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Black lamb a first for local shepherd



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The new black lamb, Kaya, hangs out with her mother and relaxes at the Rambliní Vewe Farm last Thursday. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
February 24, 2010
Jeff Keyser, the shepherd for Ramblin' Vewe Farm in Gilford, had quite the surprise when 26 new spring lambs graced the farm, as one, for the first time in his 23 years of experience, came out almost completely black.

The new lamb, Kaya, named by Keyser's daughter in honor of her friend's birthday, which landed on the same day last Friday, has two white parents and a white sister. Keyser said he has seen a few black lambs in his day from other breeds such as the Suffolk, yet never from the Targhee brand of sheep, which was developed by the Department of Agriculture in Idaho.

"This is the first black lamb I have seen in over 23 years, at least from this breed. Both the mother and father are white, which is a surprise. It's always interesting when you get one white and one black lamb," said Keyser.

Although the new lamb has a white spot or two, she is almost covered in black fur, and because her fur can no longer be used for wool since it cannot absorb dye properly, Kaya will be a new pet for Ramblin' Vewe. She can run free through the pastures of the farm, forever known as the "black sheep of the farm," said Keyser, which is considered lucky in this particular situation. According to dye laws, it is most desirable to produce lighter sheep, said Keyser, since the cloth could potentially be wrecked otherwise.

"Black tends to be a recessive gene," said Keyser. "The other breed has black spots, and I have seen other breeds with the same scenario. With the other breed, it is to be expected because of their black nose and feet."

Keyser explained that the new lamb's father could potentially carry the "black factor," yet he was born at Ramblin' Vewe, along with his grandmother, and even great grandmother who all came out white. Last year, the father was also used during breeding season, and his twin lambs came out pure white as well. Clearly, this particular outcome is still possible, just rare, said Keyser.

Keyser said a few visitors have already popped in to visit the new lamb, and said hello to the 25 other young ones. Last year, Ramblin' Vewe had 80 or so lambs during the late-winter, spring season, said Keyser. He said there is still some time, and that more lambs should be on the way just in time for spring. The farm also hopes to welcome 15 or so new lambs this fall.

The ewe, the female sheep, tends to average about two lambs at a time, explained Keyser, although the farm has seen four sets of triplets and two singles this year. For the majority, the new lambs have fortuned from good health, and Keyser hopes to keep it this way during the spring and fall season.

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