The Katahdin is a unique breed of sheep developed to produce meat efficiently and economically. In the 1950’s, Michael Piel of Maine saw a need for a hardy meat sheep which would not require shearing. To achieve this, Mr. Piel imported a small number of Virgin Island sheep to cross with some of his existing flock of traditional sheep. His goal was to combine the hardiness, prolificacy and shedding hair coat of the Virgin Island sheep with the carcass conformation and growth rate of the British breeds. After 20 years of cross-breeding, Mr. Piel eventually assembled a flock he called Katahdin, named after Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
Katahdins are a hardy breed that adapt well to various pasture situations. Two to four sheep may be raised on an acre of average pasture. The sheep are non-selective grazers and will readily feed on “nuisance plants”. Therefore, they are great for keeping weeds to a minimum.
Set up costs are relatively low. A lean-to or barn with dry bedding provides adequate shelter. They should have free choice to water, salt and mineral supplements that does not contain copper (but must have Selenium). These sheep only require a pound of grain per day in additional to either (grass) pasture or grass hay.
Katahdin ewes are capable of breeding at 7 months of age. The gestation period is just 5 months. Twins are quite normal with triplets being common as well. Twins average eight pounds at birth and mature quickly to the traditional market weight.
Katahdins are easy lambers and excellent mothers. Walking out to do chores in the morning and find lambs born, dried and nursing a very common sight.
Lambs may be weaned at 3 months old. Katahdin ewes will reproduce for up to 8 years of age with some still active at 12 years old.
The Katahdin sheep breed is raised strictly for its meat. The carcass dresses out clean and easy. It is heavily muscled, relatively lean and very mild-flavored. The meat may be eaten hot or cold and may be readily substituted in most beef or pork recipes.
The docile nature of this breed makes an excellent choice for young families through to the elderly farmers. They are easy to handle and have a strong flocking instinct.
Their manure is sought after by many gardeners as it may be used without aging and contains a higher nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content than cows or horses.
Katahdins are an easy care, non-shearing, high fertility with extremely good mothering instincts breed of Sheep. Excellent taste definitely marks this breed as a true MEAT SHEEP.
Since they do not require shearing, they grow a thick winter coat and shed it in the spring. It is of no commercial use. The udder, belly and legs are free of wool and stay clean. The tails are left on therefore add protection in the freezing cold winds of winter.