Woodland Creek Soay Rams

Woodland Creek Soay Rams
Soay Sheep Ram Assortment

Monday, April 30, 2007

More Evidence for phenotype hypothesis

Yesterday I received a phone call from a Soay sheep client from last year. He purchased Massena's Bonita - a self-colored black horned ewe, and Bad Goat Bog Fedan - dark mouflon pattern ram. They produced twin ram lambs about a month ago, and the results add additional support to my contention that "carriers" of the self-colored agouti allele (heterozygous for the recessive allele) tend to be very dark mouflon pattern. Here is a photo of the dam and sire and the twin lambs. (The client also has the two blackbelly crosses shown in the photo - don't be thinking they are oddly marked Soay sheep!). (Click to enlarge photo.)

To be clear, since the dam is self-colored black, she had to give one copy to each twin, so they are heterozygous for the self-colored agouti gene. The twin ram lambs are not only dark, but like their sire they have a very strong load of the reddish-brown pheomelanin pigment. These are going to be quite nice looking rams. You may note that the ram on the left also has white spotting exhibited. Although you can't see it in this photo, the sire Fedan has a white poll spot and a white spot on the side of his neck. But for the ram lamb to exhibit white, he has to be homozygous, thus had to get a copy from his dam Bonita. I had no clue from Bonita's prior 4 lambs (all of whom I own) that she carried white spotting. You may note that Fedan was a ram I included in my Picasa album as a suspect for carrying self-colored black, so I halfway expected black lambs from his breeding with Bonita. (This outcome of course does not prove he doesn't carry black.)

My conviction about the phenotype of very dark mouflon Soay sheep being heterozygous for self-colored is growing stronger.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Phenotype of Soay sheep carriers of agouti self-color gene

We had another Soay sheep lamb born at Woodland Creek Farm on Monday morning (23-Apr-07). Massena's Rosalina gave birth to a nice little ewe, Yaquina. The sire was Deer Park Hjemstad's Thor, a self-colored black NA Soay ram. Therefore, the ewe lamb has to carry one copy of the self-color allele at the agouti gene locus (controls coat pattern - self-colored (solid coat pattern) or wild (aka 'mouflon') pattern are the two choices found in Soay sheep). Here is a photo of day-old Yaquina.

While it is somewhat hard to tell in a photo of her standing by herself, she is quite dark and to me supports my strengthening hypothesis that there is a correlation between very dark coat colors and s-c agouti carriers. I have assembled a photo folder in my Picasa album showing those NA Soays that lead me to believe there is more than a circumstantial correlation. If you visit our web site and click on the Gallery button, then the Picasa album, you will find the folder.


Now don't misunderstand me - I'm not yet claiming I have proof that ALL NA Soay carriers of s-c agouti will be very dark, nor that all very dark NA Soays are carriers, but IF I had one that was very dark and it were possible that they were a carrier (one parent a known carrier, for example), I would say that it is a decent bet that the dark Soay carried it.
To me this may well explain the observation of many that the Blue Mountain stock is well-known for producing many "mahogany" NA Soays. Since the majority of the NA Soays with self-colored agouti alleles arose from stock from Blue Mountain, it is logical (and known) that many of these "mahogany" Soays carry the s-c agouti allele. This would also mean that if the phenotype of a heterozygote at agouti locus has a distinctly darker coat than homozygous wild agouti pattern, the wild allele is not fully dominant over the recessive self-colored allele.
Of course this is somewhat of a no-risk contention, because given a dark phenotype, one can never prove for certain that a Soay DOES NOT have a copy of the s-c allele, no matter how many lambs they produce.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Oops! I did it again...

I guess this bottle lamb thing is contagious. Yesterday I picked up yet another bottle Soay sheep lamb - our fourth one for this year. I discovered from a fellow Soay sheep breeder that a lamb had in her flock had been orphaned when the dam died trying to deliver a second, stillborn, breach lamb. This is not just any ewe, but the venerable old Blue Mountain Velvet. Some of you may know that she was a self-colored black ewe and had the distinction of being one of only about 4 or 5 Soays in North America ever known to have triplets - and one of only 3 where all 3 survived.
More importantly, this little ram lamb is marked just the way I like them - homozygous for both self-colored black and white spotting genes. Here is what the little guy (Blue Mountain Orca) looks like. He is with his buddy the bottle lamb Jack: (click photo to enlarge)

Now the only real problem is feeding 4 bottle lambs at once. Everybody is pushing and shoving and near death of starvation, so there is no waiting patiently. I taped two of the milk bottles together with duct tape, making a 'double-barrel' feeding bottle. That way, with one bottle between my knees, the double-barrel in my right hand, and a single in my left, all 4 lambs fed successfully at once this morning!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bottle Soay Sheep lambs - status update

The orphaned bottle lambs we took on two weeks ago are thriving. It was a blessing in disguise to get 3 at once, as they have become great chums. We did not have any of our own flock lambs at that time, and without their mothers around to hang out with, I think a single bottle baby would have been very lonely. We keep all 3 bottle lambs in with the ewe flock, and to my relief all 3 are remaining pretty skittish EXCEPT at feeding time. Once they are done, they are off like a shot and cannot be caught (unless you corner them with the infamous salmon net, of course). I don't want the problematic tame bottle-baby ram issue when the two ram lambs grow up.
Here is a photo of the three of them a couple days ago. They are, left to right, Champ -r, Sadie - e, and Jack - r. (Click photo to enlarge)

We have now had two lambs born at Woodland Creek Farm so far this year. They are very late this year for some reason (well, the reason is obvious - they were bred late. I mean the reason for that is unclear...) Here is our first-born 2007 lamb, Woodland Creek Cherokee '07 - r.

Here's a photo of Cherokee standing. He is heterozygous for white spotting (a 'carrier'), but therefore does not exhibit any white.

Our second lamb was from a 'wild' or 'mouflon' pattern ewe, but with a self-colored black sire (Thor) the lamb has to be heterozgous for agouti self-colored (that is, she is a 'carrier'). Here is Woodland Creek Arikara. Dam is Massena's Rosita, sire is Deer Park Hjemstad's Thor.

Very nice to have enough lambs to play with each other on the scrap hay pile.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Don't try this at home.

Well, after offering up advice on a sheep discussion group at how to readily capture our wild, leaping Soay sheep, I run into, (literally) trouble myself. I was giving yearling Soay sheep rams their annual vaccinations, worming, and hoof trimming. This involves first capturing, then 'man-handling' the sheep into submission. Soay sheep are not very large, particularly not yearling rams, so it is a 'one-man job'. Normally. I had successfully captured, treated, and moved a couple older rams already, and was turning my attention to the third of the rams, a yearling. I chased them all back behind the shed into a dead-end alleyway, then I get ready to capture the one I want by grabbing him by the horns as he rushes by me.
The only thing is that certain Soay sheep love to leap. This one, Woodland Creek Chico, eluded me on the first pass by leaping about 4 feet high (at least it seemed that high) and as he sailed by me, he kicked his back legs and I thought to myself that his hoof came pretty close to my eyes. Probably should be wearing safety glasses (which I usually do, as the ewe horns can stab you right in the eye as you are handling them). But of course I don't want to walk all the way back to the garage to get safety glasses. So I round them up again, and again try to nab little Chico.
(here is the mug shot of the perp)

This time, as he sails by in the air about 4 feet high, somehow his devilish little horns come smack into contact with the bridge of my nose. I go down to my knees like a shot, blood pouring out of my nose. I cannot believe I just did this. It was such a shocking blow that I am sure my nose is broken. I am so mad that I am going to look like such an idiot to get my nose broken by a little 60-lb sheep. I had just previously called my wife on the cell phone to have her bring me the vaccine from the refrigerator (you know - dirty sheep boots and can't go in the house) so I knew she was in the shower and wouldn't answer the phone. I have a handkerchief staunching the blood flow, but tipping my head back I can feel blood running down my throat (sorry if this grosses anyone out - it sure did me!). I can't go in the house with sheep-crap boots, but finally I get them off and go in and holler for my wife. She calls our son, who is a EMT / Firefighter, and he says DON't tip your head back - you'll swallow blood and throw up...
So anyway, to make a long story short, my nose wasn't broken. The bleeding stopped. There is a pretty good chunk out of the outside of my too. And no, I won't be posting any photos of the results to my nose.
Now I recommend using the giant salmon landing net that I have used on previous occasions.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What a day! Now at last I have a Farmall Cub Tractor

I have wanted for many years to own a International Farmall Cub tractor. I have watched eBay auctions, local ads, farm ads, and it always seemed that the good deals were in Ohio or New York or somewhere back East. It is way too expensive to go that far for a little tractor. There have been a few locally, and in each case there were many mechanical problems, parts missing, cracked radiator bases, welded blocks, etc. etc. So today as I leave our property to run an errand, there, about 1,000 yards down our street, is a Farmall Cub parked at the road with a For Sale sign on it.
After returning from my errands and go inspect the tractor. It is in very good shape. So now I own it. Runs fine - I drove it home! Here it is: (click photo to enlarge).

By the serial number it is a 1948 Cub. It has a faded, worn sticker showing that it was perhaps sold but at least serviced right here in Puyallup, Washington. Nice to have a "local".

First lamb of 2007 born at Woodland Creek!

I thought this day was never going to come. All my Soay sheep breeder colleagues have seemingly been having lambs for months. Finally, this morning when I went out at 6:30 to feed the 3 orphan lambs we collected over this last weekend, out stepped Happy Valley Maddie - a smooth, hairy coated dark 'mahogany' NA Soay, and at her heels... a self-colored (that is, solid) black lamb! What a surprise.
Most know that I am breeding for blacks, however Maddie was not considered a contender. Although way back in her pedigree is she has Butu, out of Westwood Zeus, whom I consider to be certainly the origin of much of the s-c black in the PNW NA Soays, I know of know evidence for several preceding generations that they actually passed on hidden s-c black. I must say though, that my speculative hypothesis - that very dark wild pattern NA Soays have a high likelihood of carrying one copy of the recessive s-c agouti gene - is borne out by this birth. (Also supported by Atlas, Basalt, Bella, Fedan, and others).
At any rate - here they are: (Click on photo to enlarge).

The little guy's name immediately popped into my head - Cherokee. (Yes, I know there has been or is a prior Soay in the PNW named Cherokee, but this is MY Cherokee). Woodland Creek Cherokee's sire is the self-colored black ram Deer Park Hjemstad's Thor. You can look up all pedigrees on the OFP if you are interested in such things.

I put Maddie and Cherokee off in a little fresh pasture by themselves, but then let the 3 orphan lambs join them. Who knows, maybe Maddie will adopt one of them. Judging by the size of Maddie's udder (that is, huge) she could easily feed another lamb. Cherokee is eating fine and playing already.

Here are the 3 "weekend orphans" meeting their new playmate.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sunday, 8-Apr-07. OMG - Another orphan Soay lamb.

Both the new Soay orphan ram lambs, Jack and the newly-named Champ, are feeding well and both go out with the ewe flock for the day. Both look very strong, and although there was some sign of scours developing, we tried the canned goat's milk diet starting mid-Saturday, and that seems to be 'firming them up'. Kaity, our daughter, is quite smitten with the tiny new lambs.

My plan for the day was to visit yet another long-time Soay sheep breeder who lives up north on Camano Island - Tracy Teed. Tracy has a very interesting Soay sheep flock. In many ways she has duplicated, in isolation from other flocks, the "regeneration" of a Soay phenotype when starting with a very small starting base of Soays and utilizing some unavoidable (and unfortunately fairly un-traceable) mixing of other breeds. This is essentially the history of the so-called "North American" Soay group in the Pacific Northwest. (This history can be best read on Kathie Miller's Southern Oregon Soays website.)

At any rate, the current Teed flock arose from only 7 Soays that were carefully chosen (by phenotype) in 1999 from a 11-year "open-flock breeding" that began in 1988 with Soays from Bev Driscoll down in Oregon. Bev got her stock from Dean Lewis (also in Oregon), who brought the first Soay ram into the Pacific NW US in about 1985. I have worked with Tracy to document the flock development, including historical photos, and someday hope to get that information organized enough to post.

So Tracy's flock has grown exponentially since the 7-Soay start in 1999. There have been no outside additions to the flock, and it was always run as a fully open-breeding flock - whatever ram(s) were most persistent were successful at breeding. A few rams were removed fromt the flock over the years, but largely they were left alone. When I first visited in 2005, I was amazed at the phenotypic diversity, which clearly showed presence of considerable genetic diversity for coat color genes. Of course the bulk of the flock was typical dark phase wild (or mouflon) pattern, there was also about 5% self-colored blacks (dark phase), and also perhaps 10% exhibited white spotting. I acquired 5 Teed Soays in that first visit, and intended to re-visit and check out new lambs each year.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and Tracy tells me she is planning a major flock reduction. I figure I better get up there and check them out before missing out on ones I might like to add to my breeding program. Anyone familiar with my Soay interests will know that one line I am cultivating is self-colored blacks. So not only do I find two very fine-looking self-colored black ewes at Tracy's, she shows me her pen of bottle-fed orphan lambs and I decide to also take an unusual white-faced ewe lamb as well. Here are the 3 new Teed Soay sheep we added to our flock. (Click photo to enlarge).

The ewe on the left, polled, has been named Tlingit. The ewe in the center (one I spied, and coveted, in 2005, and now finally own!) is named Cariboo. She has (for a self-colored black Soay) an unusual very light coloration to her horns. Finally, on the right, unfortunately looking away from the camera in this photo, is white-faced orphan ewe lamb, Sadie.

So here we are, in only 40 hours going from never having a bottle lamb to having 3 going at once.

We have spotted, in the last few weeks around here, one or more bald eagles flying very low, seeming to check out neighboring farms lambs. I am very concerned for our tiny Soay lambs safety. While out checking on the new orphan lambs on Sunday, I was startled when I suddenly realized that a pile of dried leaves I was passing had something alive in it's midst. Here a photo of a pretty effectively camouflaged day-old Soay lamb (Champ). (Click photo to enlarge).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Saturday, 7-Apr-07 – Another Orphan Soay Sheep Lamb

Still no lambs from Woodland Creek Farm .Soay Sheep ewes. Jack, the orphan lamb, is eating just fine. We introduced him to his new flock companions, putting him in with the ewe flock. There was a lot of curious sniffing, and Jack tried futilely to find an available milk spigot by checking under every ewes hind leg, but alas, none was to be found in working order yet (remember, no lambs yet at Woodland Creek Farm).

So Happy Jack feeds well all day Saturday, and he runs with the ewes, even crossing the (now nearly dry) Woodland Creek several times. One ewe, Kaya, has taken an interest in looking after him, even though she is not showing any signs yet of impending birth of her own lamb. Obviously, she cannot respond to his attempts to feed him, but she crosses and re-crossed the creekbed repeatedly to urge him safely across. Odd to me, as most of the ewes simply ignore him. Kaya is only a 2-year-old, and was honestly only a mediocre mother in her inagural lambing last year. Perhaps she is getting the hang of it.
So after bottle feeding Jack for his bedtime feeding about 10PM, I come back to find my cell phone ringing, and it is the nearby Soay breeder of the orphaned Jack again. With obvious consternation, she describes that she may have gotten mixed up in the confusion of dark of night and 4 nearly-identical lambs with 2 ewes, swirling around while trying to evade capture - and after observing the remaining 3 lambs all day Saturday, she now fears she captured and brought the wrong lamb. So we discuss our options, and to make a long story short(er), she brings a second orphan lamb over late on Saturday night! Since we now fear that the scent of the lamb replacer has now passed through the first lamb and he will be rejected by his mother, we decide not to risk hauling him back and maybe having to "re-orphan" him... so now we have 2 orphan Soay lambs. The second lamb eats greedily from a bottle and is put to bed on a full stomach, so we are confident he too is in good shape.

Friday, 6-Apr-07 - Orphan Soay Sheep Lamb!

Well, it seems like blogs are here to stay. Having always been conservative in embracing new electronic technological advances (never bought Sony Betamax – Whew!), I stood on the sidelines for a while to see if this World Wide Web thing, this email thing, this Google thing, this eBay thing, would really fly before jumping in whole-heartedly. I guess it’s time for me to accept blogs as well. Seems somehow a bit narcissistic, but I guess it is roughly the modern equivalent of a journal or diary, albeit a bit public.
So here goes….(in blog tradition, newest entries on top – scroll down to older stuff if you want to read in chronological order)

While we are waiting patiently (not!) here at Woodland Creek Farm for our own Soay sheep ewes to begin lambing—while seemingly every other breeder is gleefully reporting nearly daily on new lamb births—I received an email about 9PM from a local Soay sheep breeder whom I visited last summer. She asks for my phone number, saying she needs help with an orphan lamb. Upon calling, I discover that she has half-day-old twins, one of whom does not appear to be getting and “suckling time”, and whom the mother continually butts away in favor of the other twin.
The breeder has no lamb milk replacer on hand, nor any small lamb-size bottle nipples, and at 10PM at night is not likely to find any. I have them, and offer to supply them. As we discuss options though, she cannot (due to upcoming planned travel) take on a bottle lamb for the next couple months. She offers the lamb to me, but…it is a ram, and from fine genetic stock, but not carrying traits that fit with my breeding program goals. And like most breeders, I have a plethora of rams anyway. Last thing I need, I’m thinking, is another ram!
In addition, in the back of my mind, I am remembering last year, when for the first time I tried saving a premature Soay lamb. It was too small / weak to suckle, and due to my inexperience with using a stomach feeding tube I got milk in it’s lungs and it died of pneumonia within a couple days. Not an auspicious start. So I didn’t actually have a great deal of confidence that I could save this orphan either. We agreed that somehow the lamb and the supplies needed to get together either way, so she brought the lamb to our place, figuring we would decide then where both would end up that night (the lamb and supplies, that is).
While waiting for the lamb to arrive, my wife (Michelle) and I discussed whether she was up to caring for the orphan--as it would be mostly her job doing all the daytime feeding while I was gone. Then too there was the notorious problem of bottle-fed rams often becoming too tame and becoming aggressive on maturity. Still, once the lamb arrived, and we saw it, (and Michelle held it) the deal was sealed. There was no way the lamb was leaving, if we had any say. So he stayed, and was named Jack (not my choice, but I’m trying not to get attached to him!). We prepared a bottle of replacer and he immediately sucked down about a ¼ cup. He seemed very strong and vigorous, curiously exploring the back porch and the dog kennel where he would spend the first night. A very good start, (compared to our miserable experience last year with the premature, weak, non-suckling lamb). We went to bed confident we had made the right decision and Jack was going to be OK.