2016 clip away, Ryeland colour genetics

2016 fleece clip

Wallace’s tail finally fell off this week. Winter’s fell off weeks ago and I was starting to worry that Wallace was always going to have a stringy end to his tail. But during a feed, the violent wagging of his tail – he’s a very enthusiastic if not very efficient feeder – dislodged the end part. So now he looks very smart.

2016 yarn

Our fleeces from the 2016 clip have gone off to The Natural Fibre Company last Monday. Hopefully, there will be enough for two batches – one light and one dark. This will be our only batch of light wool because we’ll only have one white fleece next year.

Ryeland colour genetics

The white fleeces arose because one year, 2010, we bought a white Ryeland tup – crossing Coloured and Whites is frowned upon by the breed society for some reason. There are now two flock books, one for Ryeland and one for Coloured Ryeland now plus a supplementary register for lambs that have white fleece but one Coloured parent. I think it’s a bit sad that the breed society has chosen to go down this route but some prominent members seem to regard the Coloured sheep as second rate. Hey ho.

Leo - Fetternear Lionheart
Leo – a good tup is never a bad colour

Anyway, our lovely white tup, Fetternear Lionheart or Leo, threw a mix of white and Coloured lambs and we retained quite a few of his daughters. Having used Coloured tups for the last four years, the number of white lambs has reduced and when we breed again in 2017/18, we will have only one white female – Winter.

A quick and simple overview of colour genetics in Ryelands now – if you cross a Coloured tup to a Coloured ewe, you will always get Coloured lambs, because the gene for Colour is recessive. A sheep with a white fleece can either have two white genes (homozygous) or a white gene and a Coloured gene (heterozygous). The latter will be white because the white gene dominates the Coloured gene. So if you cross a homozygous white with a Coloured, all the lambs will be white fleeced but all will be heterozygous white. If you cross a heterozygous white to a Coloured, half the lambs will be Coloured and half will be heterozygous white. Occasionally, a white crossed with a white will unexpectedly have a Coloured lamb.

Then the sky falls in.

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