Concerns & Clarity

We have been fielding a lot of calls over the last few months. Sometimes while casually chatting or reviewing different farms' & families' situations, we came across some that were just a shame for everyone involved. For instance...
  • We got a call about someone who purchased two purebred Babydolls that the seller never located paperwork for. This is the type of situation the Grade Up program could be for. 
  • OEBR transfer paperwork never came through on a ram used. For any ewe lambs born, this type of program could be beneficial 
  • Someone sold a purebred, well-bred breeding pair, but the ewe’s ear tag fell out & wasn’t replaced. So the new owner is out of luck transferring. The Grade Up program could work well for them if they wanted to work towards breeding registered sheep. 
  • Another person walked away years ago from a registry due to cost / benefit, but kept breeding with integrity. Their second or third generation of lambs aren’t registered now. The Grade Up program could get them & their genes back into a recognized organization. 

Babydoll Southdown Sheep Breeders' Association's intentions here with the proposed Grade Up Program is not to register unpapered sheep and certainly not to encourage cross-breeding, nor get new (different breed) blood in.

Instead, BSSBA's hope is to:

  • add "new" old bloodlines back
  • bring back in the shepherds with integrity who were not satisfied with their other registry options
  • to get back the lines of purebred sheep who have mostly been categorized as "grade sheep" due to no defect in them, but in admin/paper pushing mistakes or missteps

We understand there are concerns and questions though. We understand that without reading all the steps in place or not hearing all these stories from well-intentioned shepherds that this might sound silly on the surface.

Concern: Registering cross-bred look-a-likes; "Kristin S: When I bought my first Babydolls back in 2005, I was given a Cheviot ewe as a "freebie". So I would breed her to my Babydoll ram and sell her lambs. One year, a lady bought those Cheviot/Babydoll ewe lambs and also a Babydoll ram lamb from me. She sent me pictures of the lambs they produced, which looked exactly like Babydolls (even though their mothers were obviously Cheviot cross ewes)." / "Diane S: it doesnt take but a generation to make a cross bred look pure."
Clarity: First off, we're not encouraging cross-breeding. BSSBA is relying on the research & ethics of the shepherds (like any registry would of their members) to submit what they believe to be purebred Babydoll Southdown Sheep for review of entry into this Grade Up program. We are not depending on photos alone - we have in place multiple generations of "grading up", DNA testing and reviews to try to allow any discrepancies or concern to show up and be bred out or ruled out of the program.

Concern: Why do this with what by all means looks to be an already established, popular breed?
Clarity: There are multiple reasons already listed in this post and the announcement of the program. Here's another example though "Stephen S: Dorper sheep one of the largest in the U.S. now has a breeding up program and they seem to be doing very well if you dont like purebred sheep dont buy anything from the breeding up program but dorpers were that way to start with and now the purebreds are used just as much as the fullbloods and bring the same money wise"

Concern: But what about keeping the breed purebred?
Clarity: That's our goal in the long run, believe me. We are not trying to muddy up or threaten this breed we love. BSSBA is trying to ensure a healthy future for it. To be clear though, the definition of purebred is “those animals that have been bred-up to purebred status as a result of using full blood animals to cross with an animal of another breed. The breeders association rules the percentage of fullblood genetics required for an animal to be considered purebred, usually above 87.5%.” Also "Stephen S: a purebred is a lamb that has been in a breeding up program and is now considered pure in its blood a fullblood is one that has never had anything else bred into it and can be traced by its reg. papers back to the start of the breed" Note: traced back with papers to the start of the breed - NOT just the start of the org for the breed. ... "Stephen S: most everyone i know in the field of genetics will tell you that by that point there would be a very very small chance of something popping up that wouldnt meet breed standards ... its good for the breed and just so everyone knows im a member of nabssar and not a member of bssba so im not trying to help them because it helps me in some way"

Concern: Purebred rams being used. "Kristin S: rams used MUST be purebred sheep coming from either OEBR or NABSSAR registries. Those rams are what validates the “purebred” sheep being developed by BSSBA for its registry... BSSBA is attempting to eventually reach the genetic purity of those rams."
Clarity: Yes and no. First, due to their height discrepancies, NABSSAR rams will not be considered for the grade up program. Also, we are not trying to reach the purity of these sheep. Instead, we are taking all precautions to keep the purity of these and breed better quality sheep. We're not just relying on "Well, mom & dad were registered, so let's register this lamb." This process will take years and close review of the sheep at 2 years of age ensuring the still meet BSSBA breed standard and are a great example of the breed. Also, "Kristin S: If you read old history books about the heritage Southdowns, they were known to be a great breed to use as a "terminal sire" due to the ram's ability to greatly influence the appearance of the lambs. They would use a Southdown ram with a flock of "grade ewes" (not necessarily a particular breed, and not necessarily great sheep). The lambs would be much better than their mothers due to his influence on muscling, ability to gain weight, etc. --those Southdown traits that display so well in the lambs." The strong genetic influence is why we are making sure to only use purebred, registered rams with Mock lineage in their full background/lineage throughout this entire grade up process

Concern: The quality/origin of the foundation ewes; "Theresa T: what would be consider a foundation Ewe?"; "Hattie E: How does this play out of a breeder chose to sell a pet grade animals not a registered because of a flaw they found? Said buyer could use this program as a foundation ewe?"
Clarity: A foundation ewe will be the very base/start of this program. She must be at least two years old, meet all BSSBA breed standards and preferably has some sort of lineage or history that can be provided be it old paperwork, written lineage from breeder, parents' registration, etc (note: this is preferred, but not necessarily required) to review and approve. Like any registry, BSSBA is trusting in the integrity & honesty of members. That being said, a breeder/seller should have disclosed any flaw/concerns and the current owner should know of it & not want to pass it along. Keep in mind there are also several generations & reviews between a foundation ewe and possible registry allowing for any unknowns to pop up & be ruled out or bred out.

Concern: Identifying F3/F4s that pass approval for registry; "McKayla M: Is there going to be a special mark on the f3s registration that indicates that 3 generations prior there was no lineage available/there was an f one?"
Clarity: Yes, foundation ewe - f4 will be given different codes to identify them as well as different colored paperwork.

Concern: All the lambs this program will produce; "Michelle S: So what becomes of all of these F1, F2, & any F3s that may not be up to snuff ewes? ... In an effort to use sheep without any papers or pedigrees behind them, you're creating a bunch more"
Clarity: Although it can be skewed to look like we are creating an influx of unregistered sheep, this really is not the case or a scenerio that BSSBA is creating. These sheep are currently being bred just unregistered and off book right now. In the Grade Up program, these sheep are being bred to registered, quality rams and the breeders are being held to regulations & protocols - that's a huge step up! Although not registered, these lambs will also have papers allowing them to be accepted more into show rings or as 4H projects, creating a better market there.

Something else to keep in mind when you see this program being questioned - "Michelle S: All the Babydolls out there are from the OEBR and the NABSSAR and they all can be traced back to the original foundation flock Mr. Mock put together." False, NABSSAR originated as an open registry allowing three different registries to apply and non-registered sheep as well. "Stephen S: Your babydolls and everyone else's are not a pure breed to begin with. Mr mock put together groups of sheep that fit the standard he wanted" This is what Mr. Mock did. This is what NABSSAR did. So why is BSSBA getting so much push back and social media harassment when all we are trying to do is instill something we feel will improve this breed we love? I mean, it is to the point that two of the largest Facebook groups for Babydolls have removed Reni from them so she can't comment or correct anything being said. That's crazy.

Again, our hope here is really to "herd back" the genes and dedicated shepherds who have wandered off for one reason or another over time. Should we fold to every situation? No. However, we also shouldn't lose out and just cast off those shepherds & sheep due to mostly admin issues and no real defect in the pureness or quality of the sheep. Honestly, this program is going to 99% of the time truly be purebred breeding. However due to the lack of paperwork in some of these scenarios and with respect for all the registries, we are using the term and practices of "grading up"- a well-known practice in sheep & other livestock - in an effort to take all steps and precautions to rule out cross breeding and really be improving the breed.

Stockier builds, easy natural births, excellent maternal care for even multiples, curious (sweet) personalities, the benefits of "heritage" health - these are some of the stellar aspects that are meant to be standards of the Babydoll breed (and have sometimes fallen in the background the last couple decades while focusing on numbers / population). These are also the things BSSBA is trying to increase and focus on now; the quality - registered or not. With this program, BSSBA hopes to get quality (likely already purebred) sheep back into an organization and breeding with integrity, accountability and the support of the registry.

Let me stress this one more time: BSSBA is not registering based on looks and BSSBA is not encouraging cross-breeding 

I hope this clears things up a bit and smooths over any lingering anxiety about this program.

Other resources to review:
"I used purebred as opposed to full blood White Dorper rams to upgrade my flock. They were significantly more reasonably priced and for practical matters were the same. Today I have 1/2, 3/4, 7/8th, and 15/16th White Dorper sheep. The percentage of 15/16 is considered purebred." (

Canadaian Sheep Breeders Association encourages & has regulations for "grading up" (

"[Grading up] is often seen as a threat to purebred stock, when in fact it is one sure way to ensure breed survivability over long centuries of purebred breeding." / "[Grading up] also provides a demand for purebred males" (yay for the year of the ram as it has seemed to be this year!) / "Breed purity is assumed by many to be absolute, inviolate, and ancient. The truth is more that the origins of most breeds are fairly recent, and breed formation was simply a response to a need for predictable animals of a given type ... If carefully managed and operated, upgrading does not threaten the status of any breed as a genetic resource ... [Grading up] can assure that purebreeds remain viable and vital, and also can assure that they retain their status as genetic resources" / "Some breeds have little to gain from upgrading, but none has much if anything to lose" (