An occasional article with one question put to six fanciers encompassing a range of views, knowledge and experience relevant to the art of fancy mouse exhibiting.
I received 4 replies from the six fanciers I canvassed. I could have asked another 2 to compensate for those that didn’t wish to contribute but decided to leave it as a reflection of the fancy whether that’s good, bad or indifferent. Thanks to all those that penned a reply.
Question: Define good stocksmanship (Part 2)
What is a good stockman or woman? For me it is the art of looking after the animals in our care. Professional stockmen are farmers who keep animals for their living. As hobbyists we are in charge of our mice and are really like small farmers who care for our small livestock for exhibition purposes. It could be asked if it is an art or science to be able to obtain the very best out of our charges. I believe it is a bit of both. The majority of mouse fanciers are practical breeders, not geneticists. The science of genetics is not essential to breed top quality show mice but a little knowledge can be helpful. Stockmanship requires hard work and dedication. The three experts in genetics I have known were Roy Robinson (author of Colour Inheritance in Small Livestock), Roger Hutchings (author of Fancy Mice, originator of present day B. E Creams) and Bryan Makin (producer of Silver Agouti and Argente Creme). However, they were not producing mice to consistently win big awards. On the other hand the following three NMC members had little knowledge of genetics but won nearly every possible award due to their fantastic stockmanship: Percy Ashley, Eric Kitchen and
Roger Edmonson. I read all their articles in ‘Fur & Feather’ and talked to them and gained useful and expert knowledge of how to manage mice. The following consists of some facts I have learnt and practiced over the years.
Thoroughly read again and again the NMC standards. The ‘general standard of excellence’ has stood the test of time for over 100 years.
A good stock person handles their mice as much as they can. This will make stock tractable for judging and you will learn from studying your stock.
Select and breed only from the best in your mousery. This is a talent that can be learnt from established fanciers. Visit mouseries and glean all the knowledge you can. Never mate a buck and doe with the same fault. It will become a fixture and failure in your stud. Never use any buck for stud purposes that is slim, racy with the type of an ideal doe. A big rough looking buck with a broad skull and lots of bone structure is ideal. Nowadays there is rarely a stud buck class on the schedule. I feel this is a mistake as the stud buck is one of the principal features of a good stud of mice.
To obtain a good stud buck, raise a maximum of three bucks per dam and eventually keep only the biggest and best one.
Never breed from does that are too young or immature. The reducing of litters is a necessity to maintain size, strength and stamina (Tony recommends raising same sex litters).
Cleaning out is a big part of stock management and should be done weekly. A good stockman keeps his stock in good condition at all times. A wonderfully coloured mouse that is not fit will never win in a good class.
Condition is of course a huge part of stockmanship. It is often said that condition goes in through the mouth by correct feeding. I feel that most people I have observed over the years do not feed enough. Apart from mice genetically prone to obesity i.e. reds, fawns, sables, it is difficult to over -feed. The mouse is more akin to the shrew which has a high metabolism.
I think I have exceeded my brief although there is still more to say. Feeding allied to good stockmanship will be the subject of another article.
(I have edited Tonys reply due to the length. If anyone would like to read the unabridged article please ask me to see it or have a chat with Tony, it’s a good read. SC)
Good stockmanship means taking
proper care of livestock in your possession (in other words, good husbandry) and understanding how to maintain its quality. These are equally important and inevitably mean weeding out individuals which do not come up to scratch by not adding them to the breeding programme. These principles apply to all forms of domesticated livestock.
Good husbandry must always be at the top of the agenda. To achieve it, you have to be observant of the stock and make sure it is kept in good condition, all the time. This means feeding a varied, high-quality diet, cleaning out regularly, and looking at and handling all the mice at least weekly, though preferably more than that. Healthy, fit mice will have a shiny coat, be alert and active, and feel as if they are vibrating when you handle them, particularly the young ones.
Maintaining quality is more difficult, and definitely a skill. Some faults, such as a kinked tail, or white toes on a dark mouse, are easy to spot, but there are many more which only become evident as the mouse matures. Making decisions on all the variable elements is what takes husbandry into stockmanship. No matter how good a mouse’s colour, or markings etc, it will only set your variety back if it is not sturdy and robust.
Stockmanship can be learned through experience, but those fanciers who have “an eye for a mouse” will have a headstart!