Some shepherds specialize in off-white sheep so they can dye the wool to their specifications, but I like the naturally occurring colors, too. I’m still in the building phase of my operation and have just four adult ewes and a single ram right now. Come early April I am expecting anywhere from 5 to 9 lambs, the majority of which I am offering for sale (see page on reserving a lamb). According to the published genetics of color in this breed, the colored/black sheep should bear black lambs and the white ewes should bear white lambs that carry the colored gene from their dad* (see footnote for my 2 cents). Ewe lambs from these matings, when they mature, can then give birth to either white or black lambs depending on the genetics of the ram they are bred to. Here’s a little about each of my registered Babydolls:
J. C. is my 2 year old ram. His value as breeding stock is based on his RR genetics, medium stature (not too large nor small), and his fleece color. He’s the source of my “Espresso” wool. I’m excited at how saturated the color of his fleece still is and hope he passes that “color persistence” trait on to his offspring. He will contribute a gene (R) for Scrapies resistance to all off-spring.
The Girls, from the left in the photo above:
Iris (off-white) is the one ewe I know the codon composition of: RR. That means she will pass on resistance to Scrapies to all of her offspring. She is the oldest of my ewes at 4 years. She had still-born twins last year so I am hoping for twins again in 2014.
Fergie (black) is my “semi-sweet” chocolate Ewok. She is Katie’s mom and did a good job raising her first lamb, Katie, in 2013.
Claire (off-white) is my lead ewe and mother of Nina. I’m impressed with her conformation and eyes clear of wool. Her registered pedigree indicates her maternal grandsire, although off-white, was the child of two black sheep(???!!!) As near as I can figure, she has perhaps a 75% chance of carrying the gene for blackness. She is not expected to lamb this year according to the ultrasound performed on March 17th.
Hattie (black) is the most timid of my girls. She was a great first-time mother last year to Matilda, who went to a very fine home. Her fleece was cafe au lait last year, but seems to be fading a bit. One ewe lamb from Hattie will be retained (tentatively).
Katie (black) is my dear, first born ewe lamb from 2013. She WILL be lambing this year due to J.C.’s crashing the fence and not being repenned for 3 days.
Nina (off-white) Our bottle baby from last year with personality plus! Her lamb, if a ewe, will be retained to build the flock. I hope she takes note of the mothering practices of the older ewes before she lambs. She is expected to lamb 2 weeks after the older ewes.
- Being trained as a geneticist and having read up on the color genetics of Shetland and Icelandic sheep, I think this single locus – 2 allele model of the colors is too simplistic = not likely to represent the whole story. If it did, there is no way Claire could be white from two black parents. However, it hasn’t been that many years that the Babydoll registries (yes, there are two) accepted non-white sheep, so the documentation of the fleece colors correlating with the pedigrees is still rather sparse. I’m excited that this year’s crosses will help me to sort out the color genetics of at least my flock.