Woodland Creek Soay Rams

Woodland Creek Soay Rams
Soay Sheep Ram Assortment

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More Excellent Soay Lambing Results!

We have really done well in the "genetics lottery" this year. Our last post was about the self-colored light phase success. Now for our other two groups - white spotting on self-colored black ("black and whites", or B&W), and extensive white spotting ("EWS") on any pattern.
We had a very nice ram lamb from one of our B&W ewes, Harley. The photo below is Hopi, a nicely marked B&W ram.
Hopi '13 - ram. Dam Harley, sire Rowdy.
 I still really enjoy the stark contrast between deep black lamb coats and the pure whites. 

The more exciting lambing result happened recently, however. I have been studying the white spotting gene, and I have a "new" theory about underlying genetics of extensive white spotting, and that it is different from the "gradual white spotting" I have been getting so far in my B&Ws.
I purchased an EWS ram, RBST, to see how this genotype worked into the flock. Saltmarsh Alston was a good sire for this trait as he is clearly "EWS". (Note in particular that his horns are about half-white and half dark - very nicely marked!)
Saltmarsh Alston '08 Dark Wild with Extensive White Spotting
 It has taken a couple generations, but I am now convinced there is a different "EWS" genetic basis for this white spotting. Here is our most recent lamb, Orvieto:
Woodland Creek Gwyneth and her 2013 ram lamb, Orvieto.
You can see that his dam has virtually no white spotting (although she has a tiny wisp of white, suggesting that she does carry the "regular" Ss/Ss gene). Orvieto has the typical locations for extensive white spotting - head, ears, feet, tail, and irregular spots on the body. 
Woodland Creek Orvieto '13 - ram
While he is very light in his brown coat, and his sire Alston has been shown to carry the light phase recessive brown gene, I think, based upon his skin color around his eyes, that he is actually dark phase. Since there is no pigment near his horn buds, I predict that his horns will lack pigment, that is, be white or "horn colored". Time will tell!

I'll close this post with an update on the  self-colored light phase (SCLP or "chocolate") Soay lambs progress. All are growing like weeds and all are "aggressively horned". They are sure a lovely color, and to my surprise there is some variation in intensity of the brown between some of them. 
Six SCLP Soay lambs play on the compost pile.
They are a lovely color and all growing horns aggressively!
Although they are fading a bit with sun-bleaching, one ram lamb in particular has always been very dark brown.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 Soay Sheep Lambing at Woodland Creek Farm

Wow - what a successful lambing year!
Our breeding goals were to 1) produce more self-colored light-phase (SCLP, or "chocolate") lambs to add to the (only) 4 that existed in North America in 2012, and 2) to extend the white on our "black and white" (B&W) line, and 3) attempt to get extensive white spotting in RBST Soay. Let's take them in order.
Self-colored Light Phase:
Blue Mountain Express, the only mature SCLP Soay ram in NA, was the sire for all ewes in this group. 
Blue Mountain Express '08
 We had two SCLP ewes (Cocoa and her '12 daughter, Ozette). Both were certain to have SCLP lambs with Express, and did, and better yet, Cocoa had twins.
Blue Mountain Cocoa '08 and '13 twin SCLP lambs Carob-r and Candi-e.

 Ozette, gave us a nice little SCLP ewe lamb, Erin.
Ozette '12 and SCLP Erin-e '13.
I really like the color of the SCLP lambs. Now that I have seen a few, there is no doubt when they are born. 
Woodland Creek Zooey-e '13.
 Now for the "second-string". There are two genetic makeups that each have a 50% chance of producing SCLP lambs with an SCLP sire. We have both: one is a light phase wild pattern ewe with hidden self (A+/Aa, Bb/Bb); the other is self-colored dark phase, recessive for light phase (Aa/Aa, BB/Bb). Since both have 3 of 4 genes for SCLP, I call them "3/4 SCLPs". 
We have 3 of the first group - light wild phenotype. EVERY ONE OF THEM gave us an SCLP lamb! 
WC Zillah gave us SCLP Zooey-e '13.
WC Indigo and SCLP Iris-e, note white poll wisp!
WC Nazca and SCLP ewe lamb
The other 2 potential ewes for SCLP - the blacks with hidden light phase, both produced dark phase lambs (that is, black) so while genetically interesting they look exactly like any other solid black Soay.. except that one does have a white wisp at his poll. 
WC Mickey and WC Minnie (twins) and '13 ewe lambs. All are genetically the same: Aa/Aa, BB/Bb, so "3/4" SCLPs

So the total tally? Six more SCLP lambs added to our flock - 4 ewes and 2 rams. Two of the ewes have a few white hairs at their poll, and one ewe has a wisp, so white spotting is also definitely present in this group. Here is a group photo of all 5 dams and their 6 lambs.
Two SCLP Ewes with 3 SCLP lambs, and 3 light-wild hidden self ewes with 3 SCLP lambs.
   Enough for now - I'll cover our other breeding group results in a separate post.

Friday, April 6, 2012

2012 Lambing Season

Wow, what a Soay lambing season we have had (I am pretty sure we are finished--several maiden ewes that do not appear to be pregnant). As others have reported, lots of twins this year. We had 5 sets of twins, and 7 singles. One twin was stillborn, so 16 live lambs total. More than I wanted or needed, but what is one to do? And boy are they cute.

Again in 2011/2012 we had 3 main breeding groups:
1. Self-colored Light Phase (SCLP)
2. Self-colored Dark Phase with white spotting (Black & Whites, or just B&W)
3. Extensive White spotting, RBST Soays

The rams for these groups were:
1. Blue Mountain Express
2. Woodland Creek Yosemite
3. Saltmarsh Alston

It would be a very long post if I described all interesting lambing results in one post, so here I will only discuss the most exciting--the fruition of 5 years of effort--production of a self-colored light-phase NA Soay here at Woodland Creek.
As far as I know, of the ~3,500 Soay sheep documented in North America, there have previously only be 4 SCLP Soays produced, and all of these at Kate Montgomery's Blue Mountain Soays. The first two, a ram (Hershey) and a ewe (Snickers), were born in 2007.
Anyone who would like to understand how Kate achieved the first SCLP can study the diagram below which I believe shows the likely sources for the self-colored and light phase genes. (Click to enlarge).

The ram sired two more, again one ram (Express) and one ewe (Cocoa), in 2008.
Hershey was sold and died without siring any more lambs after his first year duties at Blue Mountain. Snickers was also sold and it is believed that she never lambed (although her eventual fate is somewhat uncertain).
Both Express and Cocoa were then sold to separate farms--neither one to me (sad face), so I decided to work toward breeding my own SCLPs. A multi-year approach to achieve this is to first mate self-colored dark phase ("blacks", that is Aa/Aa, BB,BB) with light wild (A+/A+, Bb/Bb). I used a black ram with several light wild ewes, and a light wild ram with several black ewes. All the lambs from these matings HAVE to be what I call "1/2 SCLP", as they have half the needed genes for SCLP, albeit all recessive. Accordingly, NONE of them will show either self-coloring or light phase--they all look "regular" dark wild pattern.
The problem arises in the next generation the following year. The only chance of producing SCLP is using two "1/2 SCLP" parents. But each can give either of two allelles at each locus for pattern and color, thus there are 16 genotypes possible, and only one of those is SCLP... really bad odds, needing to produce many, many lambs. Even worse, many genotypes will be indistinguishable from the phenotype, so one cannot bet that using ANY of the resulting lambs will EVER produce SCLP, as one cannot be sure which, if any are carrying just one copy of the recessive gene. Sigh.
As luck would have it, though, Blue Mountain Cocoa became available to me in the fall of 2009. With an SCLP available, mating with a 1/2 SCLP gives far better odds. Now since the SCLP can only give Aa and Bb, the 1/2 SCLP can give only 2 of 4 options, and thus there are exactly 4 genotypes and 4 phenotypes possible. And one can be sure of the lamb genotype from the phenotype, which is very good for future breeding decisions.
Cocoa was bred to Woodland Creek Sequoyah, one of the '08 1/2SCLP rams. The resulting lamb, Dakotah '10, was dark self, thus his genotype has to be Aa/Aa, BB/Bb, or what I now call a "3/4 SCLP", as he carries three of the four genes needed.
Cocoa '08 and Dakotah '10 r
Then in another great stroke of luck, Express became available to me in January of 2010, and along with him came 4 light-wild ewes, all bred by Express.
Blue Mountain Expess '08 in 2010

Each lamb from these matings would have to produce 3/4 SCLPs. All had to be light phase, and since it was very unlikly that any of the ewes carried self recessive, all lambs would be A+/Aa, Bb/Bb, or a light wild phenotype, but with a known recessive for self. From these we obtained a number of ram and ewe 3/4 SCLP lambs. Each of these ewe lambs then, when mated with Express (the only full SCLP ram around...) should give the highest odds ever for an SCLP - 50%, as every lamb has to be light phase, and 50% A+/Aa, 50% Aa/Aa, or SCLP.
Unfortunately, 2011 was not a good year for the SCLP program here. We had real problems with coccidiosis and lost several of the ewe lambs. The survivors were not large enough to breed in thier first year. And inexplicalby, mating Express and Cocoa--which HAD to produce SCLP--did not produce a lamb. So lets just skip over 2011....
In fall of 2011 Express was bred with one light wild ewe, one 1/2 SCLP ewe, , one 3/4 SCLP ewe, and one full SCLP.
The light wild ewe, almost certainly without recessive self, had to produce a "3/4 SCLP", and had a beautiful little ewe, Nazca.
Skylonda Imagine and Woodland Creek Nazca '12, 3/4 SCLP

In a later post I will discuss a my new belief about the phenotype of 3/4 SCLP Soays that are light wild but carrying self recessive. For now just note the quite uniform warm brown coloration. This is very typical of all such genotype we have had born here.
With the 1/2 SCLP ewe, Molly, there was a 25% chance of each genotype and corresponding phenotype. Molly had twin ewes, both the same genotype, and while not SCLP, they were the next best--self-dark with light phase recessive. These two ewes will be very good for producing SCLP in the future.
Woodland Creek Molly and twin ewes Minnie and Mickey '12

Note that one lamb also has a white poll spot. This shows that Express therefore also carries white spotting recessive, which is great news. The only thing rarer than SCLP is SCLP with white spotting!
With the 3/4 SCLP ewe, Indigo, Expess produced a ram lamb (Chinle) which was A+/Aa, Bb/Bb, or light wild phenotype, just like the dam. He too has the gorgeous coloring I now believe is the consistent genotype of light 3/4 SCLPs.
Woodland Creek Indigo and ram lamb Chinle '12, a 3/4 SCLP
Finally, the coup de grace, with Cocoa, an SCLP, Express did produce a ewe lamb (Ozette) this year--the first ever SCLP at Woodland Creek and as far as I know only the 3rd still-living SCLP Soay sheep in North America. Ozette has the most unusual lamb coat color I have ever seen in a Soay sheep, and I never tire of watching her.
Blue Mountain Cocoa '08 and ewe lamb Woodland Creek Ozette '12
Ozette's coat just glows in the sunlight, and is very hard to photograph well. But here are a few more shots.

And finally, the proud sire in his current near-mature headgear.
Blue Mountain Expess '08
More later....

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Lambing Results

Our scaled- back flock gave us a much more manageable crop of lambs this year. We ended up with ten lambs - 6 rams and 4 ewes. Only one set of twins, and quite a few ewes that did not lamb - both due to yearling ewes and yearling rams. A few high points with the lambs, but all In all not the results I had hoped for.

A brief recitation of our 2011 goals and results.
First, we did get the first two registrable full RBST (so-called "British") Soay lambs here at Woodland Creek. This group is actually testing my thinking on how extensive white spotting is inherited in Soay sheep. The ram, Saltmarsh Alston (RBST), has extensive white spotting.

Saltmarsh Alston

While none of the ewes he was mated with showed white spotting, I wanted to get some lambs carrying a copy of his white spotting (as well as producing our first RBST Soays here at WCF). Alston produced ewe lamb singles with our two RBST ewes, and a ram lamb with a 50% RBST ewe. Only one of the lambs had white spotting - and that only a tiny white wisp of white at her poll. Unfortunately this same ewe lamb later got her head stuck through the fence overnight and coyotes on the outside of the fence got her. (Ugh!).
It did demonstrate, however, that the dam carries a copy of white spotting gene, which had not yet shown up in any of her previous lambs. The dam is light phase, and so was the lamb, to my surprise, meaning that Alston also carries light phase (that is, he is BB/Bb).
Our second breeding group is the "Self-colored Light Phase", or SCLP group (the coat color that Kate Montgomery at Blue Mountain dubbed "chocolate"). Having one SCLP ram (Blue Mountain Express) and one SCLP ewe (Blue Mountain Cocoa) "assured" that we would have more SCLP lamb(s), however, for some reason Cocoa did not get pregnant. Both Express and Cocoa have produced offspring, so that's not the problem. It could be a size mis-match. Cocoa is quite large, and Express not.
Blue Mountain Express
He was also penned with "half-SCLP" ewes - ones that in prior years were produced by mating dark-self  with light-wild. This HAS to produce offspring that look dark-self, but genetically are A+/Aa and BB/Bb, which then should have exactly 25% odds of each of the 4 possible genotypes when mated with Express as an SCLP ram (Aa/Aa, Bb/Bb, SS/S?). Mated with Woodland Creek Molly, a half-SCLP, she produced a dark-self ram lamb, "Mikey". A very nice ram lamb, but just a solid black with no spotting. He will be retained as a "backup" ram since he has to be Aa/Aa, BB/Bb, that is a "3/4 SCLP". An interesting ram lamb phenotype was produced with the dam Skylonda Imagine. She almost certainly does NOT carry self-colored gene, so the lamb HAD to be wild pattern, but also had to be light phase. The ram lamb, Ish, has such a faint wild pattern marking as to almost appear to be self-colored (but he's not). He too has to be "3/4 SCLP" (A+/Aa, Bb/Bb) and will also be retained both as backup and to see how his coat colors develop.

Woodland Creek Ish (Express X Imagine)
The other yearling ewe lambs from last year that were intentionally "3/4 SCLP", each of whom would have a 50% chance of producing SCLP with Express, were not large enough / mature enough to get pregnant, so no SCLP Soays produced this year at Woodland Creek.
The third (and final) breeding group was our "Black and Whites", or "B&W". That is, adding white spotting to dark-self. This year we took a step back in extending white spotting and instead chose a ram with less white, but better conformation. I am convinced that by too narrowly using closely related parents I had achieved pretty poor conformation, so wanted to diversify and improve that this year. The B&W used ram was Woodland Creek Lightning, who has a poll, forehead, and neck splash of white.

Woodland Creek Lightning '10 (Yosemite X Nisqually)

Lightning produced 4 lambs with 3 B&W ewes (one set of twins). Since all parents were Aa/Aa, BB/BB?, Ss/Ss, all offspring are also B&W. We had one nicely marked ram lamb, Rowdy.
Woodland Creek Rowdy '11 (Lightning X Raven)
The twin B&W lambs, a ram and a ewe, were both moderately marked with somewhat unusual smaller, dispersed bits of white around the poll, forehead, and neck. This is actually the "pattern" of white shown by the dam, Teed's Cinnamon.
Domino - ram and Caldera - ewe '11 (Lightning X Cinnamon)
All these B&W lambs had about the extent of white spotting that I expected / hoped for, but the last B&W lamb contradicted my theories. This ram lamb, born to our most extensively white-spotted ewe Athena, had only the tiniest of a white wisp at his poll. I guess this shows that the extent of white spotting is not exactly predictable or quantitative (and probably that my theory needs refinement(s)).

Ansel '11 (Lightning x Athena)
I'll close this posting with an overview of our assortment of mature rams, showing the diversity of genotypes and phenotypes we have in our flock.
Woodland Creek Farm Ram Assortment
Virtually every combination of Soay coat pattern, color phase, and white spotting is present somewhere in this photo! (Well not every combo, as that would be 2^3 = 8...but you get the idea).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2011 Soay Lambs at Woodland Creek

While we already have some 2011 lambs already on the ground, the arrival yesterday was one of my favorites and long-time breeding goals - the "black-and-white" (B&W) Soay sheep. I have always liked white spotting on self-colored dark phase (solid black) Soays. After seeking and obtaining self-colored Soays with tiny white poll markings early in my Soay years, I have been increasing the extent of the white spotting in each succeeding generation. Here is yesterday's lamb (a ram) to Woodland Creek Raven '07, by first-time sire Woodland Creek Lightning '09 :

Woodland Creek Rowdy '10 - Raven's "Black-and-White" ram lamb

The bad thing about B&W Soays is that they are hard to photograph, especially new lambs as they are like black holes - the fresh, often wet black hair barely returns any light, and most digital cameras have algorithms that attempt to balance the overall photo to medium gray tones...but I digress. Here is the new lamb with his dam. You can see that she only has a small poll white spot (the white hair on her nose is age-white, not white spotting gene).

Raven '07 and Rowdy '11 - her B&W ram lamb

Here is the sire - you can see that he has less white than his first lamb, the ram above.

Woodland Creek Lightning '10

As for our other 2011 lambs, we did have another nice "3/4" Self-colored Light phase (SCLP) lamb. Like last year, Skylonda Imagine (a light-wild ewe) was bred to the SCLP ram Express. As before, the resulting lambs express the dominant wild pattern, but (I believe) because they also carry a copy of the self-colored gene recessive, the pattern is very "muted". That is to say, when the lambs are new and wet I almost always think they are self-colored light phase, as the wild pattern is so indistinct. Here is a photo of Imagine's 2011 ram lamb, Ish (click on photo to enlarge and see detail - note the uniformity of coloring on the top of the nose, at the chin, and on his legs).

Woodland Creek Ish '11 - Imagine X Express

I will be saving this ram lamb in reserve in case I need a fallback for producing more self-colored light phase Soays.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lambing for final light-wild Skylonda Soay ewe at Woodland Creek

Saturday the last of the four light-wild Soay ewes from Skylonda finally lambed. As with the others, the sire was the self-light ram Express. Another ewe! That makes four ewes and only one ram. All will be what I call "3/4 SCLP" - that is, all are homozygous for light phase, and heterozygous for self-colored. As such each has a 50:50 chance, mated to a self-light ram, of producing more self-light Soays. This is as good of odds as there have been for a long time!
Skylonda Ginger and Dam Skylonda Geege
Only 3 or 4 more ewes to lamb this year. One for sure, the others may not be pregnant. With 17 live lambs on the ground, I don't need too many more this year!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Two new lambs and a stroke of luck

Two more light-phase Skylonda ewes lambed last week. Each had a single, one a ewe and one a ram. With Blue Mountain Express as sire (self-colored light phase) the lambs HAD to be light phase, and as neither ewe was likely to be carrying self-colored gene, the lambs were both light-wild pattern.
Skylonda Indigo '10 - ewe with dam Skylonda Imagine
Skylonda Escalante '10 - ram with Dam Skylonda Georgianna
My stroke of luck was this. I have the entire ewe and lamb flock accessing the far paddock way up our back hill - which I cannot see from the house and yard. After coming home from work I decided I had better traipse up there and check on one ewe that is close to lambing. After watching them all a while, I spot the lamb Indigo acting funny, then realize that in fact she is stuck. Stuck in the fork of a twin-trunk hawthorne sapling! She had apparently launched herself through the gap, and after getting her shoulders through, wedged just ahead of her hips, with her back feet an inch off the ground. Stuck for who knows how long. And these Skylonda lambs don't cry out much, nor did the dam seem concerned at all. I rescued her and she did not seem stiff or cold, so after a bit of massage she ran to mom and started suckling, so I guess no damage done. Here is the "lamb snare" hawthorne, with a "re-creation" of the stuck lamb using my gloves.
I would have never thought of this (never did, obviously) as a risk. Since I don't count heads every day, and had to work the next couple days, it is likely the lamb would have expired had I not, by chance, decided to go up and visit.
Naturally, the one trunk of the hawthorne was removed to eliminate the hazard. The ewes enjoyed getting their revenge on the "almost killer" hawthorne.