Sheep at Crystal Spring Community Farm
We have been raising sheep since the spring of 2005 at Crystal Spring Community Farm. The husbandry of our flock of katahdin hairsheep is a partnership between master shepherd Tom Settlemire and Seth Kroeck, the manager of Crystal Spring Community Farm. Tom has been raising sheep in Brunswick since 1971 and brings his decades of shepherding experience as well as an academic research background with Bowdoin College, The Northeast Katahdin Project, and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Reasearch and Education program (SARE) to the partnership.
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Our flock is raised on pesticide and herbicide free pasture using rotational grazing techniques. In addition to intensive grazing and cut hay, ewes are conditioned with Aroostook County raised Maine barley prior to lambing and during lactation. Lambs are grazed as well along with barley to maintain growth for summer markets. Good stewardship is our only additive to the flock, as we do not use steroids or growth stimulants to help the lambs gain weight.
The Katahdin Breed is a lamb production composite that was developed in Maine in the 1950’s from African hairsheep crossed with several Down (large framed English) varieties. From the first flock, this breed has been selected for their ability to shed their fleece, develop large loin eyes, and maintain high fertility with superior flocking instinct. Over the next thirty years the breed was improved through further crossing to develop a strong mothering instinct as well as excellent milk production during lambing. In the past decade the katahdin breed has also become known for their genetic superiority in resistance to both scrapie and intestinal parasites. All of these traits combine together to form a breed that offers superior ease of lamb production along with unsurpassed animal health and vigor.
Crystal Spring Katahdins Breeding Program
We offer breeding stock for sale annually with detailed production records including parasite resistance data. Our registered Katahdin breeding stock is selected for several characteristics that we have found to be most important for the improvement of lamb production. These are good mothering, ease of lambing, strong milk production at lambing and during the first 60 days, udder health and proven resistance genetics for scrapie and barber pole worm (heamonchous contortous).
As lambing is our most labor-intensive time we select only brood ewes that have proven mothering ability andgenetics for consistent twinning. One of our primary reasons for shepherding Katahdins is their ease in lambing; they are consistently know as a breed of “easy doers”. Having confidence in our ewe’s to care for their lambs from their first breath is the foundation for having a successful, vigorous flock.
Milk production of our ewes in the single most important factor in lamb growth during the first sixty days of life. We monitor milk availability at lambing as well as growth rate of the lambs prior to weaning to ensure the ewes have proven production. Udder health is also part of our record keeping program and ewes are checked several times annually prior to breeding.
Katahdins are increasingly known for their genetic resistance to disease. Our flock was the first in Maine enrolled in the National Scapie Eradication Program. Independent of this program, we test for their resistance to scrapie at codons 171, 136, and 125.We also monitor resistance to barber pole worm in our animals using a combination of FAMACHA testing every 30 days along with fecal egg counts twice annually to confirm parasite loads. This testing regimen ensures that we have a consistently improving resistance to barber pole worm in our flock.
Crystal Spring Katahdins is part of the USDA/SARE funded Northeast Katahdin Hairsheep Project. This project was started in 2000 for the improvement of parasite resistance, mothering traits, and pounds of lamb produced in the katahdin breed.