Katahdin sheep is a type of hair sheep that is very popular in the United States. Apart from being raised mainly for meat, they are known to be parasite-resistant and require little care.
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Katahdin Sheep Origin
Named after the highest mountain peak of the area, Katahdin sheep was first developed in Maine, USA back in the 1950s. It was a result of crossing St. Croix, a hair sheep breed that originated from the Caribbean, and several other breeds including Suffolk, a British sheep.
Best Features & Instincts of Katahdin Sheep
Farmers love to keep the Katahdin for their meat, which is also the true purpose, and milk production. Besides, these sheep can naturally shed their hair, resulting in no regular shearing cost like other breeds.
Are Katahdin Sheep Good For Meat?
Many producers claim that Katahdin sheep meat is more healthful, richer in omega-3 and -6 than other breeds, especially wooled lambs.
However, to meat scientists, this claim isn’t reliable. As there is too little scientific evidence to support it. It is more of something the marketers would use to promote their sheep.
Although a grass diet or a fat concentrated diet seems to increase omega-3 and -6 in Katahdin meat, many other factors can influence meat nutrition.
Apart from quality, the taste is another feature of Katahdin meat that is widely “marketed” to be better. This is just another piece of information that didn’t get the nod from scientists. They do agree, though, that the taste of strong lamb flavor will intensify the older the sheep are.
Can Katahdin Sheep Be Milked?
As a result of raising more than one lamb, the female Katahdin usually has a lot of milk. On average, one ewe can produce from half to a full liter of milk per day. This makes the breed additionally valuable for milk production.
However, it isn’t consistent in terms of milk quantity produced among the awes. Therefore, if the sole purpose of raising these sheep is milk, further intentional selection for the milkiest sheep in a flock must be done to achieve the best result.
Appearances & Characteristics
Before we get to know the physical characteristics of Katahdin sheep, there are many concerns about whether or not they are 100% sheep, because of their slightly different look compared to other breeds.
Many even believe they are bred with goats. This couldn’t be further from the truth because it has a low chance of success when mating a sheep and a goat.
What Color Are Katahdin Sheep?
Many colors can be found on these sheep like white, black, brown, or red. Of all the colors, white is the most common and also the most favorite. They can be all-white or have some unique patterns like dotted.
Many farmers like embracing the color diversity of this breed rather than having only the white ones. And apart from appearance differences, meat/milk production remains the same among all the colors.
Do Katahdin Sheep Have Horns?
The Katahdin sheep are naturally polled, meaning they do not have horns, although according to the breed association, they can have. Indeed, some rams can be found having horns or scurs, a pair of undeveloped horns.
The horns in these sheep are usually the result of breeding with the Wiltshire Horn sheep.
How Big Are Katahdin Sheep?
This breed of sheep is categorized as medium-sized. A fully grown-up male sheep is 180-250 pounds while a ewe weighs 125-180 pounds. They usually lamb twins which are about 8 pounds in weight.
Are Katahdin Sheep Friendly?
The Katahdin sheep are very friendly and generally considered easy-to-be-kept compared to other breeds. They appear to be easy-going and approachable with humans.
The only time you might find them aggressive is when coming close to a mother sheep with babies around. But you know she is just being protective over her children.
Apart from their obedient nature, the Katahdin sheep enjoy both being with their flock and venturing around on their own.
More breed: All about Soay Sheep Breed
One of the benefits of keeping Katahdin sheep is that you don’t have to shear them regularly. As a natural hair breed, they shed their wool when the weather gets hot. And when the shedding process is done, the sheep will look just as they have been shorn.
Read our related article on the Best Sheep Shears. We put the best sheep shears out there to the test and here’s what we discovered!
Katahdin Sheep Health
The Throat Swelling
One of the most common features that usually worry people is the ‘swelling’ throat. It’s called a ‘milk goiter’, an expanded thymus gland commonly found in hair sheep and sometimes goats.
It can very much be mistaken for diseases like bottle jaw, iodine deficiency, or an abscess. But milk goiter is harmless and even a good indicator of a healthy, well-raised sheep.
Are Katahdin Sheep Parasite Resistant?
Compared to many other breeds, this sheep breed is more resistant to intestinal parasites. However, its resistance is not consistent in all individuals in the flock. Generally, this breed still requires less anthelmintic treatment than wooled sheep.
And this is only applied for mature sheep, though. Katahdin lambs, especially those who live in warm, moist areas, are more vulnerable to gastrointestinal parasites.
Thus, unlike the grown-ups, lambs should be monitored for early signs of infections and treated properly. NSIP is a program that helps breeders select the most resistant sheep in the flock.
Are Katahdin Sheep Seasonal Breeders?
Generally, considering the same British origin, these sheep breed more year-round than their fellows. But some of them do breed seasonally. They tend to mate in the summer rather than spring.
But farmers who want a sheep with different breeding seasons can purchase them from farms or on special lambing systems, usually by selecting the ewes that continuously breed out-of-season or once every 8 months.
What Age To Breed Katahdin Sheep?
The female lambs are ready to be bred quite soon, at 12-14 months of age. But it is more important that they have reached sufficient body weight when it comes to breeding.
To be specific, a ewe lamb should be at least two-thirds of its mature size, around 100 pounds, to be mated for the first time.
How Long Are Katahdin Sheep Pregnant?
The Katahdin sheep have a gestation period of 144 to 152 days. External factors like increased weather temperature or a nutritious diet can result in a shorter gestation period (for 2-3 days).
How Many Lambs Do Katahdin Sheep Have?
Many factors can affect the number of lambs like age, breeding season, and diet. On average, you can expect a healthy Katahdin ewe to have twins or triplets. But quadruplets are not even that rare.
Usually breeding in seasons like fall and spring is more promising for maximum lambing. But as we have said, external factors may influence the outcome. Ewes that are light in weight and poor body condition will not likely to lamb many.
Katahdin Sheep Lifespan
If being well-raised in a healthy environment, a Katahdin sheep can live for 10-12 years.
Raising Katahdin Sheep
Are They Easy-caring?
Besides their friendly temperament, the Katahdin sheep are quite easy to keep. We’ve already known the low shearing duty is one of the benefits.
Moreover, this breed doesn’t require crutching and tail docking. The mother sheep are also known to be caring for their offspring.
They still need hoof trimming, though. Living conditions will determine the trimming routine: sheep grazing in rocky, mountainous areas won’t need much and vice versa.
Can You Raise Them With Wooled Sheep?
Because the Katahdin sheep can share their diet with other wooled breeds, these two can be raised together. The same goes for management.
The only thing to be noticed when raising these two breeds is their hair shedding habit.
The Katahdins are hair sheep that will naturally shed their coat based on the weather. To not let the hair get into the wool of their wooled friends, many farmers do keep them separated during shedding season. This step ensures high-quality wool, without hair, is produced on the farm.
The two breeds can also mate with each other. It often takes 3 generations for full, purebred characteristics.
Can You Raise Them In Cold Weather?
Maine, where the Katahdins sheep come from, is a cold state. Therefore, they are very adaptive to not only cold climates but also to other climates in general. Good mothering ability and coat growing/shedding is their instinct to cope with different weathers.
When it is cold outside, they have thicker coats with more woolly fibers. Or, their coat will be shed or grow thinner when the weather is warmer.
But this ability to withstand weather should come with sufficient, nutritious feeding programs. And like any other breed, they still need protection from extreme weather events.
Do Katahdin Sheep Need Shelter?
Despite their high adaptivity to different climates, the Katahdin sheep still need shelter not only for resting at night, staying away from predators, protection from extreme weather but also for lambing.
A wooden pen with soft bedding from hay will be a good shelter for sheep. You should also change the bedding regularly and keep the shelter well-ventilated to ensure sanitary during hot seasons.
What To Feed Katahdin Sheep?
There are many feeding regimes you can follow, each comes with its pros and cons.
Many farmers favor feeding their sheep with grain as a supplement, especially during late gestation or early lactation. Such a productive breed like the Katahdins will indeed need a highly nutritious diet, but the sheep themselves can be finished on pasture.
In reality, the sheep that forage on pasture only can match the USDA Choice of the quality carcass. Feeding your lambs on pasture alone is economical and brings about healthier better-tasting meat. But you have to compromise the longer raising time.
Meanwhile, a diet with grain or grain by-products will result in quicker production, but fatter, milder-tasting meat. Plus, it is more expensive than pasture foraging.
When To Butcher A Katahdin Sheep?
The earliest time for butchering the Katahdin is when they get around 12-14 months old, although, at this point, their body size may not have reached its maximum yet.
Usually, a sheep that has grown two-third of its mature size is ready to be butchered.
How Much Does A Katahdin Sheep Cost?
Because of its popularity, this sheep breed is sold widely across the United States. A lamb usually costs around $300-$600. It’s necessary to check whether or not the lambs are purebred through paperwork before purchasing.
With highly effective meat and milk production, parasite resistance, and climate-adaptive ability, it is no surprise that the Katahdin sheep are one of the most common breeds in America and Canada, not to mention the reduced need for shearing and crutching.
We hope you found this article helpful in understanding these sheep as well as how to raise them. Do share with us your thoughts about this breed!