And I can’t think of a better title.
e It’s almost time for SAFF! As I sit here filling in my entries for the sheep show, I’m also reading some emails. I want to thank Maggie Howard, author of The Coat of Many Colors, for her permission to share something she recently posted to a yahoo list. This was NOT written in regard to Jacob Sheep or Jacob Sheep breeders. In no way do I mean this as a criticism for Jacob breeders that show. Didn’t I start out this post by saying I’m filling out MY show entries?
This will be the fifth year that SAFF has allowed us breed classes. I have to throw in a big thank you to SAFF and to all the Jacob breeders that have made Jacobs such a big hit at SAFF. We were one the best represented breeds in 2011!!
I admit to not taking showing sheep very seriously. I am there to promote the breed first, followed by having fun, visiting with other breeders, and seeing sheep from other farms. In some cases, the judge is not familiar with Jacob breed characteristics. It’s still fun!
The Jacob Sheep Breeders Association has put together a helpful guide “Jacob Sheep In The Show Ring” with a lot of helpful information for judges and exhibitors. A scorecard is also available. The scorecard is handy for printing and handing to judges as well as helping the breeder evaluate their show animals.
I think this is a thoughtful post .. And I hope to see you in the show ring at SAFF.
Ideally, the breed standard should define the show standard. I believe that was the relationship first envisioned. It would seem that this relationship has been reversed—show standards are becoming accepted as breed standards. The reasons for this reversal being accepted are quite varied and I invite others to define them.( I am sure that not a few of you can do this in a much more pc manner than can I.)
In case you are not familiar with my farm–I do show but only very sporadically. I have won & I have been placed low. Showing is low on my priority list for several reasons. One of these reasons, quite frankly, is the up-front cost of attending with animals in tow: added gas for a truck towing a trailer, the motel, the food & the perfunctory and necessary hooch. Adding these up usually tallies in at right around $1000(at minimum). I have difficulty in justifying that outgo when my best animals–the ones that would be in the show–have already been sold or are scheduled for retention.
The second reason I do not “show” that much is that this farm makes a positive net each year from fleece & meat sales. The fleece sales are very dependent upon the striking colors of recessively patterned,whole fleeces and the meat sales are dependent upon my delivering a grass-fed/grass-finished product to my customers. Thus, I can not easily compete in the show ring where most of the animals are “popped” in early life with heavy supplementation feeds and whose fleeces have been topiaried to uneven lengths across the body. BTW–what ever happened to that line in the Romney show guide that says “sheep should be shown in working condition”? When was the last time you saw that?!
The third problem I have is purely philosophical: I find that–for the most part & in general across the breeds–the influence of the show ring is leading to a homogenization of the breeds. To my mind, many of the breed shows are rewarding a “meat sheep” carcass. When I walk into a barn, I want to look down the aisles and be able to easily say “Oh, there are the Romneys”..or..”there are the Corries”..or..there are the Dorsets”. Of late, to make these distinctions, I must read the banner or the placards on the pens (even then, sometimes, I question). I raise Romneys by choice. If I had wanted the size of the Columbia, I could raise Columbias; if I had desired the fine,tight crimp of the Corrie fleece, I could have chosen to raise Corries; if I had my heart set on the color patterns of Corrie or the Down breeds, I could have chosen to raise them. The Romney standard is calling for a medium sized sheep of rather squarish form that sports a fleece of 28-37u. Their ears are small and covered and their legs are covered. Their gentle temperament is unsurpassed. This sheep is adaptable and easily supports this farm–yielding a 120# lamb in 8 months. I am not going to emphasize meat sheep traits to the exclusion of the classic standard. Nor am I going to use a cross to bring in a flashy color pattern from another breed.
As long as we have breeders whose purpose in breeding is to “win” at shows, we will continue to see “showy”, “flashy”, “large” and “beautifully extended” animals thrown up as the “ideals”. And,as long as the breeders, the buyers, the breed associations and the judges accept the criminal practice of show docking, we will continue to hear of young ewes with non-genetically programed prolapse. If a breeder is showing a Romney who is down on their pasterns, they are betraying their total disrespect for both the Standard and the potential buyer—not even to mention, the future of their own flock.