Our Sheep History
As indicated on our Home Page, our shepherding began some 37 years ago, in the hills of Schoharie County (New York), with a wedding gift of two bred Dorset ewes. Through the years we focused on meat production. To enhance the muscling of our sheep, we introduce Texel rams. The Texel breed is a very meaty breed with heavy muscling in the rear. We did not find the wool to be of great value. We did have some of our wool made into blankets one year but did not find a ready market for them. For many years, the wool has been used as mulch at great a significant cost to get it off the sheep. Ultimately, we decided to shift from a wool breed to a hair breed; we chose the Katahdins.
We have approached our shift from wool sheep to hair sheep from a couple of directions. We started by breeding all our "woolies" to a purebred Katahdin ram. This gave us 50/50 offspring. We bred the 50/50 ewes to another purebred Katahdin ram and got a number of 75% Katahdins. These 75% Katahdins have been bred to a pure Katahdin ram and we got 87 1/2 % offspring. The 87 1/2 % Katahdins can be upgraded to purebred (100%) upon inspection by the Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI) We took this approach to preserve the meat producing characteristics that we had developed in the wool sheep -- Dorset/Texel crosses. All of these partial Katahdins are registered with the Katahdin Hair Sheep International registry as the appropriate percent of pure Katahdin.
At the same time, we have purchased a number of purebred Katahdin ewes as well as rams. We have purchased ewes lambs and ram lambs from Jay Greenstone's farm (Silver Maple Sheep Farm) in Southern Virginia. In addition, we purchased 10 mature ewes from a breeder in Pennsylvania. In February 2015, we purchased a number of mature ewes, their lambs and two rams from in Calhoun Georgia. A few of his animals were from Jay Greenstone and several were from Mark Dennis' Country Oaks Ranch in Louisiana.
In past years, we were a totally grass based operation. We lambed in late April and early May and put the ewes and lambs out on pasture. When we were marketing lamb at 100+ pounds, it was difficult to finish to that weight simply on pasture. This was especially true in dry years as the pasture quality deteriorated early. From 2015 to date, we have shifted to marketing our lambs at a weight between 65 and 70 pounds. We lamb in early Spring as well as early Summer exposing the lambs to a creep from birth. Most of our lambs now are at market weight at weaning. We supplement the ewes when they are nursing their lambs to maximize milk production - especially for the ewes with twins and triplets.
Our replacement ewes are given special attention. We want them to steadily grow throughout their adolescents; therefore we supplement them while on pasture. We weigh frequently so as to be sure they are gaining at a good rate but not putting on fat. They are bred when they reach or exceed 100 pounds and have good body structure. These young ewes continue to get special attention as they move through gestation. We monitor to be sure they continue to maintain body condition - grow and gestate.
All of our sheep have a balanced mineral supplement in front of them at all times. We feel this is especially needed by the young replacement ewes as they mature and move into gestation.
In June 2017, we lambed 43 yearling ewes. It was a truly pleasant experience. Because of the regiment we used, these ewes were fully developed. They lambed nice sized lambs (8 to 12 pounds) on pasture with no assistance. We checked on the flock before retiring at night but usually found mommas with their babies in the morning; clean, dry, and with their first meal in their belly. What a pleasant experience!
In 2017, we made the decision to retire from farming. All our Katadins were sold in 2017 and 2018.
We do miss our sheep but do not miss lambing in 3 feet of snow and/or sub zero temperatures.