Evaluation of Katahdin and Wiltshire Horn (Hair Sheep) Breeds: Progress Report


B. L. Moore, P. T. Berg, W. Limesand, R. G. Haugen, D. Tufte




A growing interest in hair sheep has, in part, been initiated by a decline in value in wool. Many sheep producers have found that shearing costs are unable to be offset by income from wool. Some of the hair sheep seem to have potential as effective biological weed (leafy spurge) controls. Most of these breeds have evolved and are produced in forage based, relatively low input management programs which likewise seem to appeal to those with limited sheep backgrounds and experience.



Background and information on the two breeds being evaluated, Katahdin and Wiltshire Horn has been presented in previous Western Dakota Sheep Day Reports, Moore, et. al. 2001. An additional finishing trial was conducted to evaluate these sheep under feedlot conditions and to obtain additional carcass data to add to that obtained last year.


A group of Katahadin (K), Wiltshire Horn (W) and Columbia and Hampshire (CH) sired lambs out of commercial ewes were placed on a finishing trial for a 78 day duration. A 16 percent protein complete mixed ration containing 12 per cent alfalfa pellets as a roughage source was fed free choice.




Results of the finishing trial are listed in table 1.


Table 1. Finishing Data______________________________________________


Sire Group________________________K__________W_________CH_______


ADG (lbs) .542 .732 .670


Feed intake/d (lbs) 4.19 4.94 4.15


Feed/Gain 7.72 6.75 6.19


Dry Matter/Gain (lbs) 6.85 5.99 5.49_______


The patterns of growth and efficiency did not show any particular similarities to those obtained in the year 2000. One replicate of Katahdin sired lambs did not gain as well as the others which accounts for the lower gain figures for them. All values were lower than in the previous year and can perhaps be explained by an extremely hot summer period when the lambs were on feed.




Carcass data are presented in table 2.


Table 2. Carcass data_______________________________________________


Sire Group________________________K__________W__________CH______


Hot Carcass Weight (lbs) 60.13 63.15 61.00


REA (in. sq.) 2.26 2.28 2.33


Conformation Score1 10.07 10.32 10.26


Lean Color2 2.92 2.70 2.89


Fat (in.) .16 .20 .16


Body Wall Thickness (in.) .83 .88 .75


Percent BCTRC3 42.37 39.99 43.64____

1 10 = Ch-, 11 = Ch0, 12 = Ch+

2 3 = ideal lamb color, reddish pink

3 Percent boneless, closely trimmed retail cuts


Carcass data do not indicated large differences except that the W sired lambs were the fattest and had the highest body wall thickness which contributed to them having the lowest per cent BCTRC. In general the carcass data indicates that these hair breeds of sheep can sire lambs that can be very acceptable to the trade and are well above the averages for the industry.




         Although not previously stated, it continues to be obvious that the lambs sired by hair rams exhibit an extreme amount heterosis (as expected) with their vigor and livability at birth.


         Gains and efficiencies continue to look acceptable for lambs of these genetic backgrounds


         Rams of hair breeding can sire market lambs that will produce carcasses very acceptable to the industry trade.


Progress and Future Plans


A purebred flock of Katahdin sheep has been established at the NDSU Sheep Barn. Ewes and rams were purchased from the Lovelace flock in Missouri and the Fortmeyer flock in Kansas. Interest in these sheep continues to run quite high and it is hoped that this flock can serve as a resource of breeding stock as well as information about the merits of these sheep.




Moore, B.L., P.T. Berg, R. Haugen, W. Limesand, D.A. Redmer, A. Grazul-Bilska. 2001. Evaluation of Katahdin and Wiltshire Horn (Hair Sheep Breeds): Their effectiveness in low input management schemes. 42nd Western Dakota Sheep Day Report. Hettinger, ND. pp72-76.


Wildeus, S. 1997. Hair sheep genetic resources and their contribution to diversified small ruminant production in the United States. J. Animal Sci. 75:630-640.