Breeding Stock FAQ

You may have heard or read, especially on Facebook discussion lists, how it’s unwise to buy a young ram lamb for breeding, before his individual growth performance can be observed. For most flocks, this is very true: you won’t know much about that ram when he is eight weeks old. All you can judge by is how heavy he is compared to his peers at that age, and maybe something about his parents based on looking at them. It may be hard to compare him if he’s a single out of a mature ewe, and his peers are twins out of younger ewes, the perception of his size will be biased. If he’s in a small flock, there is little to compare him to. The best ram of a dozen may not be a great ram, there is just no way of knowing whether he is a “big fish in a small pond.” It’s surely a gamble to buy a breeding ram from this kind of situation.  Buying a ram with lower growth or prolificacy scores could set your operation back years in progress.

But, when buying from a larger NSIP flock, the situation is a little different. Now, we have data not just on that ram’s weight at sixty days. Rather, aggregated into his EBV scores are the scores of his entire extended family- parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. And, in a large flock, that ram is now being compared against the performance of a hundred or more peers for growth to weaning or post-weaning. So, we can tell a lot about that ram at sixty days, and his genetic potential for producing great future generations. We can tell even more once his 120 day weight is taken and accounted for- now we have two data points on the growth curve, again ranked against dozens of peers, and combined with family data from several generations back and hundreds animals lateral to the pedigree.

EBVs give a much more accurate and valuable predictor of a potential breeding ram’s offering to your operation than visual appraisal of the animal and his parents ever will.

You can find an explanation of the EBVs here.

Sure! Katahdins make great pasture maintenance animals, they tame easily and love to come running for a grain bucket! I find that most people who want sheep for pets find that shearing wool sheep is burdensome. It’s expensive to pay a shearer to come out to do a small number of animals, it’s hard to get the sheep dry enough in our climate; and for most pet owners, doesn’t result in salvageable or saleable wool. Hair sheep are much easier to keep as pets since they shed naturally, like wild sheep do.

You can certainly choose to buy registered breeding stock for pets. Sometimes we have adult “cull ewes” for sale which have had a problem with lambing and should not be bred again, but can make fine and gentle pets. Or, you can buy a castrated “wether” lamb that’s destined for the slaughter channel. We usually have lots of fun colors to choose from. Wethers are usually the regular $200 butcher lamb price ,regardless of size. However, sometimes we have a few slow-to-start lambs which, for various reasons, are going to take a long time to hit butcher weight. Since we know we have to put a lot of feed into them to get them to gain, we may sell them at a discount while they are still small.

We do have a minimum “floor” price for pets; and this is to ensure that the buyer can comfortably afford to take on one or more sheep as companions. On a small acreage, it can cost a few hundred dollars a year in feed and supplies to maintain an adult sheep. So, buyers who are uncomfortable with a purchase price in that range may find they are also uncomfortable with the costs to maintain the sheep later on. Thus, we don’t normally give away sheep for free, or entertain bargaining. This is a working farm, and all sheep have a value in the slaughter channel, so their value as pets is determined accordingly.

Yes, you do, unless you can provide a filled-out exemption form from the state. You can find the form here. If you are a qualified farm, simply print out the form, fill it out, and give us a signed copy for our records; then we can remove WA state sales tax from your invoice. The state is very strict in enforcement of this policy, and sellers can incur large fines if the do not have the exemption paperwork on file. So regrettably, we must charge you tax unless you can provide the form before or at the time of purchase.

If you are an out-of-state buyer and can prove residency outside of WA (e.g. with a driver’s license), you also do not need to pay sales tax.

We do not use feed creep feed, alfalfa or any other high-protein concentrate to our ewes or lambs. Breeding ewes are fed modest grass hay during winter, and are given 1-1.5 pounds each of dry corn-barley (8% crude protein) during the last 30-60 days of pregnancy, tailing off by the second week of nursing. Lambs are born on pasture and the ewes are grazing from lambing time onward. Lambs wean onto pasture grass alone and are given minimal de-worming treatment. Thus, we don’t get the average pound-per-day gains on lambs that people in intensive, indoor lambing operations achieve. But for our climate and region where feed and labor is very expensive, we feel this system breeds a better sheep: one that can perform outdoors with low inputs and labor. This is the sheep of the future. 

If you want to buy breeding stock that will fit in a grass-fed operation, it’s a good idea to buy them from a similar operation. You may find that purchasing sheep from a “hot house” rearing environment is hit-or-miss: some animals may do OK in a pasture-based system, but many will not thrive and you’ll be culling them in a year or two.

Yes, we can deliver up to an hour’s drive away from Snohomish for an extra fee.

Yes, you can! Deposits on breeding stock are $100 per animal, and are non-refundable. We cannot hold sheep without a deposit, because once you have reserved your sheep with money down, we will be turning away other potential buyers, and will have invested time in your transaction. If you are interested in purchasing stock, it’s a good idea to get your deposit and choices in as soon as you can, even if you can’t pick them up until later. Often we have people buy large groups of sheep; so literally they can be “here today, gone tomorrow!”

If you need us to hold sheep for more than 4 weeks from the time you pay your deposit and the sheep is available for pickup, we will require you to pay board, which is $1/day per animal.

Yes, our whole flock is made up of registered purebreds. We have a very small number of ewes which were “upgrades”, meaning they had some non-registered stock in their pedigrees, but have since reached the required threshold of 87.5% purebred and have been hair-coat inspected in order to be eligible for upgrade. When you buy breeding stock from us, unless otherwise specified, it comes with registration and transfer paid for by us. This is a $20 value if you are not a member of KHSI.

Occasionally, we sell unregistered, “commercial” stock at a discount. Sometimes these are accidental breedings; where the lambs are purebred, but we don’t know who the sire is. Other times, we may just feel the animal isn’t quite quality enough to be registered, but still may make an adequate commercial breeder.

OPP: We have a history of whole-flock testing negative for OPP, the last one was in winter 2015. Weare now in a monitoring status, where a percentage of the flock is tested each year; the last test was in Q1 2017. Incoming sheep are tested upon arrival, before being mixed with the flock. OPP is common everywhere in the U.S., is definitely in our area, and can have a devastating affect on flock productivity over time. Testing is expensive, but offers an insurance policy against a future crisis. Sure, you can pick up less expensive ewes from people who don’t test and just hope for the best. But you risk losing lambs, and ewes in the prime of their lives in years to come! Once you have it and it has spread throughout the flock, it’s a very emotionally painful, costly, and labor-intensive process to eliminate it.

CL: We had done some spot-testing in the past, and were all-negative; but then used the CL vaccine for several years. We eventually abandoned that practice, because the vaccine caused such irritating lesions. But, all the ewes that have been vaccinated have the potential to test positive for the bacteria. We will be embarking on a sampling program this year, to test all unvaccinated ewes and confirm clear status of the flock. Our flock has never had CL-like lesions externally, nor have they ever been observed on necropsy; and all sheep that die here are necropsied.

Johnes: We have only spot-checked for it historically and have never had a positive case, nor have we observed the symptoms in sheep here.

Scrapie: We are enrolled in the export-monitored program of the USDA Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP) since 2009; and our current status date (due to bringing in new breeing stock) is August 2016. We mostly use RR rams, so most of the lambs born here will be QR or RR, and thus, resistant to classical scrapie.  Scrapie is on its way out in the U.S., with only a few source flocks still in existence. It hasn’t been found in Washington state in over a decade, and is also less common in whiteface breeds. Thus, we feel that focus on this disease is no longer warranted for Katahdin flocks in WA state. We do still test breeding rams for RR/QR/QQ status, so that buyers can make an informed decision.

Yes, we can! Exporting livestock from the U.S. is really more about importing to your country, wherever you are. So the best place to start is to check with your local government agriculture department to find out what the requirements are. We are in the “export monitored” category of the U.S. Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP); which means we maintain careful records, submit samples of culls and deadstock to the USDA lab for testing, and have annual inspections with staff from our state veterinarian’s office. This is the first requirement for most countries to allow stock to be imported, is that they come from an active SFCP flock.

The next requirement is usually that a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) is obtained. The buyer pays for our local veterinarian to come out and inspect the sheep for health, and she registers this inspection with the state vet office, so it’s an official record. There is usually a limited time frame in which the CVI is considered valid for the animal to travel to its destination country.

The buyer will obtain an import permit from his country,  which will be linked to the CVI, and contain the particulars of the import: source flock, identity of the animals, the mode of transport across borders, and the planned time frame of the import.

There may be other requirements- testing for certain diseases (which our vet would also do at the time of the CVI inspection), tattooing the animal with the country of origin name, or filling out documents verifying our flock has been free of diseases of concern, like OPP, for a number of years. Some countries require a quarantine procedure before the animals are shipped.

We can work with you to meet your requirements for importation, just ask!