samedi 31 août 2013

Moments.........from the GEMO Show

I wanted to try to pick a selection of photos that brought together a more intimate perspective of the show. The camera is ideal for capturing a look or a feel, so here is a different kind of focus.






Un regard

mercredi 28 août 2013

Eyeing up the competition

It has been hard to sort the photos this year, truly I have been spoilt for choice and even though the day was not the best for photography for several reasons looking through the photos of the day, I have been pleasantly surprised at how many are quite serviceable. This head study of a black ram just leapt off the page at me.  Beautiful!!

Judgely decisions were not always easy

and opinions were sometimes split

 but everyone was checking out the competition.........

There was little to complain about on any count.  More soon.....

lundi 26 août 2013

GEMO Concours National 2013

Vaillant Ewes
This year the National Competition for Ouessant sheep took place at Brécé - Ile et Vilaine. Not too far from home. It was good to see the return of Patrice Royer's sheep to the competition  after three years absence.  It was also good to see some of the newer breeders return once again, surely bitten by the bug. There was a high standard overall and a good entry of over 100 sheep. A significant change this year is the option to bring sheep who aren't entered for the competition but who can still be examined for a certificate of conformity to the standard.
With limited places available and a high standard of sheep in general it can be hard to provide encouragement to newer breeders and reassure them of the standard of their sheep if they are not in the select group of prize winners. The certificates of conformity provide not just breeders but prospective purchasers with the assurance that they are buying sheep that can be considered of the breed.

I chose only two sheep to take this year both home bred, one for the competition and one for a certificate of conformity. Lets just say I wasn't disappointed on either score. I'll post a selection of photos from the day in due course. For now just a couple of candid shots.

Hercules Ballentyne - arriving in style

samedi 24 août 2013

Ouessant Couture!

Its a bit of an animal........

samedi 17 août 2013

Sombre Shades

As the shadows lengthen, summer ripens.
 Plus que l'ombre s'allonge, les fruits d'été murissent.

lundi 12 août 2013


Wow those colours really fizz!

dimanche 11 août 2013

Dyed in the Wool

Time for a little indulgence, I am venturing into the world of dyeing wool or fleece or yarn. I don't really have anything specific in mind just  thought it was about time I started to explore few avenues. These are food dyes and the little pots with their lids on was just  too good a photo opportunity to pass up. I have no expectations  and I'm sure I'll be trying a few different methods and dyes to get some sense of where things are going.  Results later.

Faut être patient  - je suis  stagiaire au monde de teinture de la laine. Aujourd'hui la teinture alimentaire. Je ne cherche rien de spécifique,  c'est un essai à voir......... et  ça fait des jolies photos en plus. Résultats plus tard.

samedi 10 août 2013


Personally I enjoy the heat, when it is crisp and dry although it has to be said its not conducive to growing grass, its high summer here in Brittany and it shows.  Whatever surplus of hay farmers were gleefully stocking earlier in the year is in danger of being required now. The corn has been cut and the fields are golden. The sheep are sensibly conserving their energy - lazy sunshine days, bliss:-)

mardi 6 août 2013

Under The Skin....EID

Dont you just love the way these types of consultations are brought in as quietly as possible, hopefully no one will notice. Fortunately someone did and I for one am very pleased that this issue has yet to go away.

There has already been a dispensation granted for some parcs here in France who maintain ornamental flocks of sheep on view to the public to dispense with plastic ear tags in favour of subcutaneous microchips as was announced in the most recent GEMO bulletin.  Thank goodness some advocacy exists out there for breeders who are not satisfied with the current one cap fits all approach. Its a shame that the option to microchip was not investigated  more throughly at an earlier stage.  I look foward to future announcements. LINK  to the site page and consultation paper for the UK.

Puce électronique  sous-cutanée  bien tôt pour moutons non-destiné pour la consomption? Qui sait.... à voir.

dimanche 4 août 2013

Silver Lights

 Age greying - La Canitie

Having recently finished shearing the sheep I was reminded of how much age greying can alter the colour of a fleece. It is rarely considered as a colour, certainly not a choice or selection that a breeder might choose to breed for. Indeed many consider it to be undesireable,  but like it or not I thought it should be added to the colour genetics page. Age greying does make a significant difference in colouration to a sheep and many could be forgiven for thinking they had an unusual "grey" rather than a common or garden black sheep. For me its not the colour but the texture of age greying that gives a fleece its difference and  that I find  attractive.

If you have ever taken a closer look at a relative whose age greying or even your own head for those of a certain age, what becomes noticeable is that  the white hairs intermingled with the black are considerably coarser than the average fibre diameter. The above photo is of fleece samples which are roughly comparable, that is originally they were all black sheep and have fleeces which could be considered similar  in fibre mix and variability but I think its clear to see that the age grey sample lacks the silkier smoothness of the samples to the left and right of it. Age greying affects not the fine fuzz of wool fibres but the hair fibres. Its thumbprint in a fleece is distinctive and a close look in a parted fleece will reveal whether the visible colour changes are as a result of an age related phenomenon or another different reason for the colour change.

From a fibre perspective, I am looking forward to using the age greying fleece for an up and coming fun project, I can't wait! I'll update the colour genetics page in due course with a fuller description of its mode of inheritance and some of its more technical atrributes;

Mouton argenté ou grisonnement lié au vieillissement (la canitie)? La couleur d'un mouton n'est pas toujours facile à deviner mais avec la canitie (à cause du vieillissement) pour le plupart c'est que les poils qui sont atteints. Les fibres laineux et soyeux restent noires et les poils deviennent blancs,  on peut remarquer que le résultat est une  toison  plus rêche.  C'est une empreinte caractéristique, pas toujours favorisée par les éleveurs mais parfois  recherché par les fileuses  pour son aspect brillante.. 

samedi 3 août 2013

La Paperasserie

With any flock of sheep comes a certain amount of paperwork.  Some of which is required for keeping track of  health, breeding and the flock in general. There are other formalities to ensure that state administrative requirements are met. In general once the systems are in place, the paperwork pretty much looks after itself and updating any changes within the flock is relatively straightforward. For the last three years generating any administrative paperwork to meet the requirements has been a logistical nightmare. The failure to foresee the difficulties associated with the introduction of electronic identification particularly in relation to the Ouessant sheep has meant that many flocks have gone three years without  the means to  satisfactorily identify animals. This has included animals coming in from outside flocks as well as lambs born to the holding.

What a farce! In addition national requirements for flock testing for brucellosis has meant that there is a REQUIREMENT to have animals properly identified to ensure it's possible to tally up blood results with individual sheep. Added complications of the national departmental databases which means each department generates its own system  including computerisation of records ordering and such has meant that  no generalised approach can be translated for every breeder.  In short the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, neither is it possible to co-ordinate  nationally a definative policy - resulting in a shambolic system with advocacy on behalf of the breeder sadly lacking.

Continual delays in the introduction of EID tags which are suitable for small breeds  of sheep has meant that the latest batch of yellow monstrosities arrived for my flock at the end of June. The first official tags for three years..... needless to say the work to bring the flock up to date has been frustrating and  what is rarely more than a nod towards administrative duties was a logistical nightmare to ensure that old and new numbers tally as did the actual sheep being tagged.

The flocks numbering system might be back on track in about three more years, the flock sports a variety of tags and  coloured lumps of plastic. I have no satisfactory system for identifying lambs that doesn't involve retagging at a later stage and still the sheep lose their tags and now ears in fences.

A congratulatory pat on the back for finally bringing in an alternative to cattle sized tags ............what price progress.

C'est la folie Ca y est, après trois ans le troupeau est à jour, ou moins. Félicitations   pour la situation d'aujourd'hui.


jeudi 1 août 2013

Summer Nights

Freshly shorn - Fraichement tondu
Life is good - La vie est belle

The Ouessant Sheep originates from the island of Ouessant, part of a tiny archipelago just off the north coast of Finistere, Brittany. The island of terror as it was known to some, was swept by the full force of the atlantic’s weather, the hardy sheep adapted to survive on poor grazing from salty clifftop meadows. It was the women of the island that raised the sheep, renowned for their black wool to weave into cloth known locally as berlinge and their meat with its sweet and delicate taste.

La race "Mouton d'Ouessant" est originaire de l’île d’’Ouessant qui fait parti d’un petit archipel au large du Finistère, Bretagne. L’île de l'épouvante comme c'était connu par certains était balayé par les intempéries de l’atlantique, ces moutons rustiques s'adaptaient à survivre sur les pâturages pauvres des falaises salées. C’était les femmes de l’île qui élevaient les moutons réputés pour leur laine noire à tisser « la berlinge » une étoffe régionale et leur viande avec un goût doux et délicat.

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