. I am me, and my sheep are my sheep and your right, I have to do what is right for me and them so just sitting back this season just seems right this year. It is good to hear from you and I hope this year brings you happiness:)

Becky Utecht said...

Well, I can tell you that I thought long and hard before putting my breeding groups together this year too. Just having a fiber flock to care for would be so nice! I did end up breeding 8 ewes (four were Shetlands), and that may have been too many. Sales were definitely down this year and I don't enjoy having to send nice quality sheep to slaughter. I managed to work out some trades this year instead. I think the poor sales and cutting back on breeding reflects the tough economic times we're in right now with the high cost of grain and hay and the high unemployment rates. I'm glad to know that a lot of us are taking serious consideration when it comes to bringing more sheep into this world.
Remember the annual "flock dispersal" sales some breeders used to have? Every year they were terribly overstocked and begging people to buy their sheep, but of course the next year they were in the same boat again. The lure of the lambs, it's so hard to resist!
As for the tone of the recent conversations, I've been on the lists for almost a decade now and it's really always been this way. People get passionate about their choices. Some of the people we see now espousing conformity used to be staunch supporters of diversity. We all grow and change, there's room for all of us, IMO.
And this kind of discussion happens in other breeds too.
All I can say is I haven't forgotten the wonderful and generous things I've seen my fellow shepherds do over the years. Like when we had a fire and lost our new pole barn and the entire hay crop in 2006. The Shetland breeders really came through for us.
No breeding is a very wise choice in this economy if you ask me.

Juliann said...

Kristi, I don't know what blogs or discussions have hurt your feelings, but hey most of us feel that our flocks are a work in progress. That being said, there is no law that says you have to breed. There is something to be said for selling your rams and experiencing the joy of just having them as pets and removing yourself from the never-ending discussions.
I think civil and respectful debate is healthy, and I personally don't think we have enough of it, so I'm probably part of "the problem". We are raising and selling pedigreed livestock, and I'm a big fan of putting all available information out there, and letting people make up their own minds.
My feelings get hurt sometimes, too, but I think most people really are trying to be helpful although they might not be telling me what I want to hear. There is a difference between that, and someone being truly nasty. I just try to stay away from the few real nasty ones I've come across.
I do feel strongly that even though people may not agree with other people's breedings, there is no reason to attack someone personally. We are better than that. I think Shetland breeders as a whole are a LOT more civil than some other animal breeders. Rarely does someone cross the line of decency, and we are shocked when they do because we Shetland people see it so seldom.

Mim said...

I love my shetlands and yes the primitive type is why I have them. So I breed my sheep for their many fleece types, length and colors they give me, for spinning and felting. I will breed to get animals to sell but as most people do not do I breed them for their meat also. They excel in this department too. I love that you like a fiber flock or just pets and do not over breed. I have one saying from the many years I've been breeding and selling animals, all types, to "pet" homes that end up throwing their pets away after they tire of them, "There are fates worst then death". Love them take care of them and don't throw them away!

Amy said...

Wow! I am thankful for all of your comments! I didn't realize how many of you out there feel the same way I do!!! Shetlands are diversity! Shetlands are joy! Shetlands are outstanding wool producers no matter length of fiber! Shetlands are just beautiful, and I am frustrated that a small few are so forcefully trying to change that! Amy at Wheely Wooly Farm

Deb W said...

Totally off topic, but you mentioned you will take Dixie to the Cardigan Specialty this Spring. Do you suppose fellow Cardigan and Shetland breeder Garrett Ramsay will be there? It might be nice to have a friend in crowd like that.