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Why I Chose Katahdins

Back in the day when I was a 4H and FFA member, my goals were to raise and show the best pigs I could raise. That was before it became a money game. You could actually raise your own and be competitive. We had some Hampshire sheep which  I never showed but later my younger brother did show sheep. When I graduated from veterinary school I really couldn’t wait to get an opportunity to get involved with show pigs again. Part of my first job was to inspect feeder pigs at the local auction mkt. After six months of that and seeing the diseases involved I was no longer interested in chasing the show pig dream.Dr GF Kennedy

Our clients fed a lot of lambs back in those days and one Friday I vaccinated 5,000 lambs. In pens a hundred at a time not thru a chute. The reason I remember it was Friday, we had fifty left at sun down and Ruby the owner’s wife came out and said Clifford would be just furious if he knew you were vaccinating lambs on the Sabbath. They were Seventh Day Adventists, we finished the fifty lambs. When the Vocational School started the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program I became involved and later Dwight  Holloway helped me purchase 20 Suffolk yearling ewes from Olsen Bros in Utah and a sheep farmer was born. The former Clyde Morrison got his Hampshire’s off the same truck. Separating the breeds was a little confusing in that era.

We enjoy success with the Suffolk’s largely through a purchase by Mike Caskey of 2245 from the late Rollie Rosenboom. Ram was a lamb weighing almost 100# when we received him. We also purchased an Oklahoma State ram lamb in Sedalia on a 105 degree day and those two rams and others allowed us to be top players in the Suffolk world. One ewe was record selling ewe for the year at $15,500 and a second ewe a year latter was sold private treaty to Ben Huff for $15,000 and was later Supreme Champion at NAILE, ewe was only beaten once and that’s when she was a lamb, Jack Larsen lost her in 20th hole at NAILE and then moved her to sixth. As the kids all went to college I grew tired of playing the Suffolk game and switched to Rambouillet.

Lots less pressure in the Rambouillet business, you could miss a show and nobody might notice you weren’t there. You did that with Suffolk’s and they would think you weren’t in business anymore. We again were fortunate to purchase an outstanding ram, Summit and his semen was used again about three years ago. We enjoyed the Rambouillet very much but when my wife Kay died I got down on life and disbursed the Rambouillet. I was temporarily out of the sheep raising business.

When I married Deb I suggested we visit the Midwest Sale and Larry Mrozinsky was judging Dorpers. Here was a sheep that didn’t require shearing, could be slick shorn and showed. We enjoyed the Dorpers and had some success with it. Met new people which is always the case with a new breed. I wanted to make them bigger and the Dorper people wanted them smaller  and you still ended up shearing a fair number of brood ewes. I exited the Dorpers with exception of a few half-bloods that were destined to become Katahdins. The great thing about this breed is the fact that the registry  is open and crossbred animals can be recorded until they reach a certain percentage and then can be registered. That’s the correct way. I am fairly certain that my Summit ram contributed to four other breeds in his time.

I chose Katahdins to continue to fulfill my desire to make sheep a major part of my life. My friends in the black face business had been bad mouthing the breed for years and some continue to do so. Sometimes it is hard to accept reality. Today hair sheep led by Katahdins are the fastest growing breed in the industry and quite frankly other breeds just fight not to go backward. Every breed has a purpose and a place but quite frankly there are too many. What do I like about Katahdins, no shearing, prolific, out of season lambing, open registry,  parasite resistance, no tail docking and medium size. Throughout the country there are many Katahdins that are on the frail and small side. This can easily be corrected with the right kind of rams. Certainly a nice animal to show, no fitting required, my wife who had no sheep experience prior to our marriage can get Katahdins ready for a national show. What I did learn by using Katahdin rams on my Dorper cross ewes that the offspring were terrific well producing ewes. There are people that have been with the Katahdins for years that think the only way is NSIP. It was just one tool and soundness isn’t considered, quite frankly I would rather spend my time taking care of the sheep instead of weighing and spending computer time. Everyone keeps some type of records. Soundness is important along with eye evaluation. I never knew a guy that was looking for an ugly girl to date. Not having to shear is a big deal and for kids to compete in junior shows with an economical animal that doesn’t require fitting or cosmetic tail docking is a tremendous value.

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