pedigreesI got a batch of registrations back from the new Katahdin sheep registrar yesterday. I had heard from others that theirs contained a lot of errors, so I went through mine with a fine toothed comb. And yeah, a lot of errors in mine too. Twelve errors in twenty pedigrees. I  have little sticky flags on all of them, to keep track.

The Big Move

I had talked to Kary Claghorn, the new registrar on the phone. She had actually caught an error in my submission (a typo of duplicate tag numbers), and kindly called me to sort it out, and fixed it for me for no fee. She said the migration from the old register to them has been… challenging. I already knew some of that from talking to board members at KHSI, that they had to transfer truckloads of file cabinets across state lines. The old system was either all paper, or only partially computerized. So you know all kinds of errors are going to crop up! I  honestly can’t imagine how they’re even doing it. Registration numbers are in the 77,000 range- that’s a lotta records!

Not much has been said, but from what I can gather, the old registrar was doing this as a side job. And she did a good job in the beginning. But KHSI is growing, and the workload became too much. She started to get behind, and further behind. And not having it fully computerized made it error-prone. KHSI now issues around 5,000 registrations and recordations a year, and the registry processes over 7,000 transactions annually. It became clear that it needed the support of a full time business, and to be databased to minimize data errors. So the switch was made, to an office with staff that already supports several breed registries. This new office is able to turn registrations around much faster already, and that is appreciated.

Kitchen Registries

I find this whole animal registry thing fascinating. I grew up being used to stable, old and venerable American Kennel Club for dog registrations. But there are splinter dog registries too- some hunting breeds have them and of course non-AKC breeds use them. The Border Collie community had four in North America: Canadian Border Collie Association (CBCA), American International Border Collie registry (AIBC), North American Sheep Dog Society (NASDS) and American Border Collie (ABC) registry.

NASDS had the unthinkable happen: it collapsed. The woman running it just got overwhelmed with her mail one day, and stopped opening it. 😀 She just put the envelopes in boxes, and they accumulated. Into mountains of boxes of unopened envelopes, uncashed checks, and unissued registration numbers. Somebody else tried to take it over and save it, but it was too insane of a job. So, it just died. People who had NASDS registered dogs had to cobble them over into another system, and thankfully the other systems accepted them. So, I think this is weird, that we would entrust an entire purebred registry to someone doing it as a side job in their kitchen. With no electronic backups and safeguards against the registrar getting hit by a truck. Yeeks. But that’s exactly what many animal registries still do.

KHSI and Their Percentages

So here we are. I imagine it’s going to take a year or two for this new staff to correct errors found in the existing data set, and to digest the way we do things. KHSI is probably an unusual breed registry in that they encourage crossbreeding to maintain hybrid vigor. And I love this. But it does make for complicated record keeping. RamShedding

Here’s the gist of how it works. Say I want to cross-in a Dorper ewe. I breed her to a purebred Katahdin ram. Her lambs can be “recorded” as 50%. I breed those back to a purebred ram, and the second year’s offspring can be recorded as 75%. I breed those back to a purebred, and the third year’s offspring are now recorded as 87.5%. Those lambs can be inspected after they are a year old to verify they have an adequate hair coat (“A” or “B” type), and be converted to full registration. For ram lambs, there is the additional catch that their mothers must be inspected and verified as having an “A” type coat. “A” coats are fully shedding. “B” type coats may retain up to 1/4th of the upper half of their body (which translates to 1/8th of their body surface area) in non-shedding wooly fibers. Coat inspections are done in the summer months, when it can be observed how well they shed.

The general idea is that in three generations, you can get back to what’s considered fully registerable purebred sheep. Three generations is the rule of thumb for “breeding the wool off” if you are crossbreeding with wooled sheep. Once you verifiably get to shedding hair sheep status, the sheep are considered registerable. And that, I think, is pretty cool! It gives all sorts of leeway to bring in good traits from other breeds and keep the gene pool diverse.

Hair Coat Paper Trail

To handle this, KHSI issues blue pedigree/registration forms for recorded sheep, white for fully registered. Recorded sheep have an “X” or “T” at the beginning of their registration number, so that it can be spotted that they are crossbreds when viewing them in a pedigree. Apparently when a sheep is hair coat inspected, the blue form gets replaced with a white, and the T drops off that animal’s number. (I think X’s are for sheep under 87.5%, that will never upgrade to full registration?)

I had a hair coat inspection done this year, and that’s where the bulk of the errors wound up. All of those sheep ended up getting recorded as 100%, instead of the varying percentages each had. And I have some non-standard percentages too: an 84.4%, and her 92.2% daughters and 96.1% granddaughters.

I had the additionally confusing issue that I had two old girls hair coat inspected that are less than 87.5% pure. So they do not convert, they stay recorded. But the reason I did this is that if either has a ram lamb I later choose to register, I want the mothers’ “A” coats on file. Because you know what would happen if I didn’t: Murphy’s Law! One of them would have a super awesome ram lamb, and then the mother would die in a freak accident before I could have her coat inspected, and I’d have no way of registering that ram! (And of course Murphy’s Law also applies now that I did proactively get those inspections on record, neither ewe will ever have a nice ram lamb worth registering! :-D)

So even though I carefully paper-clipped together and put post-it notes on the different batches of things-needing-processing and in-which-order at the registrar, this still threw them for a loop. Those low percentage crossbred girls got switched to full registration, dropped their X’s from their numbers, and were noted as 100% when they’re not. This error, of course, propagated through two generations of daughters’ and granddaughters’ pedigrees. <sigh> That’s what we get for having such a complicated rule, I suppose.

In addition, I had one ewe’s re-issued pedigree lose the correct breeder’s name; and I had two pedigrees with blanks in them where there shouldn’t have been. So, the bottom line: it pays to go through them and verify their accuracy. Even though it’s quite tedious!