Thanks to all the members who responded to the survey on wattles. The aim was simply to find out how many sheep in the UK flock might carry wattles in order to inform the debate about future policy.
The headlines are as follows:
· 52 members responded, reporting on 571 sheep in 51 flocks
· Of these, 141 sheep had wattles, in 35 flocks
Members’ comments include frequent reference to the difficulties posed by wattles when shearing – some said they couldn’t be sure which sheep had wattles as they might have been cut off! A founding member of the Society noted that:
“None of the original Ouessant sheep registered with the society had wattles and the breed standard at the time was based on the French GEMO, therefore in my view wattles are unacceptable”
And another member said:
“French ewes no wattles, added in Dutch ram and all his lambs have wattles.”
But others were concerned at any potential change:
“Very concerned that society may devalue portions of breeders flocks by declaring wattles outside of breed standard.”
“This would seem to be one of the characteristics that are unique to Ouessants and it would be a shame to see the wattles go!”
The full survey results may be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-LBC27RBM/
Wattles are not present in the French flock, or permitted in the French breed standard, on which the UK standard was originally based. Of other European societies, the Belgians previously said that wattles were ‘permitted but not desirable’ but now plan to conform to the French standard from 2026, allowing time for wattles to be bred out of the Belgian Flock. Renée Hemming has written elsewhere* on how selective breeding could achieve this and the AGM noted that her advice was particularly helpful in explaining how we might go forward. However, members felt that with such widely different views expressed in the survey, and with wattles potentially affecting around a quarter of our sheep in two-thirds of our flocks, further consideration was required to take into account the views and needs of all members. This will be carried out by the Breed Standard Working Group (see previous item) in the coming months and recommendations put to members in 2017.
*See Renée’s posting on Society forums and email reminder for wattles survey