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.

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