A small flock of Portland sheep. Image courtesy of BWMB.
When breeding any animal it is important to aim for correct and healthy offspring, but when breeding pedigree stock the breed standard is the first thing to be take into consideration. With some breeds, coloured sheep are not accepted into the breed registry and people are discouraged from breeding them; the same can be said for certain markings, as the resulting sheep is not true to type. In breeds where there are large numbers, this is not a problem as sheep with undesirable characteristics can more easily be excluded from the breeding programme. However, in cases of rare and minority breeds this isn’t always a viable option, especially as it is important to maintain genetic diversity as well as the breed standard.
The Portland has seen an increase in popularity because of its ability of breeding all year round – they also now appear to be a lot bigger and have longer fleeces, probably as a consequence a larger diversity in the available bloodlines. Though this is positive for the breed numbers, it means that characteristics that were formerly accepted, even though they were considered undesirable, have now been re-classified. The updated breed description states that rams with black marks or patches are a deviation from the breed and should not be bred from, though can still be registered in the C category for CFB registrations. Any Portland that is predominantly black would also fall in the above category for registrations and breeding.
The Combined Flock Book (CFB) is a register of a select number of breeds that is held and monitored by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST). The RBST keep records of the births and publishes an annual flock book. The sheep breeds included currently are; Boreray, Castlemilk Moorit, Manx Loaghtan, Norfolk Horn, North Ronaldsay, Portland, Soay and Whitefaced Woodland.
While the CFB is beneficial to breeders as it maintains breed records, its main focus, for survival reasons, is that the animals should be correct in conformation, while breed characteristics are less important. Animals that are considered to be correct can be registered in the A Register, while those which are incorrect or not a good representation of the breed can be registered in the C Register. The C Register contains animals that are registered at a breeder’s request, but are not advisable to use as breeding stock.