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Possible inbreeding in sheep?  RSS feed

 
Taylor Cleveland
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You all are probably tired of my questions. But i have no sheep mentor and I'm in a pickle, we have a ewe, her ewe lamb, and a ram lamb. The ewe lamb and ram lamb have the same dad but different dads.... i can't breed them right? Originally I thought that distance was safe but now I am reading that level of inbreeding results in two-headed type of defects. This makes me sad, we really liked this ram lamb and wanted to use him to breed him. I have heard that rams are ready to breed before ewes. Is that true? If so i was thinking we could keep him long enough that he could mate with the unrelated momma ewe (I'm going to possibly pick up 3 more unrelated adult ewes so he could hopefully mate with them too) before the ewe lamb is old enough to breed?  Does that sound like a bad idea? Keeping separate is not an option for us, we don't have the infrastructure.
 
Hester Winterbourne
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It sounds like the easy way out of your pickle would be to sell or swap the ewe lamb and keep the ram?
 
Travis Johnson
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If I read your situation right, you will be alright breeding them...

Sheep are different than humans and so what you are proposing is called Line-Breeding and is okay, and something I often practice...and something small farms often practice. There is a few things to keep in mind though; not really "rules", just points to keep in mind...like Permiculture in general...when pushing the boundaries you must be prepared for unexpected contingencies.

First, I practice some line breeding because I am not a REGISTERED Sheep farm. While I know a lot of registered sheep farms lie on the paper work, ethically and morally a farm should not line breed if they sell registered sheep.

The other thing is, a farm has to be prepared to cull. This is where a lot of small farms get into trouble. They fall in love with the resulting lambs and then keep them, line breed back to the same dad (what would be a ram breeding his daughter, his granddaughters, and great-granddaughters)...again, and again, and again...you just cannot do that. Line breeding for a year or two...yes that is okay, but then you have to introduce new blood lines. So I might use a ram to breed his daughter, and possibly his grand-daughter if the two were really good sheep, but NEVER to his great-Granddaughter). I hope all that makes sense.

Now here is the good/bad thing about line breeding; it is a roll of the dice. I line breed because I might get a super lamb exhibiting all the best attributes of the dame and sire sheep...but I also might get genetic garbage. It is a 50/50 chance. Here is where non-culling farms just plain cannot line-breed. If any farm...no matter the size...gets lambs that are genetic garbage...no matter the gender; they have to be culled. You cannot keep them. It would ultimately ruin the genetics of your flock. But the opposite holds true too; if I get a super-lamb from line-breeding, I have improved the genetics of my flock. So it may/may not be worth it.



 
Taylor Cleveland
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Travis Johnson wrote:If I read your situation right, you will be alright breeding them...

Sheep are different than humans and so what you are proposing is called Line-Breeding and is okay, and something I often practice...and something small farms often practice. There is a few things to keep in mind though; not really "rules", just points to keep in mind...like Permiculture in general...when pushing the boundaries you must be prepared for unexpected contingencies.

First, I practice some line breeding because I am not a REGISTERED Sheep farm. While I know a lot of registered sheep farms lie on the paper work, ethically and morally a farm should not line breed if they sell registered sheep.

The other thing is, a farm has to be prepared to cull. This is where a lot of small farms get into trouble. They fall in love with the resulting lambs and then keep them, line breed back to the same dad (what would be a ram breeding his daughter, his granddaughters, and great-granddaughters)...again, and again, and again...you just cannot do that. Line breeding for a year or two...yes that is okay, but then you have to introduce new blood lines. So I might use a ram to breed his daughter, and possibly his grand-daughter if the two were really good sheep, but NEVER to his great-Granddaughter). I hope all that makes sense.

Now here is the good/bad thing about line breeding; it is a roll of the dice. I line breed because I might get a super lamb exhibiting all the best attributes of the dame and sire sheep...but I also might get genetic garbage. It is a 50/50 chance. Here is where non-culling farms just plain cannot line-breed. If any farm...no matter the size...gets lambs that are genetic garbage...no matter the gender; they have to be culled. You cannot keep them. It would ultimately ruin the genetics of your flock. But the opposite holds true too; if I get a super-lamb from line-breeding, I have improved the genetics of my flock. So it may/may not be worth it.





Ok, thank you! They have unrelated mothers but the same dad. So they are half siblings. We plan on selling him next year and getting a new ram so it will be a one-time thing. We are completely prepared to cull, I just didn't want 2 headed or three legged lambs! Probably read too many horror stories. but they you say "genetic garbage" what things are you looking for? Are you waiting until they lamb to see how well they do? how they deal with parasites? Or are there early-on signs that you can simply decide to butcher while they are still a lamb
 
Travis Johnson
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It depends; I have got deformed, dead lambs right out of the ewe, but this has been very rare. Most of the time the genetic deficient lambs show weakness at birth. Since most lambs die 1-5 days in, then 1 week to 3 weeks in, so you can tell pretty early.

I have one now that is genetic garbage from line-breeding. Number 289 was rejected by his mother. I have no way to document this, but most of the time, my observation has been, when a ewe rejects its lamb, something is wrong with it even if I can not tell from the outside looking at it. This one was rejected, and only every skill I had as a Shepard and veterinarian...has kept it alive. Now it is sick again. It is a ram-lamb, but I would never keep this lamb for a breeding ram, and if it was a ewe-lamb, would not keep it either, but it is normal looking. Some might walk funny, mostly though I can just tell. Not scientific I know, but they just "look off" and I can tell.

Now I cannot guarantee you will not get a 3 legged sheep line breeding, but honestly I could not guarantee you that even if you did not. Strange things happen genetically even in the best of worlds. In 9 years of having my own sheep, and hundreds of lambs, I have had (2) mutant type of genetic births, and they were from Katadins back when I had them, and they were dead at birth.
 
Travis Johnson
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There really are two forms of lambing systems: American Style and New Zealand Style.

American Style is what I do, and I am not sure it is better, I feel morally and ethically it is the right thing to do, and that is try and give the utmost care to my sheep and value every sheep's life even if it is a farm animal. Don't get me wrong, I do not worship them, nor do I have a no-kill farm...far from it, but I do my best to keep every lamb born alive...alive...and when they don't make it, take respite in knowing I did the best that I could.

New Zealand style is to go on vacation during lambing season. They literally do that, meaning no assistance from the sheep farmers. Lambs that need assistance die. BUT because they do this, over time their flocks become robust because they are naturally selecting out only the most hardy of sheep.

Which is better? Whatever you are more comfortable with. I am not going to knock New Zealand style farming because in the end their flocks will probably have lower mortality rates, they just pay for them up front. I have gone on vacation during the middle of lambing season myself, and to Ireland no less, but I had people watched the farm while I was gone. I can see where genetically New Zealand style sheep farming would improve the flock genetically, but there would also be some losses that would be easily preventable and not genetic based. I can cull based on that in the way I do so. And honestly, every lamb loss is $175 or more, so any deaths quickly add up. Right now, I could use the money to grow my farm...

 
kadence blevins
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You have 1 ewe lamb and 1 ram lamb, correct? Why not just band/wether the ram lamb? You won't have to worry about him breeding and you don't have to worry about when/where/how he will go however things happen in the future.

That said. There is really no problem at all with that line breeding. Really it isn't much line breeding at all. Unless your sheep have a certain quality that is harmful or you want to get away from. The biggest thing to remember about line breeding is you have to know how to judge you animals and be ok that you may have to scrap animals (culling however you want/need to) that don't make the cut.
Line breeding doubles up on the genetics since the animals are related to whatever degree they may be. So if they have bad traits or traits you don't like/want they will be much more likely to show up. Either way you look at it you can keep the good animals and cull the bad.. Or you know what "the bad" is that can pop up and breed away from that when you bring in other animals.

If you left them to themselves they wouldn't care jack-crap about relations. They would breed. Weak animals would not make it. Stronger animals would make it.
When line breeding the only difference from this is your ability to cull toward your own goals and selective breeding within the line. But the weak have to be removed in order for the strong to continue and be worth anything.
 
Libbie Hawker
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The thing to keep in mind about linebreeding and inbreeding is that it will fix those animals' traits into your gene pool. "Fix" as in "make fast; make permanent," not as in "repair." In my opinion, linebreeding and inbreeding should only be done when you've got two animals whose traits are as close to perfect as you've found so far--"perfect" as in, exactly what you've been aiming for. Very close to the bull's-eye on your personal target for your breeding program.
 
Drew Moffatt
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We don't all go on vacation Travis, having done both kinds of lambing here in nz and achieved 145%-160% at docking using both systems I believe too much intervention breeds problems.
If she can't squeeze out her own lambs and do it somewhere sensible she isn't worth having. I've seen quite a few deformed lambs including pulling one with 8 legs(I have a photo but it's pretty gross) but I've also been around a lot of sheep, other than undershot jaws deformities are rare, don't stress about a little inbreeding.
 
Travis Johnson
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My policy has been to give each ewe a second chance. I'll pull a lamb for sure, but if she does it again she is going on the trailer and down to the slaughterhouse. But that goes for unsettled ewes too, so I am pretty lenient. Once my farm gets bigger that may change and I have to crack down on ewe issues, but for now I feel I can cut the ewe some slack, hope it was a one time thing, and see if she earned her keep.
 
Taylor Cleveland
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thanks so much everyone, this really eased my stress. It seems, in our situation, it will be way easier to just cross our fingers and let him stay.
 
Libbie Hawker
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Most of the really weird deformities tend to be caused by incomplete twinning, anyway. Two heads, eight legs, etc.--they're all a form of conjoined twins ("Siamese" twins, as we used to say.) No one is sure what causes incomplete twinning; it could very well just be a matter of chance, without any genetic or environmental link.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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