Thursday, November 6, 2014

Random Teeswater Musings!

Lawrence Cottage's 82.25% Teeswater Ewe, Letha
Several years ago we wanted to raise some Wensleydale sheep.  We visited the Dally's sheep farm in Lebanon, Oregon.  We loved the fiber, then we saw a Teeswater fleece.  It was over at that point. Wensleydale sheep were no longer the dream!  The dream became Teeswater Sheep!  We purchased our first Teeswater fleece and spun it and played with it all winter.
Teeswater Fleece from ShepherdsLane 

We researched the Teewater sheep. We found that Teeswater's were the foundation breed for the once sought after Wensleydale sheep.  The Dally's shared information on the two breedsand we were convinced that we wanted to breed Teeswater's.  Our first ewes came to our cottage in the back of a Honda Accord!  Yes it was a sight on I-5!  
Ruby, the Matriarch of the flock (wensleydale foundation) the ewe in the back with the dark blue/black face w/ her lambs Duke and Duchess.  Hazel the middle Ewe w/ her lamb.  Hazel has a Lincoln foundation.  Lizzie, the front ewe as a yearling ewe.
Ruby & Hazel were our first two ewes.

We were able to Laproscopically Artificially Inseminate (L-AI) our ewes with semen from the United Kingdom.  We had a lot of lovely ram lambs and one ewe lamb our first lambing season!
Lawrence Cottage's Duchess 75% Teeswater ewe
Since our first year a virus has hit parts of Europe, Schmallenberg virus.  It is currently not possible to import semen.  There is not much Teeswater semen available in the United States and we feel that the remaining semen should be used very judiciously for the greater good of the breed.  Since we do not have high percentage sheep we will not be using UK semen until the borders open up again.  

This year we used Shepherd Lane's 93% ram.  He is a well marked solid ram!  We will be excited to see what he throws.  In order to maintain genetic diversity we can only use him on one breeding group of ewes.  We will be using our own 82.25% ram on a second breeding group of ewes here at Lawrence Cottage.  Our 2016 lamb crop percentages will vary from 71% to 87%

Teeswater Lamb fleece!  Our softest fleece!
Once our ewes are L-AI'd we keep them in a low stress environment for the next 40 days with the hope they will "settle" with the L-AI semen.  If they do not settle our cover ram is our 82.25% ram and those lambs will not be used for breeding due to the inbreeding co-efficient.  However, those lambs will still produce fabulous fiber and then go to market.

We have noticed many things as we have begun the process of upgrading our Teewater flock.  There is a lot of variation in our lower percentage teeswater fleeces.  Some ewes have a light weight clip that is soft and fine.  Other ewes have a heavy weight clip.  We are finding better consistency in our fleece quality as our percent nears 75-82%.  

Lizzie, 50% teeswater ewe, clean and ready for show!
Teeswater fleeces are a delight to work with!  Ewes reach maturity about age 3.  We do not breed ewe until they are yearlings.  We let the ewes grow long locks their first year.  This is a gamble, you may get a wonderful fleece or a felted mess!  We have experienced some of both!  Some sheep LOVE to rub on trees!  Oh imagine pitch in your now finely felted fleece!   

Sheep growing lovely fleeces require some good nutrition.  Sheep chow is not cheap!  Our flock can eat a ton of alfalfa in less than 30 days.  This year we put 24 tons of alfalfa and Kentucky blue grass. When we feed blue grass we also feed a high percentage (16%) fescue/clover pellet.    We hope this will hold us through until June 2015.  Our flock number doubles at lambing and ewes/lambs eat a lot of alfalfa very quickly!
Alfalfa (non GMO) delivery from Central Oregon.  My parents haul many loads of this lovely green stuff over Mt Hood and we stack it in the barns all summer long!

We try to shear our breeding ewes one or twice a year.  They grow about one inch per month, or less when they are bred.  We still have a nice length fleece.  We find the 3-6 inch fleece is wonderful for yarn!  
Teeswater art yarn w/ beads.  6-8 inch fleece is wonderful!

3 inch Teeswater staple length.  Heavy laceweight 2-ply milled.


2-ply heavy laceweight Teeswater yarn from Lawrence Cottage
Estonian scarf knit by G Johnson of Lawrence Cottage

                                      --The Ladies of Lawrence Cottage