Woodland Creek Soay Rams

Woodland Creek Soay Rams
Soay Sheep Ram Assortment

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Soay sheep lambs #8 and #9 for 2008 at Woodland Creek Farm - White spotting, light phase, and polled ewes.

Two more Soay sheep lambs hit the ground on Tuesday. (No offense little lambie, but) one of them is a plain old common wild dark pattern with no white spotting - genetically very uninteresting. (Not sure how that breeding combination occurred in our flock!)

The other lamb is more interesting to me. It is from our "white spotting extent" phenotype breeding group. All these sheep have white spotting and I am testing the patterns of how the extent of coverage and locations of white spotting are changed with each generation. Most simply stated, the hypothesis, (as I have documented more completely here):


is that the extent of white on the lamb is roughly a summation of white extent of the parents (not all that surprising, is it?).

Here is little ram Woodland Creek Laramie - DOB 25-Mar-08, and his dam Esperanza.

There is a second objective in our breeding program--and that is to test the hypothesis that light phase at Brown locus, in NA Soay population in the Pacific Northwest, has been traditionally very heavy in the pheomelanin component and this "masks" the light phase. I have been selecting those who show less and less "brassy red" in their coat, and this has been lightening the overall phenotype, bringing them (to my eye) more in line with the classic light phase coats shown by the NA RBST Soays in the PNW (aka "British" Soays).
As examples of this progression, I was convinced that Esperanza was light phase despite her fairly dark phenotype, and one of her twin lambs in 2006, Chico, was particularly light coated and a "flat" brown, rather than "coppery reddish" overtone (which his twin brother Kitsap DOES have). The sire (Teed's Montana) was, I was convinced, also light phase, but with a shocking coppery-red element - note the top of his cape / mane below (shines reflectively in the sunlight).
Here is Montana '05:

When Montana was bred to Esperanza, in 2006 she produced the twin lambs Chico '06 and Kitsap '06:

Chico'06 grew up to be a very nice light color (shown fall of 2007):

In a related line, Esperanza's mother Maria (almost identical phenotype to Experanza, had a light ewe in 2005, Frosty. Frosty, bred to Chico in 2006, gave a VERY light ewe lamb Saratoga. Here is Frosty '05 and Saratoga '07:

Compare the resulting coat colors when in a single image (fall 2007) you can see Esperanza, and Saratoga after some sun-lightening of her mature coat, and in addition Esperanza's 2007 lamb Molly, who in contrast has a self-colored dark sire, so shows a dark coat phenotype.
Unfortunately, Saratoga, (when mated to Chico this last fall) recently aborted her lamb at what looks like about 100 days or so. It was a tiny, very light ram lamb. Too bad.

I guess one other thing to point out in this "line" of Soays - not only are they the rarer light phase, and the relatively less common white spotting, they ALSO are polled ewes. Maria and Esperanza were both truly polled, Frosty, Saratoga, and Molly are all button scurred (so look polled from a distance.) That's a lot of homozygous recessive traits in one line! Now if I can just get self-colored too... just imagine a self-colored, light phase, white spotted, polled ewe... that's almost certainly never been done before in North America with Soays, and maybe never anywhere in the world! I'm probably a couple years from that.

Lastly, with digital photos where the camera tries to auto-expose, and often has a difficult time with very light or very dark animals mostly fill the frame, one can get mis-representative color renditions. One way to get relative coat color differences it to get several patterns in the same photo. Here is one from inside a shed yesterday, but showing a range of our flock coat colors.

In this photo you can see, from lower left to right, the VERY light new ram lamb Laramie, his fairly light, flat brown, low pheomelanin dam Esperanza, the hind end of the VERY heavy red-brown pheomelanin classic "doberman" phenotype from Blue Mountain, in Happy Valley Maddie, then a self-colored black Woodland Creek Olivia, and finally her '08 ewe lamb Madeline, sired by the light phase wild pattern Chico, shown above. Just look at the range of coat colors one can get. (Yes, I realize that when the majority of folks look at the flock they say "Aren't they all just brown?).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

...and yet more Soay sheep lambs at Woodland Creek

Two more lambs born yesterday, both ewe lambs. One is particularly interesting to me, genetically. She is also the "self-colored light phase carrier" phenotype as with some of our other lambs this year, but instead of a self-colored dark phase dam and a wild pattern light phase ram, this lamb is the reverse parent coat colors. The dam, Frosty, is a wild pattern light phase with white spotting. The sire, WC Pepper, is a self-colored dark phase with white spotting. So the lamb phenotype is wild pattern, dark phase, with white spotting, but she is carrying "hidden" light phase and self-colored, so is A+/Aa, BB/Bb, Ss/Ss.

Here is Tahkenitch '08, e, DOB 22-Mar-08, and her dam Frosty.

Note that this ewe lamb has that same "clean" reddish-brown coat that seems to be typical for the "self-light carriers". All 5 so far share this similarity. I realize that to to those not too discerning about Soay sheep coat color variations (which is almost everybody...) these all look like brown sheep. Oh well.

Here is a shot of our first two 2008 lambs, Sequoyah and Madeline, lying in the sun at about 3 weeks of age.

If you want to see all of our "self-light carriers" we have a separate Picasa album set up here:

Friday, March 21, 2008

More Soay sheep lambs.

There have been 3 more Soay lambs born at Woodland Creek Farm in the last week. Two of those are the same coat color genotype as our first two lambs. That is, a wild-pattern, light phase ram with white spotting is the sire (in fact, the same sire as the first two lambs, Chico). Both dams of lambs 4 and 5 are self-colored blacks, and neither shows white spotting, although one for sure carries white (SS/Ss) whereas the other likely has no white, probably SS/SS. Both lambs have a very similar phenotype to the first two lambs - a fairly dark, red-brown coat with very dark pheomelanic areas.

Here is lamb #4 for this year, Woodland Creek Khyber, a ram, and his dam Deer Park Hjemstads Kaya.

Lamb #5 is Woodland Creek Chinook, a very dark lamb, and her dam Carmen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring 2008 Soay Lambs are arriving.

Yeah! My favorite time of year for raising Soay sheep. The lambs have started to arrive, and the results of the breeding for coat color genetics are starting to be revealed. Our first two ewes to lamb were both born to self-colored black ewes, each dam with hidden white (from their sire who was Ss/Ss). These two ewes happen to be twins, and oddly, lambed on the very same day. The sire was a wild pattern light phase ram with white spotting, so A+/A? Bb/Bb Ss/Ss.

Here is the sire, Woodland Creek Chico '06. (Click any photo for larger version).

Given the dam and sire coat color genetics, the lambs will be heterozygous at both the agouti and brown loci, and 50% odds at the white locus, that is, A+/Aa, BB/Bb, and 50% odds Ss/Ss and 50% SS/Ss. The phenotype of the lambs will thus be wild pattern dark phase, and may or may not have a white spot. The results are....

First Lamb of 2008 at Woodland Creek Farm: Sequoyah, a ram lamb, born to Woodland Creek Pearl.

He is indeed wild dark pattern, and does have a wisp of white at the poll. Later the same day his "close relative" Madeline, a ewe, was born to Pearl's twin sister, Olivia.

Madeline too is wild dark pattern, but does not have white spot showing.
Thus, the expected genetics and even the statistical odds were borne out precisely, even down to the gender odds. We have two dark wild coats, as they should have been, and "50% showing white spotting", and one ram and one ewe - 50%.
An even more interesting aspect of these two lambs to me is the actual coat colors, particularly the pheomelanic areas (belly, under tail and chin, etc). As I have posted previously, I have a developing conviction that with NA Soay sheep that are heterzygotes at agouti locus (that is, A+/Aa, as there are only two known alleles for Soay sheep at agouti)the coat pattern will be very dark, and the pheomelanic areas that called "copper" or darker. It is essentially the so-called "mahogany" phenotype. (See below in this post for some examples).
Of these two new lambs (although lamb coat colors will usually change somewhat in the firt year, even beyond simple sun-bleaching), Madeline in particular has a very dark pheomelanic areas. They are so dark that when she was freshly born and still wet, I thought for a while that she was actually self-colored, which would have been a BIG surprise as I do not think the sire carries self-color allele (but I can never be sure he doesn't - can't prove a negative, as they say).
The photo of Madeline below shows many of the areas where one would normally expect signals of the wild agouti pattern - kneecaps, under chin, around eyes, belly, inside ears, and except for lighter area between her hind legs, there is almost no pattern discerable (but live, on close examination, there is no question - she is wild pattern.)

So where is this particular breeding line headed? To those who know (or care about) the coat color genetics it will be obvious that breeding homozygous recessives at Brown locus with homozygous recessives at the agouti locus is the first step in getting parents that are heterozygotes at both, and thus have a possibility of producing in their offspring the very rare genotype that is homozygous recessive at both agouti and brown, and those will thus be the exceptionally rare self-colored light phase Soays, of which only two are ever known to have been produced in North America (both at Blue Mountain Soays last year - one ram, Hershey and one ewe, Snickers). Now that those two are available as parents (particularly the ram, who can cover a host of "already genetically prepared" ewes that are already either Aa/Aa, BB/Bb, or A+/Aa, Bb/Bb), I fully expect that more will show up this year, as several Soay sheep breeders are known to be seeking this phenotype. At Woodland Creek our main goal is not so much to simply have one or more of this phenotype, but instead to have sought out parents with the potential and bred them over several generations, testing our understanding of the underlying genetics, and to finally succeed in proving (if only to myself!) that I "get it".