Sheep genetics are tricky

Our rams are both yearlings now and it’s interesting to see how different they look.  Shaft is a giant brown puffball who will produce a long, soft, really nice fleece for the fall shearing.  Bucky is a big hunk of ivory colored muscle and density, who will provide an excellent dressing percentage when his breeding days are over.

Even though both rams were “bred for good fleeces and solid meat conformation”, they each clearly favor one trait over the other.  Wool and meatiness as traits are sadly not all that complementary.  A lot of breeders spend years on end and multiple breeding groups trying to thread the needle and get a Bucky-level of meatiness with a Shaft-like soft, high-value fleece.  Sometimes they get there, but just seeing the starkness of the difference was valuable.

The two traits work against each other to some extent because growing lots of wool takes away from building up muscle, as both require protein.  Milkiness or milkability (not the same, the latter is a group of traits really) are more complementary, as we have some serious milkiness in our ewes despite fleece quality ranging from felt to possibly fall-level ok in a spring fleece.  And temperament is much the same– Bucky is a very gentle ram and we will totally work to keep that going in the flock, as a jerkish ram is a lot more trouble than a jerkish ewe.

So while we have breeding goals, we aren’t expecting to get exactly what we want with a specific trait just because we picked stock with “good genetics”.  It’s also been instructive to see Bucky’s offspring and the range there between his genetics and those of the mothers.

Tricky stuff, genetics.


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