Faux holsteins

When I called, Joanna reported that Mallory had dropped two lambs and, by the time I arrived home, Audrey had delivered her own set of twins. We were off to the barn for scissors, iodine, pencil and paper, ear tags and a towel. We cleaned, trimmed, and tagged Audrey’s two and then set off to find Mallory and her family. Although her fleece isn’t particularly distinct, and we were too far away to read ear tags, there was no question where she was because her lambs gave her away. They looked like miniature Holsteins and are a classic example of the Shetland fleece pattern called Flecket (white with large black patches on the body). I have written about and always been fascinated by terms assigned to the thirty recognized patterns of fleece coloration which occur in Shetlands. Stefan Adalsteinsson has written … Of the thirty markings, fifteen have names that have a comparable counterpart in Icelandic, in spite of 1100 years of separation. This is a remarkable example of how certain aspects of the culture of sheep-keeping have been kept alive. It is noticeable that the white markings in both Iceland and Shetland have names that are from the Norwegian. These must have been used in Norway at the time of settlement in both Shetland and Iceland, because that is where the sheep in both countries came from. I can’t help but note the hooves on this pair. Do you see how they look irregular? This picture was taken when these two were, perhaps, 30 minutes old. During gestation, and at parturition, the hoofs are quite soft. This is, as you can imagine, a way of keeping the little ones from doing damage to the delicate placental membranes while still in utero. Once on-the-ground however the hooves undergo a dramatic change. I’m not sure whether the solidification is due to the rapid mobilization of calcium or to simple drying of the keratin which comprises this all-important structure, but within hours the hoofs straighten and solidify.

16 thoughts on “Faux holsteins

  1. Wow – a universe of patterns! I would have never guessed that there are so many distinct names for them! But on the other hand I think I recall that Inuits have names for different shades of white snow and ice. The quickly hardening hoofs are fascinating! I wonder if some high-tech startup already tried to turn that mechanism into some invention?

    • Great. Indeed, a true sign of spring. Our flock is experiencing a bit of a lull at the moment … but only half of the ewes have lambed and the ones which remain are enormous. Stay tuned.

  2. In looking at your last sentence, we can see that you don’t feel it behooves you to stick to just one of the two plurals of hoof. I expect you decide on the hoof which one to use.

  3. They do look like Holstein! Once the shearing begins, do you sell the wool, or do your own carding, spinning and so on? I have a friend in Minnesota who started raising sheep just so she could control the entire process: from feed bag to rug, as she said.

    After your last post, I was thinking about that tight, curly hair, and remembered I had a coat when I was young that was trimmed with that sort of curly, silky wool. (I called it fur, but at the time everything fuzzy and soft was “fur.”) There was a matching muff. My, that was a long time ago.

    • Thanks for the observations and questions shoreacres. Although we once tried to market our wool harvest, neither Joanna nor I are business people and we have a barn-full of fleece. Some is used in our own spinning and weaving and a very, very little is sold to individuals each year but the majority simply accumulates. Your friend is right in observing that it is quite something to be able to breed the ewe, birth the lamb, raise and shear the animal, spin the wool, and knit the garment. Indeed … quite something. Joanna takes great delight in pointing out that a particular shawl she might be wearing is made ‘from so-and-so’s lamb fleece from last spring.’ Thanks for checking in. D

    • It always amazes me how quickly they are on their feet and up-to-speed. I was out doing chores today and all the lambs were zooming and jumping and driving their mothers to distraction. It’s pretty fun to watch. Such a nice time of year. We’ll be shearing in another couple of weeks.

  4. So interesting that their pelt looks like a cow! Will they stay white and black or darken like their mom? I might like to have a pelt like this! Also fascinating about their hooves. You have such vast knowledge about many things! My area of expertise is much more limited! So happy to see your new farm hand in this post. Too bad her stay was so short. At least it was well-timed.

Respond to this post if you'd like.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: