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  • Writer's pictureWill Winter

Hair Sheep are HOT right now!

This is a Katadhan hair sheep ram that is the herd sire for a suburb flock in the Fingerlakes Area of upstate NY. He's quite the specimen! Maybe there are prettier "show" sheep out there but this is what to look for in a productive, healthy ram! He is about 5 years old and has several lamb crops on the ground (including the son right behind him in the picture. The rancher is one of those people who "do everything right" and he is trying to be 100% holistic in his grass lamb production! Very rare, I might add. I became fascinated by hair sheep about 15 years ago and just fell in love with them. My first purchase was a flock of Corsican hair sheep, and part of my fascination was with their coloration and massive horns. Later I saw some Barbados Black Bellies and liked them even more (even though they are much alike, but the BBB's are just way more colorful (pictures to follow). After several years of crossing these two varieties of sheep them improvement in genetics was amazing, like 1+ 1 = 4! Better conformation, better size better health and disease and parasite resistance and all the magical horns and colors. Skipping ahead a few years, there was one thing I was missing, and that is carcass size! My little beauties looked like skinned cats on the rail. This is where the Katadhan's came in. Even though I lost most of the color and definitely the huge horns, the improvements were great in every area! I could have gone with Dorpers too, equally great sheep but I couldn't find any. Back when I started, it was possible to find great hair sheep for sometimes as little as $45 each. Well, those days are gone but it's still possible to acquire excellent ewe lambs in the $200-400 range. It helps to look for deals. And there are plenty of deals because a lot of cattle people think that since they have a cattle herd, how hard could sheep be? They get some sheep and then find out that it's a "whole 'nuther deal"! And what's left of the flock goes back on the market. I see these flocks coming up all the time. Then, however, the hard part begins. As an old-timer told me when I bought my first sheep..."Well, Boy, when yer sheep quit dyin', then you are in the sheep business....." And that is exactly right. My learning curve wasn't as steep as it could have been (I had lots of great help and advisors!) but it was somewhat painful. More about that later!

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