At Mariposa Farm, we select high quality sheep that thrive on a forage-based diet with minimal inputs. We focus on ewes and sires who have documented parasite resistance and strong maternal qualities. Through the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), we use our performance records to track our sheep and their lambs through the generations, in order to choose the best breeding stock. Since 2013, we have used NSIP sires and collected data on their lambs' performance. We are commited to improving the breed through selecting the best genetics on our farm.
We select for a moderate size ewe with an ‘A’ coat, who can successfully wean twins. We strive for balanced Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) that focus on growth, parasite resistance and good mothering instincts.
Why choose Katahdin?
The Katahdin breed was developed in Maine as an easy-care sheep that sheds its hair. Bred near Mt. Katahdin, the rocky peak on the Appalachian Mountain Range, these sheep were selected for their production traits like strong maternal instincts and good growth on grass. They are an adaptable breed, which has grown throughout the United States in recent years. They thrive in the warm, humid Southern climate, as well as, the cold, snowy Northern regions.
Micheal Piel bred this composite sheep from wool breeds and hair sheep. Therefore, Katahdins hold the best characteristics of both, a meaty carcass and parasite resistance. They are best known for their maternal traits, because they excel at being great mothers who wean 200% lamb crop.
Ewes thrive on a forage diet all year here. They are rotated intensively on our perennial grass pastures every 2-3 days during the growing season. Our perimenter fence helps keep predators out, as we move the flock in small grazing areas within the larger field using portable electic netting. When the sheep are moved more frequently to fresh pastures, they utilize the available grass better. This translates to better nutrition and growth for the sheep. It also protects our fields from being overgrazed and allows for a quick regrowth of the grass. Our flock grazes the pastures well into the winter on our stockpiled grass. For the remainder of the winter, they eat grass hay in the field. They have access to many trees and a portable shelter around the farm, which give protection from sun and winter weather. The sheep always have access to high quality free choice minerals.
Quick rotations also serve to move lambs and ewes to clean fields with a low parasite load. Although parasites are alway present, we can control them by adaquate rest periods between grazing. As breeding stock producers, we also want to identify the sheep, which are genetically more resistant to these parasites. Therefore we need to challenge the lambs' immune systems. At critical times, we expose the lambs to fields with a high parasite load to evaluate the lambs' performance. Famacha scores identify the animals, who are more resilient to the parasites and not become anemic. In addition we now do fecal egg counts to quantify the parasite load on each animal and how well their immune systems actually shed the parasites from their body. In this way we can identify stock, which are more genetically resistant to parasites. As the efficacy of dewormers has declined throughout the world, breeding parasite resistant sheep needs to be top priority in the sheep industry.
We breed approximately 40 ewes each year to several different sires. In addition to their grass hay, pregnant ewes are also fed non-GMO whole grains in late gestation to give more concentrated nutrition during fetal development. For the first month after lambing, we continue grain supplementation for ewes in order to aid milk production.
Ewes lamb outside on pasture near the barn in March/April. Most births are natural and unassisted. After lambing, the ewe and her lambs are jugged inside the barn for 1-3 days to secure the ewe/lamb bond. In this way, we can ensure that the ewe and her lambs are healthy and thriving together. Then the ewe and her lambs are back on pasture. Within a few days, the lambs will nibble on some grass. In this way their rumen starts working, as most nutrition still comes from the ewe's milk. As the flush of green grass comes on later in the spring, lambs are ready to utilize that nutrition fully for growth.
Sires for 2023 Lamb Crop
NSIP ID: 6400452020WRI028
codon 171: RR
Riptide is our newest stud ram, who was bred at Rolling Springs Farm (Lee Wright) in VA. He has balanced EBVs and his ram lamb completed in the Southwest AREC ram test at Virginia Tech. He has a strong presence with impressive conformation. He kept excellent body condition during the difficult growing conditions of last summer's drought. We look forward to seeing his lambs in the 2023.
NSIP ID: 6400052020WVF898
codon 171: QR
Duncan was bred at Waldoview Farm (Tom Hodgeman) in ME. In 2021, he sired lambs at Misty Oaks Farm (Kathy Bielek) in OH and she was impressed by the strength of his lamb crop. She shared him with us and Duncan sired lambs here in 2022. His lambs are strong and robust and we have kept many ewe replacements out of the group. More of his lambs are expected this spring.
NSIP ID: 6402722022HOT241
codon 171: N/A
We are testing out a new ram lamb for our 3rd breeding group, which is due to lamb in 2023. His dam is a prolific vetern ewe (8 yrs old) of our flock. She consistantly weans healthy twins, which grow well in our low input system. Like his sire (Duncan), he has a gentle disposition. He has grown well and demonstrates good parasite resistance. In this photo, he is 7 months old.
National Sheep Improvement Program
The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) is a national database which compares raw performance data of sheep. Since 2013, we have used registered rams in NSIP and kept performance data on their lambs. This database generates EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values) for each sheep in the system, in order to accurately compare them. It statistically eliminates the differences in climate, age and management styles in order to quantitatively compare sheep within our own flock, as well as, other flocks across the United States. As a result, this information links flocks enrolled in NSIP. It is used to make an accurate prediction of how an animal will perform based on their genetic linkages. We use those EBVs to identify elite ewes and rams. In this way, we can select breeding stock based on unbiased data.
Structural correctness is an important part of the selection process, as well. Statistics can be limited at times and not give the whole picture of an animal. Therefore visual appraisal will always be integral to our system. Utilizing both visual appraisal and performance data together is key to true progress.