The second stop of the KHSI Expo learning experience was to tour Jo-Le Farms in Scio, Oregon. Jon and Leslie Carter have been raising commercial Coopworth sheep for many years, and decided to “breed the wool off” their sheep in 1999 when Jon started having back problems and no longer wanted to shear. Jon used mainly Dorper and White Dorper genetics to do this, but recently has been experimenting with Wiltshire Horn terminal sire influence as well. (More history on that endeavor is on their blog.)
The most interesting thing about their breeding program is their claim to fame that they have bred a flock of sheep that does not require hoof care from humans! That’s a pretty amazing feat to achieve in the soggy northwest! I was hoping to pick Jon’s brain more on this subject, to get specifics on what he looks for in a “good foot” when choosing replacement breeding stock that will maintain or improve hoof health in the herd long-term.
But, the tour timing ended up getting a little messed up due to a wrong turn in the driving directions to get there, resulting in everyone arriving at different times. And the group was so large we sort of divided Jon’s attention in a million directions, and often split into our own side conversations. 🙂 So I never got a chance to ask him more about this, and if he talked about it, I may have been yakking with someone and missed it!
But, I love how Jon puts it in his blog- that he did not want to trade one backbreaking chore (shearing) for another (hoof trimming). This is so important to consider when making breeding improvement decisions for any hair sheep breed, is that we are trying to offer a low-maintenance breed that is hardy in any climate. So, hoof resistance to scald and rot is a must!
I also found interesting the seven dogs I saw there: first, four crossbred LGDs (of Maremma, Anatolian, Great Pyrenees and other source stock, Les thought…) that they had selected for their short/smooth coats, again for easy care in our muddy climate. Les reported that they train their LGDs for “non-silliness” by tying them to a car tire to drag. It’s been effective for them, except that sometimes the dogs got hung up in their large treed area, and would have to wait to be rescued by a human! Their dogs were reserved at first, but then friendly, with the large group of farm tourists.
Jon discussed a bit on living in balance with coyotes, and how he used to feel tempted to shoot any coyote he saw. Until one day he shot a coyote in the distance that was minding its own business, during a period of time when he’d had almost zero sheep losses to predators. Lo and behold, the next few weeks, he started getting “hits” from a new coyote who had moved in to fill the now-dead coyote’s niche. Eventually, his LGDs were able to ward off this new animal and balance was restored. But it convinced Jon to focus on only removing known problem coyotes, not all coyotes!
They also had three Border Collies working stock, moving sheep around so we could view them. I enjoyed watching them work, as always; especially two young males whom Jon had trained to work as a brace, each covering one side of the very large flock as they brought them in.
Another interesting and fun learning experience for us all! Thanks to the Carters for opening their farm to us!