Tag Archives: sheep

COLUMBIA, Mo.  — “Do you have any more silly sheep stories?”

Sam Garrett frequently fields the question from her third-graders at Fairview Elementary School.

“I actually make a list of stories and cross them off if I tell them that one so I don’t forget,” Garrett said.

Then there’s Kalabar, a 3-½-year-old Hampshire Suffolk wether who makes a springtime visit each year to Fairview. Kalabar also appears often in lessons about math, English, reading and other aspects of Garrett’s curriculum.

A graduate of Rock Bridge High School and MU, Garrett is in her third year at Fairview. Last spring, she was named elementary educator of the year by the Columbia Missouri State Teachers Association.

“Sam always tries to engage (students) using different props or dressing up or looking for different ways to keep them involved,” said Christy Muchow, who also teaches third grade at Fairview. “(She) tries to make learning fun — all the time she’s striving for that.”

The Columbia Missourian reports that at 24, Garrett is still closely connected to many years raising and showing sheep through 4-H Club and the National FFA Organization. She was 8 when she started and 21 when she aged out of competition.

As a teacher, she’s found that the children love hearing about the sheep.

“I know it’s something that interests them because it’s something new to them, and (I) use that to engage them,” Garrett said. “So I try to kinda fuse the different aspects of my life together.”

There’s never been a time when sheep weren’t a part of Garrett’s world.

She still lives with her parents on a 160-acre farm south of Columbia where her mother, Janie Garrett, grew up and raised sheep for show. The farm still breeds 25 to 30 ewes per year and sells lambs to children who want to show at fairs through Garrett Club Lambs.

Sam’s father, Glenn Garrett, does most of the work of feeding and caring for the sheep. On a recent Thursday evening, he sat on the front porch of their house talking about the work ethic and discipline necessary to raise sheep. He said the lessons his son and daughter learned on the farm weren’t so much about sheep but about how to live.

“I’m really not raising sheep,” he said. “I’m raising kids.”

Sam Garrett remembers her brother, Will Garrett, showing two lambs as a 4-H project when she was 4. Four years later, it was her turn.

At MU, Sam Garrett ran for the cross country and track team from 2012 to 2016. She was also still showing sheep and, in 2014, set out to win the Earl Crane Memorial Trophy. It’s the grand champion trophy for sheep-showing at the Boone County Fair and is named for her grandfather, Earl Crane, who was the first to register the Suffolk breed of sheep in Boone County.

“I wrote it on my mirror in my room, and so every time I woke up, I was like, ‘Win the Boone County Fair — that is my goal,'” Garrett recalled.

That summer, she said, she woke up at 5 a.m. to help feed the sheep, ran 8 to 10 miles, then ran again in the evening before working with the sheep a second time. She won the Earl Crane trophy with a sheep named Lord Voldemort, whom she called Voldy.

“It was like the fairytale ending,” Garrett said. She started crying when they announced it, she said.

Last year, she told the story of winning the trophy to her students to kick off a writing unit. She re-enacted the drama at the fair by pretending to be the judge and assigning students the roles of contestants.

At the end, the judge announces the grand champion by shaking the contestant’s hand. Garrett said the entire class waited silently in anticipation then erupted with cheers and applause when she, as the judge, shook the hand of the student pretending to be her.

The point of the lesson on personal narrative: “Writers are storytellers,” Garrett said.

The year after winning the Crane trophy was Garrett’s last eligible year as a sheep shower. She won second place in 2015 with Kalabar, named after the villain in the 1998 movie “Halloweentown.”

Because the sheep are market animals — used primarily for meat rather than wool — the first- and second-place sheep must be sold after the fair. However, the man who bought Kalabar at the fair gave him back to Garrett. It took some doing, but she and her mother persuaded Glenn Garrett to let Kalabar stay on the farm.

Since then, Kalabar has been retired. He’s gained 60 pounds and spends his days in the pasture. He is less pampered now than he was during his peak, but he still allows Garrett to “set up” his back legs and be used as an example of what sheep showing would look like.

Glenn Garrett said one of his daughter’s main arguments for Kalabar was that she “can use him to teach kids stuff.”

She does just that. Although Kalabar only makes one physical appearance in the classroom — at the end of the school year — he’s frequently included in other ways.

Last year, she used him as a main character in a math lesson teaching area and perimeter; she told the students that Kalabar would escape from his pen if they didn’t make him a new one.

On a recent Friday, she taught a reading fluency lesson in which she focused on punctuation and quotation marks. One example: “‘Kalabar, don’t eat the chocolate cupcake!’ yelled Ms. Garrett.”

“I like them a lot,” 8-year-old student Lyla Robb said about Garrett’s sheep stories. “They’re really cute. I like animals.”

Third grade is the first year for Missouri Assessment Program testing, so Garrett makes what she calls a “box of goodies” for the students. One is a slip of paper announcing “a visit from Kalabar.”

“It’s a big deal for those kids,” Glenn Garrett said.

After sprucing up Kalabar, Glenn Garrett brings the sheep to school in a stock trailer, and students come outside to meet them. Kalabar is also a way to teach students more about agriculture, he said.

In addition to sheep, Sam Garrett is known for her whimsical, regular use of costumes. On Fridays, she is the “Fri-yay Fairy” — and that means wearing fairy wings.

“Every Friday she wears blue wings,” said 8-year-old Bebe Lookingbill, who is in Garrett’s class this year. “I think they’re really pretty. . I really like the sparkles on them.”

A couple of Fridays ago, an hour and a half into “Fri-yay,” Garrett welcomed her kids with a gold microphone, sang the class song, “We Are the Future” — complete with dancing, arm waving and jumping — taught a reading fluency class, told a sheep story and held an awards ceremony.

“Today is not just any other day,” Garrett said, pulling up a projector image of a stage with red theater curtains. “It’s the Fluency Oscars!”

Garrett has a closet in her classroom dedicated to costumes, hats and accessories that she wears daily to keep her students engaged.

“Everybody laughs,” Tyler Shults, 8, said about her costumes. “Really funny.”

KEARNEY, Neb. — The challenges of managing multi-species grazing and the fear of being labeled “the sheep/goat guy” are keeping some ranchers from implementing this method of grazing, ranchers at a conference here said this week.

But despite these issues, those who have tried multi-species grazing say the increased ranch profits and improvements in forages that result from using the system should be great motivation for others to try it.

This and other grazing topics were covered in great detail at the 2018 Nebraska Grazing Conference held here this week. The event featured three different presentations as well as a panel discussion.


Sage Askin is a rancher from Lusk, Wyoming. He and his family have multiple enterprises on leased ranchland, including cows/calves, stockers, breeding heifers, stocker goats and hair sheep/ewe lambs (hair sheep do not need to be sheared). They also do some consulting work. Askin spoke at the conference about how to incorporate multi-species grazing.

Askin told DTN that implementing the system was a learning process for him and would be for anyone willing to try it. However, there are also several rewards, he said.

“We killed some sheep that first winter with the blizzards that hit,” Askin said. “But we learned they needed to be in better body condition to survive (winter), and we have moved forward.”

Askin said there are financial reasons to utilize a grazing plan with different species. He offered the specific example of a 400-cow ranch operation that could generate $80,000 in gross margins, or $200 per cow, by only grazing cattle. An operation with 300 cows and 1,200 ewes could generate $120,000 in gross margins, doubling the gross income. The breakdown would be $200 per head of cattle and $50 per head of ewes, he said.

The ranch in Askin’s example would be marketing more products, which would increase the ranch’s margins, he said. Not only would the rancher be marketing traditional cattle culls, heifers and steers, but they would also be doing the same for the sheep flock (culling ewes, breeding ewes and fat lambs), thus doubling their marketing opportunities, he said.

Ranchers are stewards of the grasslands, and the different plants on the range need to be grazed properly, Askin said. Some plants need to be grazed by animals — cattle — that will use them efficiently, while other plants need to be browsed by the correct animals — sheep and goats. Browsing is when the animal feeds on leaves, soft shoots or fruits of high-growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs.

Askin said the more sheep a rancher grazes, the better the cattle pasture the rancher will have, and the more cattle they graze, the better the sheep pasture they will have.

An issue many people cite for not trying multiple-species grazing is competition for grass, which can be an issue, Askin said. On his land, he said he tries to graze sheep and goats on areas with a steeper topography. These animals tend to stay in these areas while leaving bottom areas with lush grass to the cattle, he said.


Brock Terrell is also a rancher who has incorporated grazing sheep on his ranch. Terrell is co-owner of Terrell Farms LLC and Terrell Ranch LLC, both diversified operations located south of Hay Springs, Nebraska. His operation includes cows/calves, stockers, a backgrounding feedlot, sheep, hay, row crops, seed crops and forage crops.

Terrell said during his presentation that his goal is to “harvest multiple layers off the same land,” which includes increasing diversity and decreasing his marketing risk on his northwestern Nebraska operation. He decided to add sheep to his operation for opportunities to sell more products, he said.

He is essentially getting two “crops” from his sheep flock: the wool as well as the actual lambs.

The majority of his sheep are Merinos, a breed known for its high-quality wool. The wool brought Terrell $4.20 per pound, which was a record-high price this year, while the other breed’s wool brought in $2to $2.50 a pound. The wool pays for all of his direct cost and labor with this enterprise, he said.

Terrell said he then would have lambs to sell, for which the only cost is the land. He told DTN he keeps his lambs until they are about 90 pounds, and then he weans and ships them to a lamb feedyard in South Dakota. Once fattened, the lambs are shipped to facilities in either Detroit or Chicago for processing.

“I end up selling a couple of pot loads of lambs per year and my neighbors don’t,” Terrell said.

Much like Askin, Terrell said there is a steep learning curve involved with multiple-species grazing and that he is still climbing that curve.

Among the challenges he faced was finding a livestock nutritionist in his area with experience in properly feeding sheep, as well as locating a veterinarian who had experience with sheep. A local cattle nutritionist was willing to work with him to make sure he was feeding his flock correctly, he said.

Terrell has made due with his local vets for sheep health issues when they have arisen. There are no sheep vets in his region of the Nebraska Sandhills, he said.

Another issue Terrell faced when adding a sheep flock to his operation was a real prejudice against those raise sheep and goats. A lot of cattle producers look down upon those who raise small rudiments (the sheep/goat guy) despite the fact it is a profitable enterprise, he said.


While Askin and Terrell are cattle ranchers who added sheep or goats to their existing grazing operations, Mike Wallace is a sheep producer who added cattle to his grazing plans.

Mike and his wife, Fran, own and operate the Double M, a 400-acre sheep-cattle-goat year-round grazing operation in Nuckolls County, Nebraska. He retired in 2012 from the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in nearby Clay Center where he was the sheep operations manager since 1978.

His south-central Nebraska operation has a 40-head cow/calf herd, 230 head of Romanov-White Dorper-St. Croix composite crossbred ewes (hair sheep) and 40 Spanish-Boer goat crossbred does. They graze together on 240 acres, which is rotational grazed with 18 paddocks, while the other 160 acres is divided into 13 paddocks.

Wallace said he is “using multiple-species grazing to preserve a little portion of the prairie.” About half his acres are native tall/mixed-grass prairie while the other half were previously dryland crop ground that has been planted to mixtures of native and introduced varieties of warm- and cool-season perennial and annual grasses and legumes.

Wallace said he has made some environmental observations with his grazing system. For starters, he has very few issues with red cedar trees growing. He cut some trees out of his pastures a number of years ago at about the same time as a neighbor who grazes just cattle did. He has noticed the neighbor’s pasture now has small cedars growing again, while Wallace’s land doesn’t.

Wallace attributes the lack of cedars to the grazing sheep and goats. He showed a video during his presentation of his wife tossing a small cedar tree into a pen of goats. Within a day, all that was left was the main part of the tree.

Wallace also has a 17-acre abandoned cattle feedlot on his farm that grows an annual mixture of various volunteer weeds. When properly managed, this land is productive through spring and summer with high-quality forages for all three livestock species, he said.

“Grazing the way I do, I would guess I’m probably making more money per acre grazing these three species than most crop producers are per acre in my area,” Wallace said.