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We Need Diversity in Genetics but Don't Forget About Diversity in Breeders

Fred and I took our first international trip back in 2012. For a couple from a small town in Northeast Ohio, the thought of flying across the pond was intimidating and a bit scary. I discovered a way to ease my fear. I looked at the size of Ireland and compared it to the United States. To my surprise, Ireland is comparable to the size of Indiana. Heck, Indiana is our neighboring state and we can make it there in four hours. How lost could we get in Ireland when it's the size of Indiana? That fact helped to calm my fears and put the situation in perspective. I'm hoping the information I provide in this blog will do just that for you and give you a new perspective.


From what I've read, there are approximately 14,000 registered Valais Blacknose sheep in Switzerland. I truly don't know how many are registered in the United States but I do know there are multiple Associations, some with hundreds of members. Starting with AI and the breed-up program and then the introduction of frozen embryos, it's obvious to me this breed will grow exponentially here in the US.

Remember when I compared the US to Ireland.....let's talk perspective.


I'm a visual person, so I created a graphic to compare the size of the US to other places in the world raising Valais Blacknose Sheep. The US has over 3.5 million more square miles than Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand combined. When you add the population of California, Texas, and New York, it totals more than two million in population than the total populations of Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand combined. The number of people in the US is three and a half times the amount of the total number of people in the before mentioned areas. That's a lot of people! When it comes to size and population the US is just more, a lot more. With a lot more land and a lot more people comes more diversity.


Fred receives calls from breeders and people who are interested in the Valais Blacknose on pretty much a daily basis. I can't remember the last day he didn't get a phone call. Some people want to expand their flock, some are just getting started and some are just curious and he talks to them all. Not judging anyone, we're discovering a very diverse group of people wanting a Valais Blacknose sheep. It's obvious some are in it to generate a profit, some for the wool, some to preserve the breed, some as club lambs, and others to have as pets. Just like diverse genetics are important to grow this breed, the same holds true for breeders. There is a medley of breeders in the US.


With so many different people there will be a wide variety of wants, beliefs, theories, experiences, ideas, and philosophies. Some breeders will use their knowledge and breed for sounder structure, to be parasite resistant, or a wider front. The list can go on and on.


The US is vast. The breeders in Florida are going to have different experiences than the breeders in Wisconsin. The breeders in California are going to have different experiences than breeders in Maine. One can travel by car from the West Coast to the East Coast and experience every kind of weather imaginable and talk to people in a multitude of languages and accents.


For us, our focus is Fullblood Valais Blacknose. That is all we want in our barn. We understand Purebreds will be comparable and over time may surpass the Fullblood in some ways. But we love the Fullbloods just as they are. If the Valais would have been introduced in the US twenty-five years ago, we may have believed differently. We were younger, we liked the show ring back then. We may have wanted to take the club lamb approach. Who knows? We just know at this time in our life we value the Fullblood and keeping the breed true to its heritage. With that being said, it's not our place to judge others' choices.


As this breed grows in the US, there will be Valais roaming in fields, in mini barns in the backyard, and on large ranches. They will be somebodies pet, travel around the country in the show circuit, and some will be in petting zoos. Wherever they are, the most important thing to me is they are well taken care of and loved.


Of all the conversations I've heard of Fred on the phone, one statement I hear him saying over and over is, "You have to do what is right for you". Remember we are a society of diversity. We have no control over how this breed evolves in this country. We only have control of what we do with our sheep. We can influence each other but ultimately people will align with others who agree with their belief system and separate groups will develop and grow, which is what I witnessing now. It's just going to be more groups and more members simply because the US has more people.


After I opened my mind and saw things from a new perspective back in 2012, we traveled to Rome, Greece, Croatia, Scotland, the UK, Alaska, and more. If I hadn't put that first trip into perspective to overcome our fears, we would have missed out on so much. Hopefully realizing how much diversity we have in the US will help you understand why there will be changes in the Valais Blacknose Breed in the US. One of the great things about the USA is, "You can do what's right for you".


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