Sunday, 28 June 2009

Royal Highland Show 2009

On Friday I excitedly went off to the Royal Highland Show. I was working on the Scottish Wildlife Trust stand where it was great to get to know some of my colleagues better and spread the word about our work. Everyone was very welcoming and passionate about raising the profile of the Trust.However, I make no secret of the fact the the Shetland Judging was the biggest highlight of my day. I had hoped to enter some of my own sheep but financially and logistically this just wasn't possible, so I just went along to learn and was very glad that I did!

Showing is a game. You play the game, you get the results. Speaking to the breeders showing before judging commenced was interesting: "we've looked at who the judge is an selected animals to bring along in accordance with what we think his preference will be."

At the RHS this year, the judge was a native Shetlander and so, taking this into account, most of the entries were large white sheep! Of course Shetland fans have all heard of how the patterned Shetland sheep were in danger of being lost in their native land, and yesterday I was told that there seem to be alternate predudices on either side of the Scotland/England border. In England there is a strong preference for coloured sheep (but not necessarily spotted in most cases) while in Scotland you see many more white Shetlands.

Plenty of white sheep in the Group of Three class.

And in the Ram Lamb class

Just to show that I am not totally predudiced against white sheep, I quite liked this white shearling ram of Tom Findlay's

And this, the Reserve Champion Shetland owned by Gilbert Meikle

But in the end the Champion of the day was Moira Morrison's ewe. Well done on a fabulous acheivement.

I shant go into the ins and outs of how the judging panned out. Some folk were concerned that coloured Shetlands were not even being looked at, while others defended this saying that a crofter on Shetland needs the most marketable animal possible and that will produce a good amount of meat, rather than just a rack to hang a fabulous fleece on or something pretty to look at! I will say this: it must be a huge honour for one of your sheep to be given the title of Champion Shetland at the Royal Highland Show... but I won't be swapping any of my girls for one like this, nor changing my opionions about what I like! But then variety is the spice of life... and not all Shetland judges think alike either.

I did find some coloured sheep to talk to.
She doesn't look very impressed with being in a pen for four days!

Best coloured Shetland went to Robin McEwan-King's handsome tup.

I'd like to say thank you to everyone from the Shetland Sheep Society for making me feel so welcome. I really enjoyed speaking (and drinking :o) with you all and really appreciated all those who took the time to give advice and pass on some of their masses of Shetland Sheep knowledge. I'll look forward to the next time we meet.


Juliann said...

Jenny thank you so much for sharing not only your photos of the Royal Highland show, but you're accompanying thoughts as well.
It seems that North America is not alone in being divided into seperate camps regarding Shetland phenotypes. This is comforting to me, in that we are not alone. :)

Nancy K. said...

What a wonderful synopsis of the RHS! Thank you for sharing it with us Jenny. It is eye-opening in some respects. I was surprised to see the black pigment on the white ewe ~ the Shetland standard says that is a disqualifying trait! I thought that was something that only the North American breeders accepted. (I, for one, LIKE the dark pigment on white sheep) It also appears to me that the size of the Shetlands is not any smaller than what MOST people have over here. All in all, I'd say we're breeding the same kind of sheep...despite what some N.A. breeders would have one think!


Tammy W. said...

Jenny - like everyone else - thank you so much for taking the time to post on the RHS. Very informative - and of course only makes me wish I could have been there to see it all myself.
We all have different preferences on colour and markings - it would be a pretty boring world if we all liked exactly the same thing.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Very interesting; thanks for the "tour." Wouldn't it be revealing if Shetlands (especially the white ones!) had to pass DNA testing before they could be placed?

Mim said...

Wonderful! It does look like we are doing the same over here, some judges like one and the next show the other judge likes the other. Shetlands are so diverse that we can breed what works best at our own farm. I must breed for meat and fleece because that is where my market is at this time. Then meat is why people have sheep in the first place, then the beautiful fleece is iceing on the cake.

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing!

When my Dad took me back to the UK (to visit family) I told him I wanted to see some Shetlands. He took me to the Haddington show in Scotland. The colored and white Shetlands were shown in separate classes. (Mr Watson was the judge.)

Robindad said...

Hi Jenny
good to see you at RHS

Pity some of the colour specialists did not enter .. but the rest of usu had a fair entry of colours as well as white and the results were

Senior Ram 2nd Black (Coloured Champion, Reserve Male Champion and fleece finalist) 3rd GK and 5th GK

Shearling 1st GK and 6th GK

Ram lamb 7th

Ewe none (but Black 5 y-o for Fleece a former winner of the fleece trophy at year old and two years old )

Shearling Ewe 5th GK and 6th GK (and another Moorit one for the fleece)

Not a bad haul ...and yes there were a black and coloured trio in the other half of the ring.

Robindad said...

Hi Nancy

"black pigment on the white ewe"
Where are you seeing this?

The Breed Description says black hairs in a white fleece.

Shetland breeders prefer dark noses and a blueing on the skin of the face ... because these sheep are hardier. So you are on the right lines

Sheep with pink on noses around the eyes and ears are often susceptible to skin problems even in our limited sunshine ..

remember that the summer days in Shetland are so long it hardly gets dark ... so a lot of UV exposure

Many of these points about our breed are to do with hardiness which the SFB founders did not bother to write down as 'everyone' knew that ...

Like it must be a sound sheep with good feet teeth and tackle/udder.

Robindad said...

Hi Michelle

To suggest that current white sheep are crossed potential libel .. and if parentage testing is to be brought in then it should apply to all.

Funny how our coloured breeder friends have such unfounded prejudices against the whites...

and historically white breeders in SSS register more coloured sheep per flock than colour specialists.

Over recent years we have driven white breeders in England out of the society many of whom had the potential to run larger flocks including colours

Thankfully here in mainland Scotland we are equal opportunity breeders...

Claire said...

Thanks for the tour and the wonderful photographs. What a delightful day you must have had. I am excited to attend a Shetland Show here in the US in September. It will be in Wisconsin. I'll try to take some good photographs and will blog about it!

Wrensong Farm said...

Thanks for the tour, Jenny. It was very interesting to me as I had no idea of the different camps of whites vs colored Shetlands! (I'm still pretty new to all this!). I like them all and am even adding a white Shetland ewe lamb to my flock this year (even though the colored and spotted/kats/gullys are my favorites!) :)

Rothes said...

Predjudice is a bit strong surely preferences is more appropriate.
The choice of sheep for this particular show was largely influenced by the number of sheep with fleeces still on them! Certainly the main honours did go to very good shetland sheep but the coloured champion brought out by Robin and Margaret has been a strong contender at that particular show where he stood 1st as a lamb.It is also worthy of note that the best shetland fleece on the hoof was won by a moorit gimmer bred and shown by Rena Douglas of the Drum Flock. Indeed the same breeder of the black tup!