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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 129............Autumn 2006  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: Breeding for Color and Breeding for Fleece


It's been a long history on this farm breeding for color and breeding for fleece qualities that we want to see in our colored angora goat herd.splash dot!


"And Manassah begat Zebulun and Zebulun begat B-1 and B-1 begat King Theoden of Singing Falls..."splash dot!


Let's go back in time. It was at the Black Sheep Gathering of ‘94 (our first) that we gathered that bundle of black curls and small, stout little horns, Coon Hollow's Zebulun, into our arms at the show's end. As we drove home, I kept turning around and admiring him as he nestled regally in the back seat of the car. Stan, while driving, talked to the goat: "Well, Zeb, you are officially our first colored herd sire." Both of us thought of goats to be born in all shades of reds, browns and silvers. Up to then we'd pretty much stuck with the white commercial goats from Texas. This was a huge leap.splash dot!


Though he'd taken the second place ribbon in the line up of young bucks, he was my husband's choice over the first place buck. Both were for sale and Stan said, "this one." I looked at him skeptically for a moment, but went with his intuitive choice.splash dot!


The following year, Black Sheep Gathering ‘95, we approached Brigitt Goetz of Green Peak Farm. However, by the time we got around to saying we wished to buy both of of those for-sale curly light red does with sky blue eyes stationed in the pen behind her, she informed us they had already been sold. Shrugging, we began to walk away while I mumbled softly to my husband, "See, that's what you get for stalling so long to make the decision to buy!" Suddenly the breeder was on our heels and said, "...but I have their mother at home. She's for sale. Would you like to see her?" We did. Any doe that produced such fine twin girls as these yearlings had to be a nice doe.splash dot!


Green Peak was just outside of Eugene. Brigitt phoned her husband who brought the big doe out within half an hour's time. We waited expectantly in the parking lot for the animal while chatting "goat talk" with Brigitt (a delightful person!) the whole time.splash dot!


Soon enough we were examining the doe that had arrived. She was older, had a gut full of hay that made her almost as wide as our car and had some nice golden curls. Her eyes shone blue. She was what was known as "faded red" in color. She had one colored parent (a red sire) and her dam was registered white. We brought her home after carefully pushing her cumbersome girth into the back of the car.splash dot!


How were we to know then that this very doe (named "Bubba") would become an integral part of our colored angora goat breeding program? We were still so new at trying to understand colored genetics and how they affect angora goats. By the time we got home a strong cloud of ammonia encircled us all, but we unloaded Bubba, introduced her to the now-grown up Zeb (who, in goat language, let out an admiring wolf whistle) and put her with the rest of our does.splash dot!


We found out later that Bubba was once known as "Hope" and was bred by Cloudspun Farm. Hope. The name was appropriate. She would be our first colored angora goat doe, and held our own hopes for color locked inside of her. Our plan was to see what Hope and Zebulun might produce in the way of color. What a thrilling adventure we seemed to be on.splash dot!


A Poem about Theoden, (a Red Buck born in Spring 2006)

Where did you get those red fleecy boots
that ride high up to your knees?
And that color of copper that paints your whole fleece
Can you tell me, please?splash dot!


You came along just this year
We couldn't believe your hue
Dark and brown, like a rare German beer
Each lock a curly-Q!splash dot!


Your grandpa Zeb was shiny and black
When he ran, his hooves did fly
For breeding the does, he just had a knack
(You were then just a gleam in his eye)splash dot!


You never met him, but we'll never forget him
For he was our first colored sire
We hoped that he would paint our herd
Shades of silver and red, like firesplash dot!


His own pa, Manassah (your own good great grandsire)
Had a fleece that was red and all curl
He stood tall at the shoulder when he stood on his boulder
And how far those horns did unfurl!splash dot!


Well, we bred Zeb to Hope (that was her name)
And she forthwith gave us your mother
Whose fleece was as red as a campfire flame
(And we marveled one to another!)splash dot!


And so year after year as her kids hit the ground
We waited for red on the paintbrush
And though their fleeces were softer than silk
Their color was only a faint blushsplash dot!


Though we'll never show you, you're a champion goat
Rust red regal prince we hold dear
All our wait and our toil now seem so remote
(And we hope you'll be breeding this year!)splash dot!


That is written about a very nice buck born in spring of 2006. We had all the "ingredients" for the color we were looking for, but it wasn't until we paired that dark copper doe out of Zebulun x Bubba with our new dark brown Ferncrest Farm buck that we hit the jackpot. Wow, there he was standing there, only one day old and already showing a cocky attitude. "Yeah, I'm nice. So what?" he seemed to be saying.splash dot!


His fleece seemed regal. It was colored the deepest copper hue we'd ever seen. We named him King Theoden then, shaking our heads, marveling. How long we had waited for him...splash dot!


We know that there's a lot of promise for color in this herd of ours. Each autumn, when we pair our bucks with chosen does, we essentially "throw the dice." It isn't until spring that we see if we've hit the jackpot or not. It's like opening presents on Christmas morning, I've always said, watching these colored goats be born. You never know what color is going to "pop" out -- but no matter the color, it's always a gift.splash dot!


Theoden New to Life

It seemed year after year, though we bred B-1 to some fine red hued bucks, her unusually dark red color would not come out. It was closeted somewhere in her gene pool. So the saying goes, "if at first you don't succeed, try – try again."splash dot!


And that we did, year after year. As the years went by, we gathered onto the farm one great doe from her and kept two of her bucks. Still, though the fleeces were remarkable – absolutely stunning – the color we wanted to see was still missing. They were a lighter red-gold, pretty, but not a deep burnished copper like their dam.splash dot!


Eretz Comes Home

It wasn't until two Black Sheep Gatherings ago (has it been that long?) that we chanced upon a dark brown curly buck standing in his pen, just a small buck at the time and not even interested in girl goats at his tender age. He was for sale and Stan Sours of Ferncrest Farm said that he was ours if we wanted to buy him. We learned of his origins and saw pictures of his dam and sire and decided to take him home with us that day.splash dot!


It was his color that captivated my husband, and though there were two other bucklings in the pen with him to choose from, my husband Stan chose this particular one.splash dot!


"Not enough face coverage?" I asked my husband with some dismay (privately) because I like to see a goat with lots of curls on the face. If those curly bangs hang all over the place, I say the more the merrier! My husband looked at me (he, my husband, has much face coverage – his long white uninhibited beard and full moustache framing his mouth as he spoke to me:)splash dot!


"That's OK, I like what I see. Plenty of dark color and I don't see a single kempy hair and no medulated fiber, either." So, I capitulated to his wisdom (a fault of mine) and we both took the chance that day and hauled the goat home to be a new herd sire to some of our red and brown colored ladies. Actually, I was pretty excited about the new buck and wanted to breed him in autumn, though he was so young. "I'll feed him good," I thought to myself. "Fatten him up and get him ready..."splash dot!


Autumn rolled around too quickly, however, for the young buck now named by us Eretz. He was just too young to take on his assigned task. All of my bigger red does shunned his presence in their bridal suites that we'd prepared in the barn. Indeed, they turned up flagging for a breeding 19-21 days after he'd been with them and begged us for one of the bigger bucks.splash dot!


"Give him time," we said to one another. He'll come into his own someday.splash dot!


He certainly did this year. We used him as our main breeding buck, he and Roz (our newest addition, a white registered yearling buck who took Reserve Champion at the 2005 Black Sheep Gathering.)splash dot!


Careful Records

A sheep breeder or a goat breeder will keep careful records of the years of breeding and the dams and sires that have been used. A careful breeder will select for qualities he/she wants to see in the progeny, and sometimes it takes years of "hit and miss" to obtain the right combinations. Some years we bred for fineness of fleece or heavier coverage and had some wonderful progeny that exhibited those traits, but the color was just faded or missing.splash dot!


I'm convinced that it takes years and years of patient selection of breeding stock to begin to obtain the characteristics one wishes to see throughout the whole herd. Yes, to be sure, it's sometimes just "luck of the draw", breeding stock notwithstanding. My Willow buck of Oregon Colored Angoras, light red in color, was able to give me wonderful silver black kids a couple of times. His gene pool contained everything, including a wild card or two, thanks to Isa Jennings' own "intuitions" about color.splash dot!


Breeders, Hand in Hand

So, really, if you look at this colored angora goat thing from a further perspective, you see that it is a number of breeders who, hand in hand, join together to make it happen. Our own King Theoden is a product of many breeders' endeavors, combined.splash dot!


I'm glad that my dear spouse has been behind me 100 percent in my uninhibited adoration of these colored angora goats. Without his assistance and right choices (and intuition!) we might be a couple of light years behind what we want to see. The inclusion of some premium colored angora goats from David and Julie Mahoney's famed Cornerstone Farm lineages kind of iced the cake for us here. We had all the ingredients for a super herd.splash dot!


Theoden holding his red color well

We just had to learn how to put those ingredients together. It took me a few years to understand that there are actually two black gene pools out there, one recessive and one dominant. I always wondered, for instance, why black as coal Zebulun produced with a black doe named Isha, nothing but white progeny. It stymied me because, after all, both goats were black!splash dot!


It took me the same amount of time to understand that most of my colored goats from Cornerstone Farm were from the dominant gene pool, but that I did have some "crossovers" that seemed to be able to produce color in either gene pool. It took me just as long to discover I wanted both gene pools represented in our herd, both dominant and recessive.splash dot!


And so, back to the here and now, we now we have dark red King Theoden of Singing Falls. A product of many breeders and our own endeavors also, he is a fine addition to our herd. We're proud of him and hope to see his progeny excel in the future years, because we've already determined he is a keeper.splash dot!


And that vibrant copper colored buck with those curly boots that ride up to his knees says, "Yeah, I'm special. So what?"splash dot!


Addendum: Though I don't utilize silver/black mohair a lot in my weaving, I know its beauty and feel it is one of those "crest of the wave" mohair hues that is just waiting to be discovered by the marketplace. I'm not willing to relinquish some of my favorite black does who come from that elusive gene pool. Their fleeces are magnificent. Now to find that "perfect recessive black buck" that I know is out there...splash dot!


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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484