dimanche 20 octobre 2013

Conservation Breeding - Choices

 Pick Me!
As the year turns and once again it is time to consider planning this years matings. I am reminded that the topic of conservation breeding has been simmering on the back burner of my mind. Each year my choices are directed by a certain premise which may include colour, size or a myriad of other selection criteria. So given that this topic is about conservation breeding its direction is clear. .... but where to start.

First, is to identify  from which genepool you are looking to make your choices.  I considered the very basic grouping into cohorts as proposed  by Prof  Weaver ( see previous article LINK) The idea of dividing into cohorts is one consideration but to circulate only with breedings within your own flock seems unnecessarily limited and it is helpful then  to consider the larger "breed" grouping. Given that the breed is a french native the first and primary criteria would be to stick to  Ouessants of native origin.

Within this grouping it is possible to sub-divide along several criteria and here it begins to get a little more convoluted. Within the breed history there is an identification of several "souches" or groupings  of bloodlines. Divided roughly into the originating areas in which the various flocks were found. Geographically diverse, it is reasonable to assume  that these "souches" were also genetically diverse, indeed some of their characteristics and differences were recorded by those who sought to establish the breed society.

Whilst some of these "souches" exist today the generalised descriptions of the past did not always clearly define or identify individual flocks or if they did their path to the present is  not easily discerned.  There is a second sub set of groups that can be taken into consideration and this would be those breeders or flocks who have sufficiently long a history to be considered within  the breed founder flocks. Despite some who feel that it is no longer possible to identify theses founder flocks or descendants of those original sheep it is in many cases possible to do this to a sufficiently high degree as to retain a  valid and tangible link to the past, genetically and also historically.

As I move along the path of conservation breedings within my own flock  the identification of as many different branches of the tree reaching back to the trunk will formulate  an integral part of  not just  my  approach to conservation  breeding but also of  maintaining the diversity and health of the breed nationally.

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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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