"Raising the Bar Together: Unleashing the Breed's Potential through Shared Knowledge!"
In my last blog post, I aimed to provide a visual on the differences in the population and the size of land between places in the world that now have Valais Blacknose as a breed. Hoping this would help us understand why there is a diversity among breeders specifically in the US. Today's blog I'll use the numbers to show you why we have to think outside the box and learn from each other, globally.
Worldwide, it is estimated that there are more than 1000 distinct sheep breeds. There are more than 60 breeds in the United States alone. We are focused on one breed, considered a rare breed, the Valais Blacknose aka Walliser Schwarznasenschaf. We've taken this breed from the high elevation of the Swiss Mountains to the plains of Texas. From the coolness of the mountain tops to the heat in California. There are adjustments to be made. Sharing our experiences and knowledge will help us better understand those adjustments and will result in a better chance of success with the Valais in the US.
So, where can we learn and what resources do we have? We begin by thinking about the places that now have the Valais. The place of origin is Switzerland, then the UK, New Zealand, the USA, and most recently Australia. I want to mention I've seen media posts from people with Valais in Germany, Sweden, Canada, and Italy. I just wasn't able to find any associations to get more information in these areas. I think it's important to note that Australia is now in the mix and I believe will be a great new resource of knowledge for the breed in the future, just based on their experience with sheep.
I mention the locations above for one simple reason. They are years ahead of us, raising this breed. Not by many years, but enough to make a difference. I base this conclusion on the information their societies offer on their websites, the shows they now have available, and the availability of semen and embryos they offer, as well as the quality. I've viewed their websites since 2019 and have watched the growth. This means we have a lot to learn and who better to learn from than those who have "been there, done that"?
I mentioned numbers earlier. The US is definitely more populated and is bigger but let's look at how many total combined breeds of sheep are in these locations in 2022.
Australia 74.4 million
New Zealand 25.3 million
UK 14.9 million
US 5.2 million
Switzerland 418,000 thousand
Again, these numbers are all breeds combined and not specifically the Valais but, with numbers come experience. New Zealand has an average of 5 sheep per person while Australia has an average of 3.3 sheep per person. That's a lot of sheep! Which means a lot of experience and that translates into a wealth of knowledge.
When you invest a lot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears into something you have to take the time to learn. Search for answers to your questions from people and resources. So, here is a list of suggested resources:
Facebook: Follow breeders you like and comment on their posts. Look in their bio to see if they have a website and see what they have to offer. If they provide a phone number, give them a call with questions you may have. Find Valais Blacknose groups, associations, and societies no matter where they're from. You can always use google translate to read another language.
Government : U.S. Department of Agriculture is a great resource to understand the policies and procedures of importing embryos and semen as well as guidelines regarding scrapies.
Colleges & Universities: Great resources for information and access to medical procedures. Check your local colleges as a resource. One that we've used is The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.
Associations & Societies: Here are links to a number of established groups that offer some great information and even downloadable care guides.
Upper Valais Blacknose Sheep Breeding Association https://sn-verband.ch/verband/
Valais Blacknose Society UK https://valaisblacknosesociety.co.uk/
New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association https://nzsheep.co.nz/valais-blacknose/
Valais Blacknose Sheep Australia https://valaisblacknoseaustralia.com.au/
Here is a direct link to a few downloadable guides:
Other great resources are two shows scheduled in the month of September 2023 here in the US. Meet other breeders in person as well as judges.
American Classic Valais Blacknose National Show. September 9 & 10 in New Jersey:
U.S.A National Valais Blacknose Sheep Show. September 29 & 30 in Iowa:
If you use the above resources I think it will help you become more knowledgeable about the Valais. Learning is crucial to the success of the Valais in the US. We've learned so much from other breeders. Fred's curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and willingness to make a phone call to other breeders across the globe have paid off for us in more ways than one. Building relationships with people who we value for their experiences, thoughts, and opinions has changed the way we think, even though we've been breeding livestock for 40+ years. There is something new to learn every day. Take note that not all breeders are good breeders. Do your homework. When you find a good breeder, build a relationship. You will reap the rewards when you research information, communicate with other breeders, and interact with followers.