Katahdin Hair Sheep Upgrade Project

2000 Annual Report for LNE00-138

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2000: $135,167.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $35,344.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Dr. Richard Brzozowski
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Katahdin Hair Sheep Upgrade Project


This four-year project will strive to improve lamb production by developing stock that is disease-resistant, requires less management, and produces a carcass of acceptable weight and fat content. Farmers will learn, via field days, articles, web presentations, and other media about the potential of using improved sheep. The goal is to make sheep farming more sustainable and profitable, and to introduce improved Katahdin ewes to farmers in the Northeast.

Performance Targets
1. By the use of hands-on farm field days, written articles, slide and video presentations as well as a web page, provide 1600 current and new sheep farmers with information about the potential of using improved Katahdin sheep as a farm enterprise. These same farmers will learn the advantages of rotational grazing, the use of production records, the importance of the scrapie certification program and the features of a proactive health program.
2. Through a defined crossbreeding plan and using a detailed selection process, upgrade the Katahdin sheep to be parasite resistant and produce lambs that have a more market acceptable carcass weight.
3. Provide at least 10 farms with a group of upgraded Katahdin ewes at the end of the project to produce and sell meat lambs and breeding stock. ABSTRACT

Project description
The “Katahdin Hair Sheep Upgrade Project” is designed to provide the genetic base for more profitable production of lamb using sustainable agricultural techniques. The end product will provide a sheep that is resistant to internal parasites, requires less management and input costs than traditional sheep production while producing a carcass size with less fat that meets today’s lamb market need. This project will not only provide the sheep genetic base to Northeast farmers for producing lamb meat but also the opportunity to add significant income from the sale of breeding stock both nationally and internationally. Two of the major problems facing the sheep industry include low wool prices and increasing resistance to all forms of chemical control of internal parasites. This project addresses both problems. The project will upgrade the Katahdin hair sheep, a breed developed in the Northeast in the 1950’s, using the genetics of Suffolk, Gulf Coast Native and Dorper sheep, to produce a larger more acceptable carcass from a sheep that will not require shearing, docking, extensive foot care and will be resistant to internal parasites. The upgraded Katahdin will be selected to produce lambs using environmentally friendly rotational grazing systems.

Approved March 2000.


Thomas Settlemire

Department of Biology
Bowdoin College