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  • Coopworth Breeding Stock
  • Handspinning Fleeces, Roving and Felting Batts
  • Lambing Records

    Excerpt from "INSTALLMENT II: Lambing Records for Raising Performance Recorded Sheep-What and Why", the Shepherd magazine
    By E. Hope Allen Yankey, Wild 'n' Woolly Coopworths, Mathias, West Virginia

    Record keeping for raising PERFORMANCE RECORDED sheep is not difficult.
    In the selection of sheep for future breeding purposes, performance records form the basis for making the decisions as to which sheep are retained and which ones are culled.

    The American Coopworth Registry presently allows all pedigreed Coopworth sheep to be registered, but for those who choose Performance Designation, only 70% of any ewe lamb crop and 30% of any ram lamb crop can be retained or sold as Performance Designated registered breeding stock.

    The selection decisions are tough ones. Some sheep APPEAR more desirable, more productive, and more profitable than others. And, in fact, the ugliest, scrawniest ewes are often the best producers! (I can't help here, but be reminded of a song some time back that suggests you "get an ugly girl to marry you!") Computer generated mathematical analysis of performance data (i.e., birth rank, birth weight, weaning weight, wool weight, staple length, etc.) eases the decision making process. It is possible as a participant in computer based programs that calculate Estimated Breeding Value , EBV's, or Expected Progeny Differentials, EPD's. to obtain reports or summaries which list for any given year, the lambs born, the ewes bred, and the rams which sired those lambs, for any number of genetic traits, from most productive to least!

    EBV's and EPD's can be calculated for within flock or across flock comparisons (if there are enough genetic links among flocks for which participating members have traded or bought rams or ewes from one another). The database utilizes weighted averages and estimated 'profitability' criteria to provide the means for comparisons of sheep within and between flocks of differing sizes, ages, environments, and management conditions. Predictions that define TOP PERFORMING LAMBS on the basis of the performance of their dams, their sires, and ALL ancestors within an individual flock or among all participating flocks are far more realistic than calculations which simply list lambs on the basis of ADG (average daily gain) or WW (weaning weight). BVE's and EPD's are tools! Visual assessment, soundness, wool-character "inspections", and that ever present "gut feeling" should NOT to be overlooked when making the final selection of those ewes, rams, and lambs for retained or replacement breeding stock. Nevertheless, trust computer evaluations to tell you just how well OR how poor a particular individual is truly performing!

    Some records are obvious, more or less 'critical', and routine as to ewe or dam, ram or sire, birth date, birth rank as to single, twin, triplet, etc., lamb tag ID or tattoo, weaning weight, etc. Others, in part, are determined by the goals you, as a breeder or a breeder member of a larger group (like a registry), have established for flock improvement. Choose your goals.

    Define the traits that are important in your flock-those traits which you wish to improve, those which bring you the most profit.
    Early lambing requires recording conception dates and/or gestation.
    Prolificacy, with regards to improved productivity, requires recording lambing indices as to the "number of lambs born" and the "number of lambs reared".
    Ease of lambing requires noting that a ewe or dam was or was NOT assisted during birthing.
    Ease of mothering requires noting whether a ewe or dam sufficiently cleaned and nurtured her lamb(s) at birthing.
    Longevity requires noting a ewe's or dam's condition, teeth wear, and bone strength.
    Hardiness requires noting a ewe's (or dam's) and ram's (or sire's) health and condition as well as her or his ability to impart sufficient growth to their lambs.
    Fast growth requires noting lamb weights, pre-, at, and post-weaning, for your particular management conditions.
    Ease of management requires noting how approachable and workable a ewe, ram, or lamb might be during lambing, shearing, or mustering. It might also mean looking at feed / forage efficiency and the ability of the sheep in question to grow out or stay in good condition with little or no supplementation with concentrated feeds.
    Wool character requires noting any number of traits: color, luster, crimp or diameter, britchiness, kemp, bulk, resistance to rain rot, yield, evenness, weight, staple length and formation.
    Soundness requires noting conformation, feet and leg placement, movement, and resistance to foot problems.

    This pretty well covers the gamete of traits to consider in establishing goals for selection within your flock. Selecting to record for computer analysis more than one or two traits at any one time can confound your results statistically and make gains slow to notice. However, keeping records that assess soundness, management, and wool-character for all sheep within your flock will only make you a better shepherd and a more observant judge.

    Jim and Martha McGrath
    HC 72 Box 14D
    Franklin, WV, 26807
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