jeudi 18 octobre 2007
The latest arrival chez nous and for the moment the last. Blue tongue is knocking on the door of the department where I live and it means an anxious time for us all. The sheep have been treated with insecticides and repellant as far as possible. Not something I would do at this time of year but if we can get away with no further outbreaks until the colder weather arrives then we stand a chance with a vaccine reportedly due out early next year. It does mean that for the moment it is a closed shop here nothing coming in or going out. I'm still mulling over the final plans for who gets to play with which boy I think I have it sorted . I am hoping for lambs in March/ April after the worst of the winter weather so a little while longer before the boys are allowed to have some fun.
Waiting for the new arrivals is just so exciting I have some exciting genetics and if all goes well I hope to have some interesting results maybe even a few surprises.
vendredi 5 octobre 2007
I took this photo tonight of Mandi getting to know Beau. I am really keeping my fingers crossed for these two. Although its likely to be another year before they get the chance to produce a lamb as I am keen to hold fire with Beau and really see how he develops.
jeudi 4 octobre 2007
mercredi 3 octobre 2007
dimanche 30 septembre 2007
This region like many in France has its own specialities when it comes to livestock and the Breton horse has to be one of the most spectacular. A heavy horse kept mostly these days by enthusiasts and lovers of the breed is often to be seen benignly munching in fields and my visit to pick up a couple of new ewes the other day was only improved by seeing the owners collection of Breton Horses, just stunning!
The reason for my visit was of course to follow up on the flock of ouessant sheep I had spied the other week and if at all possible buy a couple, well lucky me!!! After a couple of phonecalls I was able to buy two adult ewes from a completely different line to those I currently have. The rams have great horns and the ewes are all well boned and with good toplines and the one in particular is just so petite. Pics when they get into the isolation paddock.
I have looked long and hard for some nice names and they will be Amandine and Rozenn. They are in this pic somewhere!
I think I have a less exotic but more reasonable explanation. I will credit all the references I have used to compile my theory at the end of this but first the most recent history of the breed is the creation of GEMO the breed society in France and a small group of dedicated breeders who set about restoring the breed.
En 1976, Monsieur Paul Abbé et ses amis entreprennent le sauvetage de la race. Ils s'appuient sur des troupeaux ayant conservé le type " primitif " et utilisés sur le continent pour agrémenter de grandes propriétés familiales. La plupart de ces élevages continentaux descendent du cheptel de la famille De GOULAINE qui possédait des moutons d'Ouessant depuis au moins 100 ans dans sa propriété de Saint-Etienne de Corcoué en Loire-Atlantique. Grâce au G.E.M.O. (groupement des éleveurs de moutons d'Ouessant) l'effectif français est passé de 486 animaux en 1977 à plusieurs milliers actuellement.
C'est donc par sa fonction d'animal d'agrément que le mouton d'Ouessant survit à ce XX° siècle.
I think at this point it is also important to note the unique input of M Gilles Delorme without whom the mouton d'ouessant would have probably remained a well kept secret instead his website which is comprehensive and extensive has signifcantly raised the profile and understanding of this breed on a worldwide scale.
So having arrived at a point where we have a breed society not only in France but also the breed has become more well known in other European countries, where are the sheep on Ouessant?
Today the little black sheep of the island is pretty much no longer in existance, it is certainly true the island is populated by a mixed breed of predominantly white sheep with some black examples still there, but very few and certainly not the little tiny island sheep of myth and legend.
Then I found an amazing document buried in an edition of the animal genetic resources infiormation was a text on Le Mouton Breton The Breton Sheep, fascinating, it seems that there may be an explanation and that in fact the little black sheep from the island of Ouessant originated from a general population of hardy primitive mainland sheep that hitherto had been though of as pretty unremarkable by most who had come across them. These sheep were rustic, varied in size but many were typically of small size and usually self coloured with examples being noted of brown, black, some white, grey was mentioned and some white with red marks. Their fleeces and value was considered as minimal and it was presumed that the climate and nutrition ( many being found in coastal areas) had contributed to their very small stunted size. It was noted that they rarely produced twins. There was it seems a differentiation as with the influx of larger breeds from Holland the "Race a deux" - breed of twins was recognised as being known for twin births unlike the "Mouton des landes de Bretagne " known for single lambs.
it seems that over time Le Mouton Breton - Breton Sheep began to form two distinct varieties, The Race a Deux or Mouton de Deux (de Belle Ile) a breed capable of producing twin lambs and of larger stature, a mix of the original primitive type of sheep and examples brought across from Holland and The mouton des landes de Bretagne was the example that seems to have been responsible for the distribution of black sheep and those of small size and distinctive primitive fleece were more restricted to the western regions of Brittany and of course the Island Of Ouessant. Who knows, the orginal breed or type of sheep may have originated from populations of sheep traded with some of the celtic trading partners. The Bretons are a race of seafarers and their culture and language is most closely associated with the other celtic regions, a Cornishman and a Breton can actually converse in their native languages and understand each other. Geographically they are also very close seperated only by the treacherous seas of the english channel, of which the island of Ouessant is a likely land fall. Could there be a link with Hebredians? and the primtive breeds of scandanavia? Some have suggested a link with the black welsh mountain, certainly the Xalda sheep of Spain bear a remarkable similarity. The uniqueness of the Ouessant Sheep its size and rusticity makes in an interesting and invaluable relic of primitive sheep genetics and ancestry, its exact origins will probably never be known but it seems thanks to some modern detective work its history is no longer a myth but legendary. The Ouessant is defined ( some think to its disadvantage) by its size primarily. The breed it seems is a modern day resurrection of the traditional breed of sheep found across much of Brittany but noteably kept on the island of Ouessant where conditions dictated its small size and hardiness. The above document also seems to be the origin of the oft quoted phrase The mouton d'ouessant, one of the smallest breeds of sheep in the world.
references le mouton nain Gilles Delorme
Le mouton breton B Denis and X Maher Ecole nationale veterinaire de Nantes
vendredi 7 septembre 2007
Two new ewes. It will take a little time for them to settle in but for now they are doing fine. They could do with some time out, on decent pasture but that will have to wait until they are out of isolation. Mevanwi measured in at 44cm at the shoulder and Oanez 45.5cms subject to confirmation with GEMO
jeudi 23 août 2007
Breton Ladies in traditional dress carding and spinning whilst no doubt catching up on all the latest gossip.
Breton Dancers in traditional dress, the lace caps are very much a feature and the shape and design was used to indicate the region or village you belonged to.
Clog making traditional clogs are still worn on a daily basis by some in some parts of Brittany.
mercredi 22 août 2007
So here she is in here first year here in full fleece with Twiglet she was by this time already an experienced mum.
As time has gone on it has been possible to pick her out from the rest of the flock by the colour of her fleece as its been getting lighter and lighter.
This is her in 2007 having been recently sheared. her head legs and belly stay black whilst her body is clearly grey. She has a small white star on her forehead but she has always had that.
She has only ever had black lambs who have shown no signs of doing anything other than remaining black. This year she has coped amazingly well with the twins bringing them up to be sturdy well fed lambs. Rosie is also the most wiley of the flock and takes every opportunity to avoid handlng or being caught if at all possible! This year I will mate her to Doddy also spotted I hope for some interesting results.
mardi 14 août 2007
Yes I know its corny but at this point I feel I should be singing that song by Lionel Ritchie. terrible photo early days I'll get a better one to put up as she grows. Initial thoughts, well grown sturdy but feminine and not too big for her age! Time will tell how she grows but at the moment I am thrilled with her.
For the moment shes in the nursery with Uncle Gary to keep an eye on her later I'll introduce her to the main flock and then I'll really be able to compare how shes growing
samedi 11 août 2007
Running through a variety of topics, lots of information and discussion. The weather was fortunately good ( the only decent day that week!) and we were able to have lunch in the sunshine a chat about all manner of sheepy things. People had come in some cases from quite some distance. Following lunch a practical session with Esmi, Lillie and Gary as slightly uwilling practice subjects well except Gary who as usuall wanted to be the centre of attention!
Lillie getting a trim
Gary and Gabrielle ( I think Gary had passed out by this stage;-))
Gary was practice sheep as he really doens't mind being handled ( despite the photo!) so we all got a chance to work out which bit goes where.
Finally Val brought along a numbe rof samples of different fleeces so we could take look at texture and quality and also a demonstration of peg loom weaving. A good day with great company. A huge thankyou to Stuart for the photos I was too busy to take any.
samedi 4 août 2007
There has already been some discussion as to the exact interpretation of this text. IE whether adults over the height standard may still be judged if their qualties merit it. I can only say that at the GEMO competition earlier this year prior to competition each entrant was passed under the official measure ( wicket) any sheep not meeting the standard was not eligible to be considered for judging............
HEIGHTMaximum height for an adult Ram 49 cms
Maximum height for an adult Ewe 46cms
Addenum 29th October 2005. An optimum range has been determined particularly for competition, that corresponds to the ideal size looked for in selection. This range represents a division for obtaining a prize at the time of judging. The jury can decide to award a placement even if the subject is outside of the optimum range if, in their estimation, the qualities of the subject shown merits it and as long as they are within the norms for the standard.
Table for the optimum ranges.
Adult Ram 42 cm 48 cm
Yearling 40 cm 46 cm
Adult Ewe 40 cm 45 cm
Yearling 38 cm 44 cm
Original french Text FR
lundi 23 juillet 2007
jeudi 19 juillet 2007
mercredi 11 juillet 2007
I've been keeping an eye on this years lambs and looking at them quite hopefully. I think they are coming on nicely, heres a pic of Squeak that I took this evening. Shes nearly three months old Bella looks as if she will be smaller quite petite but tonight she wouldn't play ball and let me get a decent photo of her. Beau is looking pretty good too, for the first time in ages the weather was actually warm, calm and sunny a favourite time for me to commune with the sheep is after a long day at work when the weather is still warm and the sun is low in the sky, everything seems so peaceful. The sheep are relaxed although the lambs often skip and frolic a round. Hopefully if the summer ever arrives I'll have time to get some more pics of the babies it will be good to compare them as they grow.
I must really find time and a dry day! to give the sheep the once over and finish tagging them, it seems there is always something that needs doing!
dimanche 24 juin 2007
Esmi with her beau Doddy don't they make a lovely couple.They are definately not looking for pastures new!
I receive a number of enquiries via this blog for people who have Ouessants or people who are looking to find a home for their Ouessants. If you are interested in either selling or buying a ouessant or two. I'm quite happy to post details.
Currently a trio of Ouessants available in Normandy
Four ram lambs available UK
vendredi 22 juin 2007
Given that the breed standard allows for a number of different colours and at the recent show noisettes ( nut brown) and any other colour had their own class I was pondering the specifics of colour inheritance. White is dominannt surprising then that so few white Ouessant sheep seem to be available in Holland where there appears to be a slightly higher predominance of Browns with Blacks being the ever present largest colour variety. Here in France finding a good brown Ouessant seems to be a very hard thing to come by. I am told by a man in the know that there are now a number of greys around but as yet they are still a rare sight.
So I eagerly await the arrival of the new little boy whose parents are both white and have produced soley whites for the last few generations. Little Gwenaelles ( white ewe lamb) exact genetic inheritance remains to be determined but it seems that the next couple of years should bring some interesting colour combinations both nice to look at and definately of added interest to spinners. A good link to help understand the inheritance of colour and the genetic background is here Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders association of Australia.
I will also have to explore Rosies potential for producing colour variations she has an interesting colour fleece.
What a fun day! Loads of sheep and sheepie people. For now a few pics to be getting on with I'll write up the day when I have a bit more time on my hands. Heres a few things to savour for the moment.
First off was the measuring. The breed has a height standard and is strictly adhered to, no entrants allowed that don't meet the criteria Rams 49 cms Ewes 46cms at maturity. This ram was judged over height and not allowed to compete. He wasn't the only one but on the whole the size and standard of the sheep at the show was excellent.
Measured, registered and settling in for the day.
mercredi 20 juin 2007
This week Doddy got his first close look at the girls. Introductions went really well. He is the gentlest of rams, very laid back. Not too much longer and I will have to start weaning and splitting them into the various groups but its good to know that his temperament is as good as his looks; Whats that?............ I can hear the wispering of sweet nothings
mercredi 13 juin 2007
It was a time to meet and greet some of the names and faces in the world of Ouessants, some beautiful animals and a good day was had, I think, by all. GEMO the breed society in France has taken great strides to standardise the breed and to ensure that the competition fosters good breeding and sound animals. They are doing a great job.
First came the measuring. Each sheep is measured against the breed standard height maxium and also for the younger animals there is an ideal height range to try to ensure that yearlings are not likely to outgrow the height standard and be placed this year but be oversized by the time they mature. Having checked everyone in and worked out who was eligible to compete, it was time for a short ( by french standards!) lunch and then back for the real business of the day, the judging. An international panel of four judges, judged to a new trial scoring system deducting points for various attributes or lack of them.
This system went down well with the spectators who appreciated the critiques given and the reasoning behind the placing and as was the case with some classes with the withholding of the top prize.
Whilst there I got the chance to have a quick look around the Ecomuséé what a fantastic place and for my participation I got a couple of free tickets to return to the museum which I most certainly will. There are alot of exhibits and breeds of livestock from the region to see and ooh over, I will be back!
One exhibit was the spinning and textiles hall. It was interesting to watch the demonstrations of spinning and weaving and even more exciting to see the jaws of the exhibtors drop when I brought out the yarn sent to me by Pamela spun from one of my ouessants. Such fine and evenly spun yarn, they couldn't believe it was hand spun! It was pointed out that such skills have for the most part been lost but rest assured the spinner there at the Ecomusée is off to find some quality Ouessant fleece to spin!
The weather stayed good and the final juding whilst full of discussion and much musing over detail was fascianting to watch and I look forward to next year. Not only to see who brings what but in the knowledge that I have one or two little treasures that I am really hopeful will put on a good show......................... more another time.
lundi 11 juin 2007
lundi 28 mai 2007
dimanche 27 mai 2007
Dodu and his mum Douce
Teeny little guy!
samedi 26 mai 2007
This little girl was born Tuesday 22..05.07 she needs a name I have discounted things like Lily Bianca Blanche or Neige but would love some good suggestions her full name will be
xxxxx at Spered Breizh look forward to your suggestions
DOB Jan 2005
Colour Noire Brunissante
This is Gary the lamb, hand reared by Patrick from the age of one week.
As a hand reared or cade lamb, hes very friendly, a little too friendly at times! Gary is our resident wether, adored by everyone, hes good with the girls and gentle with the lambs. He is also the Grandaddy of the current line. Photos of Gary as a youngster courtesy of Joe, Lesley and Patrick
Pictured here at the age of two and a half years meeting and greeting one of our visitors. Photos
vendredi 25 mai 2007
Yours truly shearing one of the Ouessant girls . Now I don't get any marks for technique but shearing your sheep is important and necessary. Lambs don't need to be trimmed in their first year but come the begining of the second year May June is a good time although I have been known to start in April you should arrange for them to be sheared or look at doing them yourself not as hard as it sounds but beware if you didn't have a bad back to start with it won't be long...............
Here I am actually using an old pair of dog clippers oster A5 's to be exact and I have a number 15 blade on although a 10 would do just as nicely. Its a good time to do a routine maintenance check so as well as checking teeth and ears and getting a good look at whats going on under the fleece, you will be able to do their feet and worm if its in part of your programme.
I keep the fleece for hand spinners, so like to do a tidy job not to mention I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of it. Getting a shearer in needn't be expensive depending on the number of sheep you have but if you have just a couple you may need to take them to a friend and get a decent number done to make the cost of shearing economical.
Here is the finshed article.
jeudi 17 mai 2007
Now this might not seem like a lot, but in this part of the world a bit of bacon is a very hard thing to come by. Courtesy of my Irish visitors here is some genuine Irish Gold! Yum I am drooling at the thought of a bacon sarny. Now to the visitors; what wonderful lovely people and it was so nice to meet a couple of great people who really wanted to meet and greet some real Ouessants.
Gary and Dumpling lead the meet and greet session ( always ready with a warm welcome) and of course the adorable little Beau who is turning into a little devil ( literally!) The girls are always a bit shy around strangers but the little tribe of lambs were like cats prancing and dancing around. Jo was very helpful and we madly agreed to shear a sheep. Twiglet got nominated, (greediest sheep) so Jo went away with a freshly shorn genuine Ouessant fleece. I have promised her Muguettes when she is shorn as there is a definate difference in the fleece and it will be interesting to hear Jo's thoughts and also a comparison of the two.
My shearing technique is I think fairly unique but I hope the end result is still a good useable fleece and a tidy shorn sheep; Jo's blog is always a good read and I've just noticed the pics are up!! wow I LOVE them. Celtic memory yarns
more later when I've had a chance to check out the photos Pria looks just FAB and gary soo handsome!
mardi 15 mai 2007
The Ouessant Sheep originates from the island of Ouessant, part of a tiny archipelago just off the north coast of Finistere, Brittany. The island of terror as it was known to some, was swept by the full force of the atlantic’s weather, the hardy sheep adapted to survive on poor grazing from salty clifftop meadows. It was the women of the island that raised the sheep, renowned for their black wool to weave into cloth known locally as berlinge and their meat with its sweet and delicate taste.
La race "Mouton d'Ouessant" est originaire de l’île d’’Ouessant qui fait parti d’un petit archipel au large du Finistère, Bretagne. L’île de l'épouvante comme c'était connu par certains était balayé par les intempéries de l’atlantique, ces moutons rustiques s'adaptaient à survivre sur les pâturages pauvres des falaises salées. C’était les femmes de l’île qui élevaient les moutons réputés pour leur laine noire à tisser « la berlinge » une étoffe régionale et leur viande avec un goût doux et délicat.