There’s no point in having a register of pedigree Ouessants, if buyers don’t have confidence that the registration means something. Confidence in the Ouessant ‘brand’ makes the selection of stock easier – and should lead to improved quality overall.
The measures set out by the Breed Development Working Group, to improve the availability of information about the breed standard and the pedigree of our sheep, also need to be backed up with clarity in advertising and a consistent code of practice for those buying and selling sheep.
During my time on the Committee, there have been a number of instances of sheep being advertised for sale before they were registered, or being sold to members without an accompanying registration certificate. I think that we have all also seen adverts for ‘Ouessant Sheep’ on sites other than the Society’s, where the pedigree and quality is – at best – dubious. And we have also had reports of closely related sheep being sold as breeding pairs.
Some of this comes down to good record keeping on the part of the seller. If their flock records and registrations are up to date then members buying can (and should) research the prospective purchases in the online flock book or ask the registrar for a kinship report. But the general public, too, must have confidence that if they are buying a registered sheep from a member of the Society, that they are getting a quality, pedigree Ouessant.
The Committee has therefore approved draft Codes of Conduct that will be put to the AGM for Approval. The draft, which may be found here, sets out what the Society expects of its members (and of its officers and committee members, too!). Much of it is common-sense, asking us all to conform to all legal and welfare standards, and to do the best for our sheep. But there is also a section on what is expected of those buying and selling sheep, and I hope that we will all find this a useful checklist.
In particular, members are asked ensure that their flock records and registrations are up to date, to register sheep before advertising them, and to ensure that a hard copy of the registration certificate accompanies every sheep sold.
I really hope that we can make the classified ads section of the Society website, become the website of choice for everyone looking to buy a Ouessant sheep. We have also improved the content and presentation of the adverts on the website so that buyers can get more information – and so that everyone can have confidence in what they are buying under the OSS ‘brand’.
What do you think? I’d welcome your comments on the Codes of Conduct ahead of the AGM, either in the discussion box below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Antonia Clements