The foundation ewe is just what the name suggests, the foundation of your breed up program and is therefore extremely important to your future success. In our case, we compared all the different breeds we heard of with the traits of the Valais Blacknose Sheep and read and re-read the description of the breed standard of the Valais.( Click here for the Valais breed standard) I will refrain from making a list of possible choices as I think it’s up to each and every one to decide. I will however give you the criteria I used to chose the breed that we chose to start with.
Size and Build: We knew we wanted a robust, large framed breed to match that of the Valais. It’s naturally impossible to find something that’s exactly the same, but we wanted substance to legs and body, as well as straight legs and back.
Wool: It was also extremely important to us that the wool was white and as close of a match as possible. I wanted a white breed in hopes of not having a different color or pattern to deal with in future offspring. I had observed a lot of spots in many of the F1’s and F2’s that I had seen, and I knew from experience with breeding alpacas that it could be extremely hard to get rid of color variations. Knowing that a non solid colored body would be grounds for dismissing an animal in the future I decided that was high on my list of “must haves”. It also made sense to chose a long wool breed, same as the Valais.
Temperament: The Valais are supposed to be friendly, curious, and docile sheep. They like people and are extremely cuddly and fun to be around. We knew that whatever the foundation breed we chose had to be friendly as we wanted to like them and enjoy working with them.
Horns: To have or not have horns.. well that’s the big debate among many breeders. After reading studies that show that a polled breed will eventually produce horns if consistently bred to a horned breed, I decided that although part of the breed standard and therefor important, it was not THE most important feature for me to start with. These sheep are a meat and wool breed. I therefore chose to first focus on size and wool. I also have to mention, that I saw scurs already in my F1 weather, so I now feel confident that horns will come in future generations.
Mothering ability, ease of lambing and milk supply: Although not part of the breed standard, I also wanted to make my life as a shepherdess as easy as possible, so I wanted a breed that were known to give birth easy and without help, who were excellent mothers and had a large supply of milk.
Still, it was only after a friend had mentioned how much she liked the Cotswold sheep that I compared them to my “list of musts” and I was hooked. We were extremely blessed to be able to welcome our 4 Cotswold ewes, three of them having lambed before, just weeks after making the decision, and were thrilled to be able to AI for the first time not even two months later.
This is Alma and her F1, Buttercup. With two F1’s on the ground we have 100% success in markings. Our girls let the Valais shine through in the best possible way. Both of them have the roman shaped, black nose and eyes, ears, patches on knees and hocks and black feet and hooves. Our female even has the tail spot. There are no spots anywhere on the body, and the wool is fantastic. We couldn’t be happier. Having just AI’d again, we are eager to see if this will indeed continue and will report our next results come lambing season 2021!
Our little weather had slightly lighter markings than our ewe lamb, but even so they were all there and correct!