The Katahdin is a unique breed of sheep developed solely to produce meat. In the 1950's, Michael Piel of Maine saw a need for a hardy meat sheep, which would not require shearing. To achieve this end, 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 crossbreeding, Piel eventually assembled a flock he called Katahdin (pronounced Ka-TAH-din) named after Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Katahdins are a medium sized sheep with mature ewes weighing from 150 to 180 pounds and mature rams 200 to 250 pounds. They come in any colour or colour pattern. The ideal Katahdin is polled and has a coat that sheds completely seasonally. It is a heavily muscled animal with strong bone, long loin, good depth, good overall size and proportionally balanced throughout. The thick dense coat, a mixture of hair and wool that protects them so well in the winter, sheds to a short, clean hair coat in the spring. Katahdins are excellent forage converters with a lean, mild tasting meat even in an older animal. Katahdin ewes are long seasonal breeders. A well managed, selected flock can produce a 200% lamb crop. The ewes are noted for their ample milk production, easily raising twins or even triplets. The strong maternal characteristics of the ewe and the vigor of the newborn lamb, add to the shepherd's ease at lambing time. Lambs can be bred in their first year at about 8 months. It is not necessary to remove tails especially on breeding stock.
All photos courtesy of Avery Katahdins
Alberta Sheep Breeders' Association