Being short, the size of my sheep has always been important to me. I don’t want to breed something that is going to be taller than me and over power me. Recently, I was talking to a judge at our state fair about the “growth” of our sheep industry, not out but up! We continue to breed and judge for height while breed standards and conformation get ignored. We will get to a point that they are too tall and the meat processors won’t be interested, i.e., the cattle industry.
Over the years we have seen beef make that move to taller stock, but that has taken a swing in a different direction. One I think we in the sheep industry should follow. They aren’t worrying about height as much as build, muscle, etc. And we are seeing them get progressively shorter.
As I see sheep in other countries, I’m always jealous of their standard heights. These Suffolks form a show in Scottland are a great example. When was the last time you saw a Suffolk like this? Most in the US are taller than me! (ok maybe a little exaggerated, but not by much) If we are to compete in a global market we should be breeding for wool, conformation, meat quality, but not height. Height doesn’t increase the value at the end of the day, it is a wasted product. As breeding season hits think about what is most important in your genetics? Your breed integrity and quality, or being the tallest in the class?
Realistically I know it will take a swing in the show ring as well, but that won’t start if we don’t start talking to our judges and breeding as we should.