Woodland Creek Soay Rams

Woodland Creek Soay Rams
Soay Sheep Ram Assortment

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....