Friday, April 22, 2011

Phaeomelanin Ewe

This Spring, we have a ewe lamb with a lot of tan splotches of color throughout her wool, really lovely, and yet another variation on the many possiblities to expect when breeding Icelandic sheep. In the years I have been raising these sheep, I have become fascinated with the seemingly endless variations on potential colors and patterns.

Here, you can see the phaeomelanin on this mature ewe's head

There are basically three factors that determine the appearance of a sheep, Pattern Factor, Color or Pigment Factor, and the Spotting Factor. The color in the wool is caused by pigment called eumelanin (the black and moorit (brown)). There is also pigment called phaeomelanin which can be shades of tan yellows, or rusty reds.

Lambs born with phaeomelanin look rusty color at birth, however the pigment fades with age in the fleece. The head and leg continue to exhibit the color. You will notice this on many mature white sheep on their heads, tails and legs. In Iceland, it was believed that sheep with this tan had better meat conformation, so it is quite common.

The pigment gives the fleece a rich linen color—just another beautiful shade for the handspinner who prefers to work with the natural colors of sheep.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Icelandic Lambs!

Have you ever seen so many happy lambs? They loved the sunny warm days earlier this week, me too! (Some of these images will enlarge if you click on them)

A Whole Lot of Lambing!

Lots of new adorable lambs here at Red Brick Road Farm! This has been one of our easiest lambing season yet. We do have 2 ewes left to go. Except for one breach (backwards) lamb, the rest have all had normal presentations with quick and easy deliveries. I attribute this mostly to lamb size. Average weight out of 19 lambs has been 7.5 lb., with 6.5 lb. being the smallest, and 9.5 lb. the largest. One set of triplets, the rest twins! Eleven ewes and 8 rams. We should have 4 new additions to add to those numbers by Easter. Gardenia had her first set of lambs, twins, on April 12. Both ewes, by Thunder. Wow, he has really produced some nice lambs for us this year! I'm already planning next year's lambs. Fennel is Gardenia's sister. Her twins, born April 11 are by Finn, our only Finn lambs this year. One ewe and a ram.
Grettle had a sweet set of moorit ewe lambs by Thunder.
Grendle is the sire of Fiona's twin ram and ewe. She has the most impressive udder in our flock. These lambs should grow by leaps and bounds.
Glimmer produced a set of ram lambs by Thunder. One appears to be a homozygous black grey.
Delphine had a sweet ewe that looks just like momma, and a hefty moorit ram. Sire is Grendel.

We've had some beautiful spring days, so I'm getting caught up outside in the gardens as well as capturing lots of great lamb pics. Check back for those soon!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Grace's New Lambs

Our beautiful Grace had her first set of lambs this morning, a 7 lb. ram and a 6 lb. ewe. My husband did a barn check at 6:30 am, and didn't see anything. By 8:00 am, they were born, up and nursing. When I went in to check, Grace's mom Charlotte was in the barn with her. I find it just so endearing the way that the older ewes look after their daughters, and even their granddaughters. So, Grace is a perfect momma, just like I expected. She adores her lambs, nickering to them with her loving momma sheep voice. Her lambs should be really nice, with genetics from their Tongue River sire Thunder, along with Finn and Charlotte mixed up in there. Aren't white lambs adorable?