Thursday, July 7, 2011


LittleRedOak January with her great big ram lamb, Sextant.

While I was handling Sextant to deal with his broken scur, I gave him a "once-over" and realized that only one of his testicles had descended.  I grabbed Tucker and gave him the same inspection to find that one of his was completely descended and the other was only partially so.  These two rams are completely unrelated... out of unrelated ewes and two, separate, unrelated rams.  Sextant was scheduled to leave in a week to become flock sire at another farm. 

So... is the 11 week old mark the normal time for testicles to start descending in ram lambs, or do I have a couple of cryptorchids?  (I haven't had a chance to inspect the three other ramlings in the flock yet)  I DON'T want to sell a flawed ram lamb to anyone.  But is it worth it to give the lamb more time to descend or is that hopeless? 
Any thoughts or info on the matter would be appreciated.


Karen Valley said...

Sorry to say but by 11 weeks both testicles should be down and easily felt and of the same size.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Thank you so much, Karen. Yes, it's a disappointment, but it's better to know. I appreciate your willingness to break it to me.

Kelly Bartels said...

My best spotted ram lamb this year has only one testicle, to say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I'm so sorry this has happened to you too.
He will be sold to a pet/fiber home since his fleece is amazing.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

I guess we all have these setbacks, though I wish we didn't. I'm sure my ram lambs will go to the freezer regardless of fleece. More demand for meat than pets around here.

Becky Utecht said...

Sorry about that Sabrina,what a bummer. I had one once and I made sure I didn't repeat that breeding combination again. But I noticed the parents of your two are not completely unrelated, Ash and January are half brother and sister (same sire).

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Becky. I had totally overlooked that. I was looking dam to dam and sire to sire... not opposite dams/sires.

I will try to get out and examine all the ram lambs soon, and then post about my findings. Hoping the whole lot is not that way.

So here is another question. Would you (other breeders) cull all the ewe lambs by a sire or out of a dam that has produced a cryptorchid?

Gail V said...

Hmm, so a grandparent to each cryptorchid was Kimberwood Leonardo, who I owned for 2 breeding seasons before selling his fine genetics elsewhere. I have had one crypto- here out of maybe 50 ram lambs, and not Leonardo's-- truly can't remember whose. There was some recent advice on the Yahoo sheep genetics list-- conclusion was that keeping normal (2 testes) rams from the lines was wiser than keeping daughters, as daughters might be homozygous for the trait. Sponenburg did say that more than one gene was likely responsible. I think it would be a hard call to make.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

It certainly is a hard call to make, Gail. I've reduced my ewe flock to make room for my four new ewe lambs from '11. These new little girls comprise 2/3's of my "keeper" flock for this winter.

I've been looking at the two pedigrees questioned and all I see are the top respected farms in the midwest on top and bottom. I would buy again from any of them! I don't think it is possible to point fingers at anyone or any line. It takes two sets of genetics to create the problem, so it is in more sheep than one would like it to be.

It is heartening to hear you had such wonderful results with Leonardo. It is disheartening for me to hear the thoughts passed on from the yahoo list about not saving ewe lambs. It would basically mean I was up a creek without a paddle. And maybe that is where I sit. But I have two choices: a)give up now and sell all my sheep because I'm screwed, or b) be transparent and honest about the lambs I'm getting and try to breed responsibly, cull responsibly, and sell with full disclosure.

It is uncomfortable to find problems cropping up in our flocks. We all want as much data as possible on our sheep...and then it sucks when the data indicates a possible issue. But it doesn't mean anyone made bad decisions or was unethical. It just means that all of our sheep have many traits hiding in their genetics that we can't possibly know in looking at them or even breeding them. Traits we love and traits we dislike. It is just the nature of dealing with live animals, multiple pairings, several generations alive at once on different farms, and the internet to communicate with.

I just want to say, I appreciate all the opinions/theories/info/suggestions people are able to offer me here on my blog when I ask... even when it's tough. :) I'm grateful for the open dialogue and support offered here. I'm glad of my sheep; they teach me so many things, sometimes the hard way. But that is life. I'll do my best to keep you updated with the rest of the info I find on my lambs as I examine them more. Maybe that means I won't have any to sell, but that might just be my luck. It is certainly not the fault of any of the wonderful people who have contributed to my flock along the way.

Thanks to all of you who chimed in on this discussion. Many thanks.

Franna said...

Hi Sabrina, I started the discussion on the Yahoo sheep color genetics list as my F1 Timothy ram sired 2 monorchids on another farm. I, too, think that sharing information and full disclosure are best for learning. Every sheep - every animal! - has a whole host of unknown genetics, and based on parentage of the monorchids - yours, mine and others - the genes responsible are widespread. I'm keeping ewe lambs from the sire, but plan to wether him. If the dams of the monorchids were mine, I probably wouldn't use them again.

We also had a severe parrot mouth lamb born in the Gotlands - a much more serious problem. The sire is already dinner, the dam will go, too. Inheritance on parrot mouth is probably multi-allele, too.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

I'm so relieved that my lamb, Tucker, turns out to be fully and properly equipped upon closer inspection. That means that LRO Ash did not sire a monorchid. It means there is no reason to cast doubt upon Gail's former ram, Kimberwood Leonardo. And it means my keeper ewe lambs are totally eligible to be "keepers"!

I will certainly keep an eye on S'more Courante. The good news is that he sired 3 perfectly normal ram lambs this year as well as the one monorchid. Also the dam will not be producing registered Shetlands anymore. If her buyer wants to breed her for meat lambs or if he backs out of the sale...either way she will not be contributing to Nassa genetics any longer. I have one daughter from her by a different ram. So I will be keeping an eye on that girl especially.

Full disclosure is hard, not just on the person laying their data public, but on the whole Shetland community since most of us have genetics from several farms. I want to behave in a way that benefits the entire breed...but I am deeply conscious of how it can hurt others. I hope everyone deals kindly with folks that have a genetic problem laid at their door...because these things usually crop up long after the sheep are sold in good faith. Or a hundred offspring are normal and then a odd trait pops up. It just happens.

Thank you again to all of you folks. I wish you all the best with your flocks!

Theresa said...

I just wanted to chime in here. I don't know much about monocrytorchids, but with the hundreds of Shetland lambs born here, we've only had one to my knowlege (who did have two at a young age but sucked one back up a couple months later or got injured and shriveled?). Technically, that wasn't a mono, but that is what we found and would have believed as a mono, if we did not know better. I am constantly checking ram lambs to make sure they have them very young and as they are growing because that is a sign of growthiness and fertility as a ram lamb. As to the genetics of Courante, that line was not involved in the above instance, and as a side note, it was a very growthy lamb.
As a ram is easy to "tell", I personally would question the pairing itself (not all matches are made in heaven)after possible injury or a pulled up testicle (which I believe is quite possible with this breed), especially when the data shows normality on the sire's production side. Environmental issues are a real concern as well.