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Author Topic: Genetics.....  (Read 5985 times)

woollyval

  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Genetics.....
« on: November 04, 2011, 10:05:39 am »
Having read the long and fascinating thread about genetics (Portland ones and others) I picked out a point that I thought was interesting and important and wondered what others thought....
If those of us with height restricted and rare/primitive breeds who keep them on their non native/traditional grazing lands and therefore have occaision for them to go over height due to good feeding, are to keep the smallest all the time to keep them under the breed standard .......
Are we keeping genetically inferior sheep....ie those who would have been too small/puny to survive in their native environments and therefore causing genetically weak traits....

For example Iambing problems, weaker hocks and general punyness! I know that for example the British Ouessant is decended from I believe 3 imported bloodlines and better but bigger progeny discarded or castrated...result is there for all to see...lots of stock have poor backends, close horns and are generally just ...poor
On the otherhand some of the French breeders have fantastic small stock BUT often it seems to me...keep those sheep with slight overheight that have fabulous conformation etc but just don't show them and therefore they are not measured!......Kanisha...please correct me if I am wrong but I think the only official measuring is done at the national show?
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Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2011, 11:37:30 am »
I think you have partly answered your own question  :) and identified the cause.  With many rare breeds though, if they were only kept on their original lands they would have died out.  I think it's something which we should be very wary of and try to develop a strategy to prevent the general decline into puniness.  As with all animals, it needs to be a good sheep before we start to select for breed characteristics (but see below about Soay).
It was I think the Captain who said that surely we should get the numbers up before we start to be too selective, and I agree with that - we just have to decide how many we should have before we start selecting, and what is 'too' selective.  So it's not quite straightforward.
The multi-horned Heb is now quite a rare beast, having dropped from about 60% of the national flock when numbers were low, to about 8% now and this may be because selection for 'Jacob-type' even and upright horns began when numbers were low, and many excellent animals were, and still are, culled for less than perfect horns.
It is noticeable with Hebrideans that the big fat ones from the lush grasslands of England really struggle when they head north and the extra weight drops off them.  There is now a growing movement to have a Scottish type.  One of the difficulties is that English judges tend to judge Scottish shows and continue to judge according to the English norm.
Amongst Hebrideans, there is no actual measuring done, there is just a tendency to disapprove of overly tall individual animals, especially in the show ring. However, there are always people who want the biggest Hebs there are, maybe those breeding for meat.  On the other hand there are those who like very small and neat Hebs, and plenty of those who take the middle road.  Because as a breed society we have a Breed Description, not a Standard, there is room for this variation and personal preference within the breed, to the extent that one would probably only select for smaller size if all other things were equal.   The problem seems to be when small size is the main point selected for.
With Soay, they have selected themselves naturally whilst isolated on their distant island.  Their ideal size seems to be governed by patterns of food availability (which in turn depends on fluctuating flock numbers) and on fighting amongst tups for breeding rights.  In good years biggest is definitely best, with the most successful tups going on to breed, and strong ewes producing strong lambs.  However, once the flock size outgrows the available grazing, or there is a bad winter, it is the bigger individuals which die.  Puny males which have small horns (scurs) and so invest fewer resources in maintaining those horns and in fighting for a prime position, are the ones which survive to breed another year.  So what I'm saying is that puny doesn't necessarily mean bad - there is a place for both in a normal wild population.

« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 11:42:24 am by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

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TheCaptain

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2011, 11:40:42 am »
This is the point i have been trying to put but you do it so much more eloquently! The trouble with the Portland Group have declared that the bigger examples of the breed have been associated with other non standard traits; poorer quality fleece being one of them - I'd like to know the statistics though...

I believe there is an argument for keeping all stock that are pure bred, thus ensuring that breed numbers are kept high, but also show stock that conforms to what those in charge of the breeding groups have decided.

I look at the state of pedigree German Shepherd showstock - poor hind legs, bad temprement and kidneys that are likely to fail at an early stage. Mrs. Captain had a German Shepherd when we first met, she came from 'excellent' show stock. Riddled with disease and ailments and dead by the age of 5. We bought another one, pure German Shepherd from stock that had never been bred for showing. She is now nearly 7 and is the healthiest Shepherd I've seen.


Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2011, 11:52:09 am »
You have highlighted why breeding governed by the showring can have undesirable consequences and many breeds of dog are a good demonstration.  It is easy to lose sight of the overall animal in all those minutiae.
However, I do still feel that we need to keep an overview of the general size trend within breeds, just not to such a draconian level that seems to be the case in some instances.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

kanisha

  • Joined Dec 2007
    • Spered Breizh Ouessants
    • Facebook
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2011, 12:18:57 pm »
To answer Vals points in relation to Ouessants.

what may not be appreciated

As far as type goes most UK ouessants are descendants of dutch imports.
http://d114639.pem.kpn.net//images/stories/bulletins/Ouessant%20september%202011.pdf

this link takes you to the latest ( september 2011) bulletin on dutch ouessants. In it there is a discussion over the '" enrichment" of the ouessant this includes historical past breeding with romanovs and finnsheep  ( for fertility) ouessants traditionally don't twin and skudde (horns and colour) plus also texel sheep ( these are from the island of texel not texel breed) and most recently to jacobs.

The quality of ouessants in holland shows ..........

In contrast I can honestly say ( having kept both types) that french ouessants grow slowly the lambs mature fast for the first six months and then sit there they don't have the continuous growth of the dutch type . they look likely gawky ugly ducklings until they pass the year old mark slowly but surely growing in bone and substance. This is the reaction of a breed selected for environment and not height unlike the dutch ouessant. It is easy to misinterpret the selection process and one reason for me why I have castrated all my dutch rams and have found non breeding homes for the ewes and won't be looking any further than those french breeders who  have safeguarded the breed for many many years they keep their sheep out they lamb out and an assisted lambing is considered a disaster the Bretons are a tough breed who still apply the natural law of survival of the fittest any problems with over height ouessants is likely to be due to origins and not selection. French breeders here have some amazing ouessants and I have been priviledged to have seen their flocks in their entirety an overheight ouessant stands out from the flock like a sore thumb those who  are custodians of the  "ouessant" have stock that is far superior and height isn't an issue.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 12:23:11 pm by kanisha »
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Hazelwood Flock

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Dorset.
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2011, 10:00:35 pm »
I must admit when I am looking for my potential breeding stock I look for sheep with length and width which I consider much more important than height. But above all that, the sheep has to be correct on legs, in the mouth, and be free of glaringly obvious conformation faults - if it has any then it can have the best breed attributes available but be useless as a breeding sheep!
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SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2011, 10:31:42 pm »
I've a query someone may be able to answer.

I hear a lot about Shetland ewes being able to produce and rear good commercial Texel x lambs, despite the Shetlands' small size.  I do not hear the same about the Castlemilk Moorit, which is just a little smaller than a Shetland.

The C.M. breed was 'constructed' from Shetlands, Manx Loaghtan and wild mouflon sheep.

I have been wondering whether a CM x Shetland would be likely to be able to manage a Texel x lamb (or two.)  Does anyone know whether the Shetland ewe's ability to lamb a Texel x lamb derives from having a particularly wide pelvis, or other physical characteristic?  And if so, how that characteristic might be inherited into a crossbreed offspring?
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Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2011, 12:31:00 am »
Hi Sally
I can't answer all of that, but I have read research where it was found that the Primitives have a pelvis which is larger in proportion to overall body size than any other type.  I don't know precisely which primitive breeds were measured, but it included the Hebridean and the Shetland.  Hence their ability to birth large crossbred lambs (which come out every bit as small as purebred lambs but grow apace).
We have in the past used a texel on some Hebs with excellent results, but I don't recall that we ever did with Shetlands.  We were careful though to choose a slightly narrow Texel specimen as sire, and only to use ewes which had already lambed at least once.
Hopefully someone on here has crossbred their Castlemilks and can tell you more than I can.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2011, 09:47:57 am »
Thanks for that Fleecewife.  I have a cousin who acquired some adult Shetlands 7 or 8 years ago; he's still got one left and she's still producing Texel x lambs - this year he sold her twins for 63 apiece.

Hopefully someone on here has crossbred their Castlemilks and can tell you more than I can.

I've had a conversation with a breeder near(ish) to me; he's crossed them with Gritstone and with Suffolk and in both cases had a higher proportion of lambing problems than with purebreeding the C.M.s.  He also thought that rearing the larger lambs and/or twins, was a tough job for the ewe, so he'd either wean early and/or let her have the next year off and/or breed pure the next time.

So that made me wonder whether the Shetland x C.M. would be a better ewe for producing a fat lamb than trying to squeeze a more commercial lamb out of a C.M. ewe. 

I've seen some Shetland x C.M. ewes and really liked the look of them, plus a friend who breeds Shetlands inherited some C.M. ewes so they got put to her Shetland tup - and she really liked the offspring.  So I am wondering if there would be a market for the crossbred ewe, which would help to increase the number of Castlemilk Moorits and breeders that the market can sustain.

My thinking is it's better for the breed to cross out for the mother of a more commerical lamb than to breed for increased size of the pure bred stock.  I suppose the downside is it gives you another generation of a non-commercial wether to deal with.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

VSS

  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Pen Llyn
    • Viable Self Sufficiency.co.uk
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2011, 05:50:32 pm »
But above all that, the sheep has to be correct on legs, in the mouth, and be free of glaringly obvious conformation faults - if it has any then it can have the best breed attributes available but be useless as a breeding sheep!

Absolutley!!
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woollyval

  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2011, 09:39:06 pm »
But above all that, the sheep has to be correct on legs, in the mouth, and be free of glaringly obvious conformation faults - if it has any then it can have the best breed attributes available but be useless as a breeding sheep!

Absolutley!!

Exactly!!!!.....I personally think this is the point lots are missing!!!
www.berry land cottage.co.uk
www.valgrainger.co.uk

Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009

kanisha

  • Joined Dec 2007
    • Spered Breizh Ouessants
    • Facebook
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2011, 06:15:46 pm »
You know Val I think you are looking in the wrong places.......I was introduced to this guy today. Hes 44cm ( max  18 mo old and despite the photo is straight and well placed behind  everything correct and he's never been shown. I also saw the entire flock.

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woollyval

  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2011, 09:00:57 pm »
Well well!!! He is nice....!
I must say i find him maybe too small as I also want to eat mine! Mind you I think he would give the very top breeders a run for their money at the annual show....can he be persuaded to show...? Who is the owner...we are looking to import some more and if all his stock are like this....
www.berry land cottage.co.uk
www.valgrainger.co.uk

Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2011, 11:38:15 pm »
Is that a bell around his neck?

What a smart little tup  :sheep: 8)  I am not familiar with Ouessants so I am surprised at how big his horns are in proportion to his head and body - the horns look the same size as a larger breed.

I am very taken with the Ouessants  :thumbsup:  Maybe once the Hebs get too big for us to cope.........
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Genetics.....
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2011, 11:44:38 pm »
Sally - going back to the CM x Shetland.  I think it would be well worth a try.  The Shetland crosses are usually good, with more size than you might expect.  We have crossed Shetland and Soay and the lambs are every bit as big as the Shetland and sturdy too, with the good quality meat of both.
But don't forget that with primitive meat you are not really looking for a large carcase but a slow-grown, low-fat, tasty one, so your wether offspring should sell well, especially to local touristy restaurants.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

 

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