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Lambing is almost over here, I have one late ewe left to deliver whom I think is due next weekend. Total count so far is 64 lambs, which is low, but not terrible. I have eight open ewes, six of which are yearlings. So now it’s time to pour over data and start making decisions about which sheep to keep, sell, and cull; as well as decisions about management changes for next year.

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imageA couple of Katahdin registry folks and I have been working on a website which explains more detail about the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), specifically as it relates to our breed, Katahdin hair sheep. Kathy Bielek and Roxanne Newton put together most of the content, and I worked on the back-end of the site.

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While I’m on the subject of NSIP numbers… I spotted these two ewes standing next to each other in the feeder, and realized their comparison is a fun exercise in NSIP metrics. Their sizes are at two extremes in my flock. As you can see, there is a big chocolate ewe to the left, and a much smaller red ewe to the right. The big one was born in 2010, the red one in 2011. So, they are now nearly ages three and two in this photo: both fairly representing their mature sizes. 

Most people, if they had to choose between these ewes via visual appraisal, would say “oooh, so big!!” about the left one, and “aw, what a shrimp!” about the right one. The difference between them phenotypically is nearly like comparing a Great Dane to a Springer Spaniel. I bet most breeders would pick the chocolate ewe as the show winner, right?

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I made a recent discovery about National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) numbers which I felt was worth some thought and graphing. I’d been wondering for a long time about these little “acc” numbers that come back with each score you get. It stands for accuracy, of course, and is expressed as a percentage. I asked around, so what’s considered a good accuracy value? I could never really get a concrete answer. People would just say, well, higher is better, and your accuracies will get higher the longer you’re in the program. Well, that part is easy enough to deduce. What I wanted to know was, what’s the threshold of tolerable accuracy, below which, I might as well just use a roll of the dice to pick my breeding stock? Or just go back to eyeballing them and picking the nice looking ones?

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VmWareI have finished entering all of my lamb growth data for both 2009 and 2010 into the National Sheep Improvement Program’s (NSIP) new database tool, Pedigree Wizard. NSIP moved this year from being supported by university researchers to a commercial company in NZ Australia called Sheep Genetics, makers of LAMBPLAN. [Some info from them on their origin: Sheep Genetics is a joint program between two Australian industry research companies that represent the red meat industry (MLA) and wool industry (AWI). As such, most of the development for LAMBPLAN and Pedigree Wizard comes from Australian grower levy funds. While Sheep Genetics is operating under cost recovery for basic services, it is not commercial.] This is my first year enrolling in NSIP and I am looking forward to seeing what the metrics tell me. Here are my impressions of the new software. With apologies, because I’m a software engineer,  and I live, well, here, in the birthplace of Microsoft and Amazon. So I review it from the spoiled perspective of someone who usually gets to use the latest and greatest software.

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