Archive for January, 2010

I continue to be interested in the two very distinct body styles of Katahdin sheep.  I tried to bring this subject up with a fellow Katahdin breeder once, but they didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about.  For that reason, I think it makes a good blog topic.  On the blog I have the advantage of pictures (something I didn’t have on hand during my conversation).

Disclaimer: My use of “A” and “B” should not be confused with the KHSI use of A or B in reference with coat types.   KHSI uses these letters to classify the shedding characteristics of the coat. 

Body Style A:

Body Style A

When looking at the lambs, the bones are not as evident.  They seem to form more of an “internal” structure to the animal. This also continues through adulthood.  Their coat type is definitely “hair” and covers them completely.  As lambs, they appear to have straighter toplines than Body Style B lambs.  They have a squarer more filled out, balanced body. They are significantly “cuter” (my opinion). 

Body Style B:

Body Style B

 The bones of these animals are MUCH more evident.  They are most evident in the shoulders.  More often than not the shoulder blades are quite prominent and extend above the backbone.  The neck seems longer and thinner and seems more curved.  The top line is roached when they are lambs (this seems to flatten a bit as adults) which makes them appear hunched up.   They remind me of camels!  The coat is curly and tight to the body and when they are born, a lot of skin is visible.  I think they appear smaller and more “fragile”.  Oddly enough- these lambs are consistently heavier than the A Body Style lambs, despite being similar in height and length. 

Body Style B on left, Body Style A on right. These are siblings. B weighs more than A

It is precisely because Body Style B is consistently heavier that I am so interested in this topic.  I am concerned that heavily weight based evaluations (such as EPDs) might favor the B Body Style, and although these lambs weigh more, Mike and I don’t feel that they make as good meat animals.   We have never done a hanging carcass comparison (maybe we will make a point of that this year) – therefore this is our opinion of the differences.   Body style B sheep seem to carry more of their weight in the front half of the animal.  As adults they have big rib cages, big shoulders, no butts, and more prominent backbones. When out on pasture they often look like they have “hay bellies”.   Since the most marketable cuts of lamb are lamb chops and leg of lamb, having more weight in the front end of a sheep is not helpful. 

Siblings- Body Style B left, Body Style A right

This will be the first year I am submitting my data to establish EPD’s for my animals, but I am willing to bet that Body Style B animals will end up with better scores- as they have better weights.  I hope I am wrong.  I hope there is no difference between the two when it comes to EPDs.  If I am right- then doing a side by side carcass comparison will become even more important.  If this prediction is correct, it lends credibility to a “meat” measure such as loin ultrasound being added to the EPDs.

Shepherds that sell their lambs wholesale, benefit (in the short run only) by having a heavier animal.  The reason I say in the short run- if the animals are marketed as “Katahdin”, and the end butcher feels they don’t have enough meat in valuable cuts, the breed as a whole suffers.  If, on the other hand, they are meaty in the right places, then the value (and subsequently the price) goes up.    Mike and I sell directly to the consumer.  We see each package of chops (legs, etc) we produce.  We are always working to get more meat in the right places.  Body Style A animals seem to have better distribution of muscle/weight.   

Body Style A - adult ewe

Just as important to me- Body Style A sheep LOOK like what I think a purebred Katahdin should look like. As the producer of “purebred” sheep I desire a consistent look.  If I was JUST interested in producing lamb meat, I would cross-breed.  I don’t like the protruding bones, big bellies, no butts, and the tight curls that I associate with the B Body Style. I do like the evenly muscled, rectangular shape, thick neck, good hair coat of the A Body Style.  It is almost as if there are two different “Katahdins”.  We have both types of ewes in our flock, but more and more I am moving towards the A Body Style.  Which type of sheep do you have?

Body Style B- adult ewe


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 Now you can see why she is named Patch.  This is the only color on her.  She and her lambs are doing well.  Patch is an exceptional mother.  She keeps her lambs together all the time and always knows just where they are.

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Today when I was feeding the sheep, I found this egg in the hay mow.  It is the first egg I have found!   At the momement we are not managing our chickens for eggs, so this was a fun suprise.

A few years ago we got pigs.  The idea was that the pigs would start our in the barn and turn the bed pack the sheep create during the winter months.  They were suppossed to root around and loosen it up, eat any fly larvae, make it “fluffy” so that when Mike and I cleaned the barn, it wouldn’t be such hard work (we do it by hand with a pitch fork and shovel, and you can imagine that no one volunteers to help for this sort of work – ok- expect you, Lauren- thank goodness for Lauren). 

Anyway, it didn’t quite work out as we had planned.  The pigs wanted us to add WATER to the mix- well- you can imagine that didn’t help make it FLUFFY!   We moved our pigs out of the barn and over to pasture- they would make a great blog entry – I will finish their story another time.

What does any of this have to do with the first egg?  The chickens turned out to be the perfect answer to what the pigs were supposed to do.  The chickens scratch the bed pack every day and the CHICKENS make it “fluffy”.   We had intended to move the chickens into the new chicken coop for the winter, BUT once I discovered how GREAT they were doing in the barn with the sheep, I decided to hold off on the chicken coop. 

kissing pigs

 Now if the chickens were in the coop, they would be getting “layer mash” and I would expect eggs; however, they are not, and I am just throwing cracked corn in the bedding (which is what makes them scratch around for it.  You see as the sheep walk around, they burry some of it, so the chickens have to “look” for it).   So far I am very happy with the chickens.  They seem to be the perfect solution.  They eat a lot of bugs and this summer they kept the flys under control.  Now they are helping me out in the barn.  Good chickens!

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Just born- Patch cleaning her third lamb


two roosters

 I love the picture of these two roosters.  It reminds me more of a painting than a photograph.

Just a cute lamb (not one of Patch's triplets)

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This is our first lamb of the new year and of the new decade.   We aim to begin lambing January 1st, and this year we were right on time.  We got our ram in with the ewes on August 1st as planned and as luck would have it, one of the ewes was ready to breed that very day.  Five months to the day- a lamb is born!  This is a ewe lamb weighing 11.5 pounds at birth.   This lamb is on the large side- normally our lambs are between 7-9.5 pounds at birth.  Last year this mother had twin lambs that both weighed 9 pounds at birth.   

First lamb of the new decade

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