|Katahdins are hardy, adaptable, low maintenance sheep
that produce superior lamb crops and lean, meaty carcasses.
They do not produce a fleece and so do not require shearing.
They are medium-sized and efficient, bred for utility and
for production in a variety of management systems. Ewes have
exceptional mothering ability and lamb easily; lambs are
born vigorous and alert. The breed is ideal for pasture
lambing and grass/forage-based management systems.
Adaptability: Katahdins have demonstrated wide
adaptability. They were derived from breeds that originated
in the Caribbean and British Islands, and the state of Maine
was their original home. In cold weather, they grow a very
thick winter coat which then sheds during warm seasons.
Their smooth hair coat and other adaptive characteristics
allow them to tolerate heat and humidity well. Katahdins are
also significantly more tolerant of parasites than wooled
sheep, and if managed carefully require only minimal
Temperament: Katahdins are docile so are easily
handled. They exhibit moderate flocking instinct.
Size: Live weight of a mature ewe in good condition
usually ranges from 120 to 160 pounds; a mature ram should
weigh 180 to 250 pounds. Average birth weight of twins is
about 8 pounds.
Fertility: Ewes and rams exhibit early puberty and
generally have a long productive life. Mature ewes usually
have twins, occasionally producing triplets or quadruplets.
A well-managed and selected flock should produce a 200% lamb
crop. Rams are aggressive breeders, generally fertile year
round, and can settle a large number of ewes in the first
cycle of exposure. With selection a flock can consistently
Mothering: The Katahdin ewe
shows a strong, protective mothering instinct, usually lambs
without assistance, and has ample milk for her lambs.
Rejection of lambs is rare.
Carcass and Growth: Lambs produce a high quality,
well-muscled carcass that is naturally lean and consistently
offers a very mild flavor. Lambs are comparable to other
medium-sized maternal breeds in growth and cutability. Lambs
are desirable for specialty markets at a variety of ages and
weights; wethers are appropriate for conventional North
American markets at 95 to 115 pounds.
Coat: The hair coat of the Katahdin varies in length
and texture among individuals and can be any color or color
combination. It generally consists of coarse outer
hairfibers and an undercoat of fine wooly fibers that
becomes very thick and longer if cold weather sets in and
day length decreases. This undercoat and some hair naturally
sheds as temperature and day length increase seasonally,
leaving a shorter, smooth summer coat. While some uses may
be found for the shed fiber, it is generally not harvested.
Crossbreeding: The Katahdin can be used in
cross-breeding programs. When crossed with wool sheep, the
first generation offspring will in most cases have wool
fleeces with hair interspersed (the wool from such crosses
should be segregated to avoid contaminating higher quality
wools). It usually takes at least 3 generations, depending
on the type of wool sheep parentage, to obtain a lamb with a
shedding hair coat and other purebred characteristics.
Katahdin ewes are well-suited as a base in a terminal-sire
crossbreeding program to produce market lambs.