Overview of Katahdin Research in 2001

US Research Institutions and Farms Begin Performance Evaluation of Katahdin Hair Sheep

Naomi Hawkins , Producer from Ohio &
James Morgan, Ph.D., Producer from Arkansas

The Katahdin hair sheep breed was developed as an answer to the need for a hardy meat sheep that does not require shearing, but which can meet the North American industry standards for carcass quality. Development of the breed began in the late 1950’s with the importation of a small number of haired sheep from the Caribbean by Michael Piel of Maine. The Piel farm had several thousand sheep at the time and Piel felt that “progress in selection for traits important to the production of meat would be greatly enhanced by the elimination of wool as a major factor for the selection.” His goal was to combine the hair coat, prolificacy, and hardiness of the Virgin Island sheep with the meat conformation and rate of growth of wooled breeds. He began to experiment with crosses between hair sheep and various British breeds, especially the Suffolk. For 20 years, Piel crossed the resulting hybrids “in every conceivable combination” he could envision and selected the individuals with the desired traits. Piel eventually collected a flock of ewes he called Katahdins, named after Mt Katahdin in Maine. In 1985 a breeders organization, Katahdin Hair Sheep International, was formed which today has 473 members in the US, Canada, Dominican Republic and Mexico. In 2000, the Katahdin Hair Sheep International Registry processed over 5100 registrations which puts Katahdins in the top five breeds in terms of numbers of registrations per year compared to other breeds in the US.

Recently, there have been increased inquiries about Katahdins from wool sheep breeders, a growing number of hair sheep breeders, and cattle producers who all wish to add a low maintenance, non-shearing, hardy sheep with strong maternal traits to their operations. This has prompted researchers, farmers and ranchers to seek additional data on Katahdins. An indicator of this heightened interest is the dramatic increase in the number of research projects evaluating the performance of Katahdins and other hair sheep. This new Katahdin work is underway at various US universities, USDA, ARS (Agricultural Research Service) sites and on-farm locations, with financial support from various federal and state sources. We asked researchers at each of the institutions and farmers funded by USDA, SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) producer grants to write a short abstract about the proposed research and current results. In this article, we present 11 short abstracts written by the professional animal scientists and professional farmers doing the research on Katahdins.

While widely varying opinions exist regarding the performance potential of Katahdin hair sheep in the same pen or pasture with the major wool breeds, we as owners of Katahdins believe that the breed is an excellent choice for many management systems. Breeders have noted rates of growth and muscling of Katahdins comparable to maternal-type wool breeds, and appreciated the adaptability of the breed to challenging conditions ranging from southeastern US to northern Canada. In addition, breeders have found Katahdins to have these qualities: low maintenance requirements, out of season breeding potential, easy lambing, excellent mothering and tolerance for cold, heat and parasites. Many professional animal scientists also agree that Katahdins are excellent candidates for additional study and have now chosen to evaluate Katahdins in various production systems. We feel that their research projects represent unique contributions, since few major scientific studies on hair sheep have been conducted in the US.

While we don’t necessarily agree with all of the experimental designs or the fact that performance of purebred Katahdins is being compared to crossbred sheep in some cases, we are however very excited by the increased interest from the professional research community in Katahdins. As you will see, many of these research projects compare the performance of Katahdins to other hair sheep and standard wool breeds in a variety of research designs and management systems. We look forward to the publication of the final results of these studies.

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Evaluation of Wool and Hair Breeds under Intensive and Extensive Production Systems

USDA, ARS, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center
Clay Center, Nebraska
Dr. Kreg Leymaster, Project Leader

The sheep industry needs to improve reproductive efficiency and to reduce labor requirements so that large commercial flocks are both practical and profitable. Traits contributing to reproductive efficiency include seasonality, fertility, prolificacy, maternal ability, and lamb vigor. Easy-care traits that affect labor requirements include adaptation, hardiness, internal and external parasite tolerance, and shedding of hair and wool to avoid shearing. Hair breeds of sheep evolved under extensive production systems and may have the potential to decrease labor requirements and to contribute to easy-care production systems.

The experimental objective is to evaluate production efficiency under both intensive and easy-care production systems of four types of crossbred ewes. Varying levels of reproductive efficiency and easy-care attributes will be created by mating Romanov ewes to Rambouillet, Dorset, Dorper, and Katahdin rams. Purebred and crossbred Romanov ewes excel in all aspects of reproduction and therefore will make up one-half of each crossbred. Wool (Rambouillet and Dorset) and hair (Dorper and Katahdin) breeds are included for comparative purposes as the long-term value of wool is unknown. Rambouillet and Dorper provide a wool-hair comparison for breeds developed under extensive, arid conditions, while Dorset and Katahdin offer a similar contrast for breeds adapted to more favorable production conditions.

About 360 Romanov ewes will be single-sire mated to Rambouillet, Dorset, Dorper, and Katahdin rams each of three years (2000, 2001, and 2002). Half of the ewes will be exposed during October and half during December. Breed associations will be contacted to request information relevant to the experiment and to seek advice on sources of seedstock. A minimum of 18 rams, all by different sires, will be sampled from each breed over three years. Six rams of each breed will be used in both breeding seasons of a single year.

The goal is to produce about 150 crossbred ewes of each type for each production system, a total of roughly 1200 ewes over the three-year period. Ewes conceived in October will go into an intensive production system, whereas ewes conceived in December will go into an easy-care (pasture) production system. Ewes of each type will be multi-sire mated to rams of a terminal-sire breed. In the intensive system, ewes will be limited to rearing two lambs with additional lambs artificially reared. Ewes in the easy-care production system will be completely responsible for rearing of all lambs. The four types of crossbred ewes will be evaluated over three parities with each ewe remaining in a single production system. For more information contact Dr. Kreg Leymaster, USDA, ARS PO Box 166, Clay Center, NE 68933, 402-762-4172, leymaster@email.marc.usda.gov .

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Katahdin Research at Virginia State University

Stephan Wildeus, Ph.D.

The Small Ruminant Program at Virginia State University maintains a Katahdin flock of 26 purebred, but not registered, ewes. These ewes are currently maintained as one flock with two other hair sheep breeds (Barbados Blackbelly and St. Croix), as well as three goat meat breed types (Spanish, Myotonic and Boer x Spanish ), under a forage-based system. The flock is managed under an accelerated, 8-months mating system, with 30-day breeding seasons in November, July and March. Ewes are bred to same breed males in single sire mating groups and lamb on pasture. Lambs are weaned at 9 weeks of age and assigned to various experiments. The following data are being collected on this breeding herd: fecal egg counts every two weeks, mating dates, pregnancy rates and fetal numbers (two exams at day 1 and 30 post breeding), ewe breeding and weaning body weights, litter size at birth and weaning, lamb birth and weaning weight. These data are used to calculate relative efficiency and off-take for between species and between breed within species comparison. The third of six matings has just been completed. This experiment will be completed in November 2003, and should provide valuable information on the relative efficiency of these breeds under forage-base management. Other current experiments involving Katahdin at VSU include an evaluation of the parasite resistance, carcass evaluation, pen and pasture-based feeding trials and measurements of female and male reproductive performance.

Some earlier findings from a preliminary accelerated breeding study indicate that conception rates were similar for all breeding seasons (November, July, and March; mean 88%),however, lambing rate was significantly lower for July breeding (65%), suggesting some early fetal losses due to heat stress. Time to mating from onset of breeding was also later for July (25.3 days), than for November and March breeding. Litter size was larger following July (1.67) than November (1.27) breeding, with March intermediate (1.53). Litter birth and weaning weight were larger following July (6.48 and 24.5 kg) than November (4.37 and 15.4 kg) and March breeding (5.27 and 20.3 kg). Litter weight weaned as percent ewe body weight was not affected by mating season (range: 35-40%). Lamb survival to weaning ranged from 84% (March) to 92% (November). Reduced litter size and weights for November breeding in this preliminary study may have been associated with a younger ewe age at this mating. In a preliminary feeding trial using young hair sheep and meat goat males, Katahdin lambs had a higher daily gain (129 g/d) than either of the other hair sheep breeds or goats. Katahdin also had a higher dressing percentage and internal fat than the other hair sheep breeds (St. Croix and Barbados Blackbelly). For more information contact Dr. Stephan Wildeus, Agricultural Research Station, Box 9061, Petersburg, VA 23806, 804-524-6176, swildeus@vsu.edu.

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Northeast Katahdin Hair Sheep Project

Professors Tom Settlemire, Bowdoin College
and Dick Brzozowski, University of Maine Extension, Co-Directors

The Northeast Katahdin Hair Sheep Project is structured to take advantage of the many advantages of the Katahdin and at the same time build a genetic base that will make the Katahdin an even more important part of the sheep industry. USDA, SARE has provided $135,000 funding for a four-year project based at a farm in Buxton, Maine owned by Brad and Sue Ray. Professor Tom Settlemire, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine and University of Maine Extension Educator Dick Brzozowski, Portland, Maine are co-directors of the project.

The Katahdin produces a market lamb that is lean with excellent flavor but would find more market acceptance if the average carcass size were larger. In this project, Katahdin ewes were in year one bred to large framed, heavy muscled Dorper-Katahdin crossed rams. The lambs from multiple births that have the fastest growth rate and larger frame and muscle scores will be kept in the project. In addition, heavy muscled Suffolk ewes with the “R” gene at codon 171 were bred to parasite resistant Florida Native rams. The lambs from multiple births with the larger frames and leg muscle that are parasite resistant will be kept in the project and crossed with the lambs produced by the Katahdin ewes.

The lambs of the four way cross that have the carcass qualities that meet the objectives of the project will be bred to large framed Katahdin rams for the next three generations to produce animals that can be registered as Katahdins.

To assist with the selection process NSIP production records will be used and loin eye measurements will be made using ultrasound. The research flock has been enrolled in the USDA Scrapie Flock Certification Program. Lambing is scheduled to take place late winter and an aggressive rotational grazing program will be used to give advantage to lambs that grow well on grass.

By the end of the project (5 to 6 years) it is hoped that 50 to 60 breeding Katahdin ewes will be available for distribution to approximately 10 farms that agree to a continuation of the breeding/selection program and a joint marketing program of breeding stock. For more information contact Dr. Tom Settlemire, 207-725-3586, tsettle@bowdoin.edu or Dr. Richard Brzozowski, 207-780-4205, rbrz@umext.maine.edu.

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Evaluation of Hair Sheep Composite Breeds for Easy-Care Lamb Production

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
S. P. Greiner, Ph.D. and D. R. Notter, Ph.D.

Katahdin ewes are being compared to Dorset and Dorper crossbred ewes at the Southwest Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Dorset and Dorper crossbreds are being produced in spring of 2000, 2001, and 2002 by mating white-faced crossbred ewes to Dorset and Dorper rams. Twenty Katahdin ewe lambs per year are being purchased at about 60 d of age, with four to six Katahdin flocks sampled in each year.

By fall of 2002, we expect to have 50 to 60 ewes of each breed type. These ewes will be mated to Suffolk rams and evaluated over three April lambings. Lambs will be weaned in early July and maintained on pasture with limited supplemental feed to maintain target summer growth rates of approximately 0.5 pounds/day. Lambs will be placed in drylot in early September and fed a high-concentrate diet until reaching a market weight of approximately 110 pounds. Backfat thickness and loin eye area will be evaluated ultrasonically and carcass measurements will be obtained at slaughter. Loin chops from each carcass will be frozen for analysis of tenderness and flavor. The first set of lambs by foundation ewes was produced in 2001.

Foundation ewe lambs are being evaluated for resistance to internal parasites. In mid-August, ewe lambs will be dewormed and drenched with infective larvae of Haemonchuscontortus. Fecal and blood samples are obtained at 2, 3, 4, and 5 week after infection to determine fecal egg counts and packed cell volume (a measure of the severity of anemia).

At about 106 days of age, the first set of purchased Katahdin ewe lambs was similar in mean weight to Dorset crossbreds produced on the station (53 and 54 lb, respectively) but was lighter than the Dorper crossbreds (63 lb). Growth rates for Katahdins, Dorset crossbreds, and Dorper crossbreds were .55, .59, and .64 lb/d, respectively, and weights at about 175 days were 91, 95, and 107 lb, respectively. Results from the first set of foundation ewe lambs revealed that Katahdin ewe lambs had lower mean fecal egg counts after infection (706 eggs/g of feces) than Dorset or Dorper crossbreds (918 and 1033 eggs/g, respectively). Difference in egg counts were not significant in the first year, and must be confirmed using additional data from years 2 and 3. However, Katahdin ewe lambs had significantly higher mean packed cell volumes (30.8%) than either Dorset or Dorper crossbreds (27.9 and 29.5%, respectively). For more information contact Dr. Scott Greiner, Department of Animal & Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, sgreiner@vt.edu, 540-231-9159 or Dr. Dave Notter, Department of Animal & Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, drnotter@vt.edu, 540-231-5135.

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Evaluation of Performance of Hair Sheep Breeds for Lamb Meat Production

USDA, ARS, Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center
Booneville, Arkansas
Joan M. Burke, Ph.D. & Research Animal Scientist

The sheep industry is in a transitional phase, turning to lamb meat production as its main commodity. Both novice and seasoned sheep producers are demanding easy care breeds to produce high quality lambs for improved productivity and competitiveness. Hair sheep possess characteristics of low input management systems (parasite tolerance, out-of season breeding, hair that sheds). However, growth rate is slower and resistance is met by packers because of their smaller mature size and shedding pelts compared with traditional wool breeds. Management of various hair breeds must be defined for optimal production and constraints must be addressed. The objectives of the research at Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center (Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Booneville, AR) are to evaluate 1) growth and carcass characteristics of hair breeds of sheep compared with traditional wool breeds, 2) production and reproduction performance of intensively and extensively managed hair sheep, 3) parasite tolerance of hair and hair x wool crosses of sheep.

Preliminary studies examined live animal performance and carcass characteristics of purebred Katahdin (K) and St. Croix (SC) lambs, as well as 3/4 St. Croix (SCX), Dorper x Romanov x St. Croix (DX), and Dorper x St. Croix (DXSC) lambs. Briefly, lambs were intensively managed from weaning until slaughter (~ 180 d of age), and at that time weighed 44.8, 43.7, 42.8, 49.6 and 56.4 kg, respectively. From birth to weaning, ADG was greater for K and DXSC compared with SC and SCX lambs; however, from weaning to harvest, ADG was greater for DXSC, followed by DX, SC, SCX and K (253.7, 226.1, 204.9, 193.1 and 181.1 g/d, respectively). Carcasses from DXSC lambs were heavier than all other breed types; whereas, carcasses of K, SCX, DXSC and DX had greater yield grades than SC. Although fatter, carcasses of DXSC lambs had the largest, and SC and SCX lambs the smallest longissimus muscle areas. Carcasses from SCX lambs tended to have a higher percentage of internal fat than DX, DXSC and K lambs. Conformation scores for DX and DXSC carcasses were substantially higher, resulting in higher quality grades, than SC and SCX carcasses. Results from this study indicate that improvements in ADG and carcass muscularity and quality can be achieved by using Dorper sires on purebred and crossbred St. Croix dams. Further studies are required of the various breeds under extensive management. Evaluation of the carcasses is a collaboration with Dr Jason Apple from the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Information generated from these projects will define management strategies for producers and potential producers of hair sheep under intensive or extensive systems. For more information contact Dr. Joan Burke, 501-675-3834 or jmburke@spa.ars.usda.gov.

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Evaluation of Katahdin and Wiltshire Horn Sheep Breeds

North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota
B.L. Moore, Ph.D., P.T. Berg, W. Limesand and R.G. Haugen, Ph.D.

Objectives of these studies are to evaluate these breeds at all production phases under northern US commercial conditions and at increasing percentages of “hair” sheep breeding. Commercial white-faced and speckled faced ewes were mated to Katahdin (K), Wiltshire Horn (W) or Columbia or Hampshire (CH) rams to produce lambs for progeny analysis. Resulting lambs were identified and weighed at birth and all male progeny put through a “feedlot” phase on identical diets, slaughtered and carcass data obtained. Ewe lambs were retained as flock replacements and bred to lamb in the fall with the ultimate objective to move this entire commercial flock to a fall lambing scheme. Birth weights were higher for CH sired lambs (K- 11.1, W-10.8, CH-13.5 lbs.). In trial 1(finishing) CH sired lambs gained most rapidly (K-.718, W-.806, CH- .863 lb/day). In trial 2 which was conducted later in the summer and recorded lower gains because of the heat there were negligible differences in gains (K-.673, W-.651, CH-.644 lb./day). In the conversion of feed dry matter to weight gain, there were no significant trends. Trial 1; (K- 4.65, W- 4.56, CH- 5.11); trial 2; (K- 4.16, W- 4.53, CH- 4.39 lb. dry matter/ lb. gain). Carcass data results revealed that carcasses of all these “hair-sired” lambs were very acceptable.

There were no differences in quality grades and the averages of all lambs slaughtered for rib eye area (2.53 in.2), fat thickness (.17 in.) and conformation score (11.01, choice average) were well above industry averages. In the calculation of boneless, closely trimmed retail cuts (BCTRC) of the carcasses (based on carcass weight, rib eye area, fat thickness and body wall thickness), the K sired lambs had the highest percentages in both trials. Trial 1; (K- 48.10%, W- 47.46%, CH- 47.35%), trial 2; (K- 47.63%, W- 46.69%, CH- 46.89%). These results indicate that the general performance, growth and carcass characteristics of lambs sired by hair breed rams is very acceptable. Other observations were that the hair sired lambs were extremely vigorous at birth. Assistance in starting to nurse was almost totally unnecessary. Death loss was also very low. Considerable variation in the shedding characteristics has been observed. Some sheep have essentially full fleeces while others may be up to half “shed out.” The economic impact of not having fleeces and on the lamb pelt market is yet to be determined. Once the percentage females enter production more information will be available on that aspect. For more information contact Dr. Bert Moore, Department of Animal & Range Science, 191 Hultz Hall, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105, 701-231-7651, bmoore@ndsuext.nodak.edu or WesLimesand, NDSU Sheep Unit, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105, 701-231-7782, sheepbrn@ndsuext.nodak.edu.

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The Hair Sheep Influence: A Progress Report on the Katahdin Sheep Production Systems Group and Germplasm Evaluation Program

Georgia Small Ruminant Research & Extension Center
Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, GA
Will R. Getz, Ph.D.

Purpose of the Fort Valley State sheep research and extension program: Through on-farm and research station work, to study constraints, develop solutions, and demonstrate profitable systems for easy-care, low-input commercial lamb production based on appropriate non-traditional breeds for Georgia and Southeast climatic and economic environments. Non-traditional breeds. There are five well-defined breeds of hair sheep in the U.S. However, based on observations among commercial flocks in the Southeast, Katahdin and Dorper are the most favored hair sheep breeds, with the Katahdin being the most prevalent hair sheep ewe in Georgia. The use of both breeds appears to be expanding, yet the lack of analytical data regarding the productivity and profitability of utilizing these breeds remains a limitation in documenting constraints and successes.Program structure. On-farm contacts were made in early 1998 to locate breeders and commercial flocks utilizing hair sheep genetics. University-based work began in1998 by acquiring 22 fall-born crossbred yearling ewes [blackface x (Dorset x Rambouillet)] and mating the ewes to either a Suffolk (S) ram or a Dorper x Katahdin (DK) ram. During the fall of 1999, these same ewes plus crossbred female replacements from within the flock were allocated to a Hampshire, Katahdin or 3/4 Dorper x 1/4 Katahdin ram. The rationale for the wool sheep foundation was two-fold: first, this is a cost effective way for our clients to get into the sheep business by grading-up to hair sheep genetics; second, it allows us to track the changes in production parameters as breed composition changes over time. The research design also includes a wool sheep component to serve as a control or basis of comparison. Data collection. The data collected in the university-based flock include periodic weights on lambs and ewes, reproductive performance, health and internal parasite status, and carcass information. Ewe weights are taken pre- and post-breeding, at parturition, and at weaning time. Lamb weights are taken at 60, 100, slaughter, 180, and 365 days of age. Carcass data include weight, ribeye area, fat thickness, carcass length and leg circumference. Reproductive performance includes recording lambing interval, type of birth, and type of rearing. Internal parasite monitoring focuses primarily on fecal egg count and packed cell volume. Preliminary results. Although numbers of lambs are very limited, data from 1999 and 2000 suggest that hair sheep genetics is a viable alternative to wool sheep in terms of growth early in life, carcass merit and yield, and internal parasite resistance. The work will continue as data are collected on various percentages and purebreds. Growth. Data available up to now on the 1999 and 2000 lamb crops include 100-day weights. Lambs were weighed as close to 100 days of age as practicable. Comparative breed performance is shown in table 1. Table 1999 and 2000 Lamb Preweaning Weight for Three Types of Lambs Breeding n 100-day Weight Standard Error Coefficient of Variation (lbs.) (lbs.) (%) Year 1999 Suffolk-sired 5 72.7 ± 3.4 4.67 Dorper x Katahdin-sired 10 76.7 ± 7.7 9.90

Year 2000 Katahdin-sired 3 76.0 ±2.4 5.50 The number of observations are not yet adequate to support meaningful statistical means comparison. Internal parasite tolerance. In the first of several periodic fecal samples taken from lambs in 1999, there appeared to be a difference between the wool and hair breeds involved. A modest pilot study was conducted from September-October 1999 to determine if a trend was evident and to form the basis for further formal study. Five lambs of each sire-breed were maintained in the same paddock where they had been since the previous April. Initial egg counts, based on McMaster procedures, were 1460 for Suffolk-sired, and 220 for DK-sired lambs. At 28 and 56 days later, egg counts were 1562 and 11866 for the Suffolk-sired and 393 and 88 for the DK-sired lambs. While these observations were from a very limited sample and for only one period of time, they do suggest some genetic differences based on breed of sire. Our data will be expanded over time. Summary. Although data are limited, research data since 1999 on the use of the Katahdin and other hair sheep breeds in commercial lamb production systems in Georgia and the Southeast suggests the breed has a place in this environment. Data are being collected on growth and development, reproductive efficiency, carcass characteristics, internal parasite resistance, and marketing options. For more information contact Dr. Will R. Getz, Small Ruminant Extension Specialist and Production Systems Group Coordinator, Georgia Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center, Fort Valley State University, P.O. Box 4061, Fort Valley, GA 31030, 478-825-6955, getzw@mail.fvsu.edu.

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Louisiana State University Small Ruminant Research

James Miller, DVM, Ph.D., MPVM

The small ruminant research program at Louisiana State University is currently evaluating four breeds of sheep as to their adaptability to the southeastern sub-tropical climatic conditions. The four breeds are comprised of two wool breeds (Suffolk and Gulf Coast Native) and two hair breeds (Katahdin and St. Croix). Hair sheep, especially the Katahdin are becoming more popular as wool is no longer an economical commodity for most operations and eliminating the need for shearing would be beneficial. The St. Croix is a breed indigenous to sub-tropical and tropical climates, but the Katahdin was developed in the northeastern US where cold, less humid conditions prevail. The relatively hot and humid conditions during southeastern US summer months are stressful and can adversely affect production. The major constraint to production is parasitism, specifically the blood worm called Haemonchus contortus which thrives in hot humid conditions. The research team is now in the third year of this investigation where we are monitoring metabolic/parasitic parameters that indicate how well each breed responds to the environmental conditions and how each breed is able to withstand the blood worm infection. We are also looking at slaughter data to compare carcass quality between the four breeds and the effect of parasitism on that quality. At the conclusion of our study, we will have a better idea of breed adaptability which will enable us to make informed recommendations on improving sheep production under our conditions. For more information contact Dr. James Miller, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, 225-578-9652, jmille1@lsu.edu.

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Low Input Pasture Finishing of Lambs

David Coplen & Nancy Case, Missouri Katahdin Producers

The main goals of this USDA, SARE funded producer grant are to evaluate the economics, carcass quality and taste of Katahdin wethers and ram lambs finished on forage or finished on grain. The four treatment groups in this study are wethers finished on grass, ram lambs finished on grass, wethers finished with grain and rams finished with grain. To accomplish our goals, four Missouri Katahdin producers provided five ram lambs and five wethers for a total of 40 animals. To decrease variability in the data set, over half of the lambs in the study are twins of which one was castrated and one was left intact. High quality forage was obtained by overseeding pastures with annual rye and red clover for spring pastures and overseeding pastures in the spring with crabgrass and lespedeza for summer grazing. Pastures will be managed by rotational grazing. Nutrient quality of pastures is being assessed by testing forage nutrient levels each month. On a monthly basis, fecal samples from each lamb will be counted to determine parasite loads. Each month, lambs will be weighed and their condition noted to assess performance. All lambs will forage together until the last month at which point, half the ram lambs and wethers will finish on grass and half will have their forage supplemented with one pound of 15% protein ration per day. All lambs will be slaughtered at the same time. Carcass information to be collected includes size of loin eye, thickness of backfat, dressing percentage and the grams of fat per 100 grams of meat for each treatment. We also will collect data to determine if dressing percentages of fore-and hindquarters differ between rams and wethers. There will be a sensory panel conducted by Lincoln University Extension Program in Jefferson City, Missouri to compare the taste of grain- versus grass-finished wethers and ram lambs. The economics of grass-finishing will be evaluated by tracking all input costs. The costs of finishing Katahdin lambs on grass in Northern Missouri will be compared to benchmark figures for feedlot and Australian lamb production. Preliminary results of this study will be published in the Fall of 2001 and final results published in the Spring of 2002 on the Internet and in selected grazing publications. This study will provide relevant information for producers on the economics, taste and carcass quality of grass or grain finished Katahdin wethers and ram lambs. (authors note: this grant was extended into 2002 due to drought). For more information contact David Coplen, 4702 Birch Cove Drive, Fulton, MO 65251, 573-642-7746, David_Coplen@osca.state.mo.us or Nancy Case, PO box 87, Hartsburg, MO 65039, 573-657-9297, agworld@case-agworld.com.

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Direct Marketing of Missouri Katahdin Lamb

Michael Seipel, Ph.D., Missouri Katahdin Producer

Five KHSI members have received a SARE producer grant for the project “Direct Marketing of Missouri Katahdin Lamb”. The objectives of the grant are to increase consumer awareness, appreciation, and consumption of Katahdin lamb; to create profitable direct marketing opportunities for lamb producers; to increase contact and information exchange between sheep producers and lamb consumers; and to develop a marketing brochure that can serve as a template for other sheep and livestock producers. The Marketing Coordinator hired for the project, Katie Dallam, is currently developing a marketing brochure and planning other promotional activities. The color marketing brochure will promote the nutritional and environmental benefits of Katahdin lamb in general. The brochure will also contain an insert with additional information on a particular producer’s farm, so each collaborator can customize the brochure to his or her potential customers. The grant is paying for a nutritional analysis of a Katahdin rib chop, and the results will be incorporated in promotional materials. Beginning in March, each collaborating producer will host a cooking demonstration or lamb tasting to promote his or her product and educate consumers about sustainably produced lamb. The five collaborating producers are David Coplen and Carol Fulkerson, Lynn and Donna Fahrmeier, Barbara Hurst, John and Darla Noble, and Michael and Cherie Seipel. Other interested Katahdin producers can obtain the brochure template (when it is complete) and add their own pictures or information to customize it to fit their marketing efforts. The producers hope to eventually develop a web site describing the cooking demonstrations and other marketing activities undertaken as part of the project, and other producers may also wish to apply this model to their own direct marketing efforts. For more information contact Dr. Michael Seipel,21260 US Hwy 36, Callao, MO 63534, cseipel@cvalley.net, 660-768-5744.

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Haired Dairy Sheep Production

Amy Hayner, Producer from Waverly, Virginia

I received a SARE producer grant to investigate the potential of producing a haired dairy sheep. The product of crossing selected heavy-milking Katahdin Hair Sheep with East Friesian Sheep will retain the milking ability of the East Friesian while increasing their heat and parasite tolerance. This lower maintenance hybrid would be of economic benefit to the sheep dairy industry and also for the production of market lamb producing mothers. My methods have been simple. A Katahdin ram was bred to 3 East Friesian ewes, and an East Friesian ram was bred to 12 Katahdin ewes. Yearly fecal samples were taken in July for two years. I recorded weights of newborns, weanlings, and market wethers, and the timing and kinds of dewormers used. All sheep were kept solely on pasture, supplemented with hay in winter and the ewes of both breeds were pastured together. Results of the fecal samples were evaluated at Virginia State University and were graded with the highest levels of infestation as extreme and the lowest as negligible. Testing in July, the East Friesian ewes exhibited extreme infestation, the East Friesian ram had severe infestation, the Katahdin ewes had low infestation and the Katahdin ram had negligible infestation. The Katahdin adults are dewormed twice a year; in April after lambing and in November after a killing frost. The East Friesians were dewormed 5 times a year in April, June, July, August and November to prevent bottle jaw. The F1 ram lambs exhibited high parasite levels. The original F1 ewe crosses, now in their second year, are shedding, markedly healthier through our humid summers and show increased parasite tolerance as compared to the high parasite levels in the purebred East Friesian. It is my observation that the F1 hybrids show superior temperament, growth, parasite tolerance and health while retaining excellent milking ability, more than equal to the East Friesian purebreds. For more information contact Amy Hayner, 17630 Old Forty Rd, Waverly, VA 23890, 804-246-5929.

To receive an information packet about Katahdins contact the Operations Office of Katahdin Hair Sheep International. James Morgan and Naomi Hawkins would like to thank Dr. Charles Parker of Columbus, Ohio for his encouragement in collecting these abstracts.

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Katahdin Hair Sheep International   |   PO Box 739, Fowlerville, MI 48836  |  Phone: (717) 335-8280