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About Katahdins

The Katahdin is a heavy muscled, medium sized, easy-care meat type sheep.

They exhibit a natural tolerance of climatic extremes and are capable of high performance in areas that vary in geography, temperature, and humidity, as well as feed and forage systems.

Katahdins usually have a docile and quiet disposition - a temperament which contributes to easy handling, so that women and children have no problem moving them around.

The purpose of the breed is to efficiently and economically produce MEAT.

The shedding coat of the Katahdin does not require shearing and is preferably free of permanent wooly fibres.  The coat can be any colour from white to brown to spotted.   Polled animals are preferred; scurred or horned animals are recorded as such  (only ewes can carry horns and rams that are horned cannot be registered).

Katahdin ewes are easy lambers, exhibiting strong maternal instincts with sufficient milk supply to raise twins or triplets.  They possess a high potential for arriving at early puberty, for fertility, and for having a high rate of lamb survival.

Small at birth, lambs grow and mature rapidly to an acceptable market weight.   Katahdin produces a well-muscled, lean carcass with a mild flavour.  Some producers have experienced very little taste variation in the Katahdin meat even at a mature age, therefore maintaining a marketable product past the "lamb" stage.

 

History of the Breed

The development of the breed began in the late 1950's with the importation of a small number of wool-less sheep from the Caribbean by Michael Piel, of Maine, U.S.A. The Piel farm had several thousand sheep at the time, and Piel felt that " progress in the selection of meat would be greatly enhanced by the elimination of wool as a major factor in selection".

His goal was to combine the shedding coat, prolificacy and the hardiness of the Virgin Island sheep, with the meat, conformation and rate of growth of the wooled breeds.

He began to experiment with crosses between the wool-less sheep and various British breeds, especially the Suffolk.

After almost 20 years of cross breeding, the resulting hybrids "in every conceivable combination", Piel selected those individuals with the desired combination of traits.  He eventually collected a flock of ewes he named "Katahdin" after Mount Katahdin in Maine. 

During the mid 1970's, the Wiltshire Horned Sheep, another shedding breed from England was incorporated into the flock in order to add size, and improve carcass quality even further.

Since the late 1980's, the Canadian objective has been to further enhance size, growth rate, and carcass quality, through selective breeding practices, which proved to be effective.

The Canadian bred Katahdin has attained this level of consistent quality through the standards which have been set up in the CKSA bylaws.

 

Coat Grading

Contact a director should you require coat grading for your sheep.  If your province does not have a director, contact the secretary.  Don’t leave it too late as it sometimes takes time to find someone for a particular area and it can often be coordinated into several farms in a round trip.  

Most provinces hold coat grading clinics as the need arises and it is good chance to catch up on any questions you may have.  You can learn to grade sheep after you have been a member for two years.  A recognized inspector holds that position for 5 years after which time it needs to be redone.  You must own Katahdin sheep to be a member and be a paid up for the current year.

The coat grading is done between May 1st. and October 31st.  Katahdins must have ID in place as approved (see the Guide Book).  Those sheep not graded will have the top right corner blank on their registration papers.  Katahdins can have registration paperwork filled in by an accredited coat inspector before it gets sent in.

Although you can register lambs of any sex before they are coat graded, they cannot have lambs registered from them if that is not done.  Lambs do not necessarily shed their first coat in the same year they were born.  Lamb born later in the season are more likely to fall into this category.  A view of the respective flock should give you an idea of the offspring's shedding potential.

When selling lambs with papers, you should make very clear to the buyer, if they have not been done, what is required.  It could be a condition of the sale that you will do this for them the following year (if possible).  Since lambs need to be over 6 months to coat grade, then lambs born late in the season my not be old enough to do this.  Don't let this be a reason to delay having registration papers completed in a sale, however.   Retained ewe lambs, could be registered the following year after successfully producing lambs.

Only rams with “A” or “AA” graded coats can be used for breeding and this has caused some problems with rams not fully shedding out in the second year but having been used for breeding.  Anyone using a ram for breeding before his first, full coat shedding period the following spring after he was born, should be aware that there are no guarantees in place.  To avoid inspector error, consider leaving coat grading until the following year if there is any doubt.  When buying rams, look at the genetics of the ram and the flock it comes from.

CKSA will not be held responsible for incorrect grading but please contact a director if you have a complaint. There are many excellent rams out there from great flocks so check the genetics and have some knowledge of the grading standards to assist in making a good choice for your flock sire.

There is not the same pressure on the ewes as having an “A” or “AA” coat is not a requirement for breeding other than a ram can only be kept for breeding from them.  This is probably a good place to make it clear that an “AA” coat is in no way superior to the “A” coat grading. It just means that the Katahdin retains more of a “hair” coat even during winter months.  An “A” coated Katahdin may carry a lot of wool in the winter but both grades must fully shed out in the spring.  There is more on this in the Guidebook PDF on the home page.

At all times keep in mind the prime muscling areas, weight gaining ability, health and conformation prior to letting colour and style of coat make a choice for retaining or selling breeding stock.  In some areas a heavy winter coat is best for keeping stock outside.  Those that have more shelter may prefer a lighter coat.  Regardless, Pure Canadian Katahdin Sheep should shed their winter coat sometime during the following spring or summer.

Imported Katahdin Rams must follow the same criteria as the CKSA registered animals.  Check the bylaw pages for recent updates.  They must have registration papers available for the coat inspection to be done showing the new ownership.