1. Easy Care: Katahdin's are hair sheep that naturally shed their winter coat so no shearing, crutching or tail docking required. Katahdin's are easy to handle with good flocking instincts.
2. Excellent Mothers: Kathadin ewes possess excellent mothering ability, plenty of milk, few lambing problems, and normally give birth to twins without difficulty.
3. Parasite Resistant. Katahdin's are more resistant to internal parasites than most other breeds of sheep. Mature Katahdin's rarely require deworming.
4. Meat Quality. Katahdin's are an early maturing, medium framed, well-muscled sheep with fast growing lambs that adapt well to a range of climactic extremes and management styles. Katahdin meat is naturally mild, lean, nutritious, and in high demand.
5. Profitable: Mature ewes frequently produce and raise twins or triplets and are out-of-season breeders. Katahdin sheep are low-maintenence and commingle well with cattle, allowing for increased profitablity for ranchers.
Katahdin's are a breed of hair sheep developed in the United States. The Katahdin breed originated at the Piel Farm in north central Maine where Michael Piel was an innovator and amateur geneticist who enjoyed raising livestock.
In 1956 and 1957, Piel began making inquiries about hair sheep after seeing pictures in a National Geographic magazine of West African hair sheep. Three "African Hair Sheep," as they were called then, were imported to Maine from St. Croix in 1957. He was particularly interested in selecting for hair coat, meat-type conformation, high fertility, and flocking instinct.
In the early 1970s, Piel felt he had come close to his goal of a "meat sheep that did not require shearing." He selected from his large flock approximately 120 of the best ewes and called them "Katahdin" sheep after Mt. Katahdin, the highest peak in the state of Maine.
Heifer Project International, an international livestock development charity, took an interest in Piel's work and his "improved" hair sheep. HPI realized that Katahdins were well suited to the southern U.S. and built a sizeable flock at their center in Arkansas through the 1980s based on stock from Piel Farm.
Katahdin Hair Sheep International was incorporated in 1985 as a breeders' association and registry by Piel Farm, Heifer Project, and Donald Williams. The first inspection of animals for the original registry flock book was conducted in 1986. Stan Musgrave, an animal scientist from Maine familiar with the Piel flock, inspected all Katahdins known to exist across the United States. The first KHSI members were accepted in 1987, and 23 breeders agreed to join KHSI and register their Katahdin stock.
Katahdins are hardy, adaptable, low maintenance sheep that produce superior lamb crops and lean, meaty carcasses. They do not produce a fleece and therefore do not require shearing. They are medium-sized and efficient, bred for utility and for production in a variety of management systems. Ewes have exceptional mothering ability and lamb easily; lambs are born vigorous and alert. The breed is ideal for pasture lambing and grass/foragebased management systems.
They have demonstrated wide adaptability. They were derived from breeds that originated in the Caribbean and British Islands and the state of Maine was their original home. In cold weather, they grow a very thick winter coat, which then sheds during warm seasons. Their smooth hair coat and other adaptive characteristics allow them to tolerate heat and humidity well. Katahdins are also significantly tolerant of internal and external parasites and if managed carefully require only minimal parasite treatment.
Katahdins are docile so are easily handled. They exhibit moderate flocking instinct.
Live weight of a mature ewe in good condition usually ranges from 120
to 160 pounds; a mature ram will weigh 180 to 300 pounds. Average
birth weight of twins is about 8 pounds.
Ewes and rams exhibit early puberty and generally have a long productive life. Mature ewes usually have twins, occasionally producing triplets or quadruplets. A well-managed and selected flock should produce a 200% lamb crop. Rams are aggressive breeders, generally fertile year round, and can settle a large number of ewes in the first cycle of exposure. With selection a flock can consistently lamb throughout the year. The Katahdin ewe shows a strong, protective mothering instinct, usually lambs without assistance, and has ample milk for her lambs.
Lambs produce a high quality, well-muscled carcass that is naturally lean and consistently offers a very mild flavor. Lambs are comparable to other medium-sized maternal breeds in growth and cutability. Lambs are desirable for specialty markets at a variety of ages and weights, wethers are appropriate for conventional North American markets at 95 to 115 pounds.
The hair coat of the Katahdin varies in length and texture among individuals and can be any color or color combination. It generally consists of coarse outer hair fibers and an undercoat of fine wooly fibers that becomes very thick and longer if cold weather sets in and day length decreases. This undercoat and some hair naturally sheds as temperature and day length increase seasonally, leaving a shorter, smooth summer coat.
The Katahdin can be used in crossbreeding programs. When crossed
with wool sheep, the first generation offspring will in most cases have
wool fleeces with hair intersperse. It usually takes at least 3 generations,
depending on the type of wool sheep parentage, to obtain offspring with
a shedding hair coat and other purebred characteristics.