In the early days of the Ouessant breed in the UK – which was not that long ago – it was difficult to avoid inbreeding or linebreeding to some extent, as there were simply not that many choices available.
Renée Hemming has done some excellent research on the flock book which shows that the majority of UK Ouessants can be traced back to just six rams.
As the flock size has grown, so have the choices available and, whilst this is not always easy for the owners of small flocks (the majority of OSS members), we should all be looking to improve the quality of the breed. This means not only taking into account the breed standard and the qualities discussed by Marie, above, but also looking at the closeness of the relationships between potential sires and dams. Linebreeding, as Marie notes, is a valid technique for selecting a trait or characteristic in the flock, but must be carefully judged and not simply allowed to happen by default.
Access to the online flock book has allowed members to research sheep’s pedigrees before buying or mating. The Grassroots system, which powers the flock book, also allows us to measure the inbreeding within the flock and to carry out ‘What If’ calculations to see if a potential ram is a suitable match for your ewes (or vice versa). This information can be presented in a ‘Kinship Report’ which is now available to members at no charge.
To request a Kinship Report, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the OSS numbers of the sheep that you would like analysed. The system then measures the degree of relationship between each ram and each ewe, allowing selection of the most suitable ram. As a rule of thumb, you should only select a pairing that results in an inbreeding coefficient lower than the flock as a whole (currently 0.035 for registered Ouessants in UK).
I’ll then email the Kinship Report back to you as soon as I can – unfortunately we cannot yet automate this within the online flock book. So if you are thinking about buying a ram, or deciding which tup should be used to cover your ewes, give the Kinship Report a try.
Author: David Clements – Registrar