4-H project is now the main business at Kathrein Farm

The Kathreins don’t have the typical sheep farm, which is raising the animals for their fleece (wool) and meat.

The Kathreins raise breeding stock of Columbia sheep. Animals that don’t make breeding quality, according to the eyes and records of Steve, become typical sheep, meaning they remain on the farm for their wool and meat.

The Kathreins go to several sheep shows each year and they have been successful.

In 1998, for example, Stephanie entered a Columbia ram in the Midwest Stud Ram Sale in Sedalia, Missouri.

Twelve different breeds of sheep were shown and a champion was crowned in each breed. The Kathrein ram won the Columbia breed.

The Kathrein ram then competed with rams from the 11 other breeds and was crowned the “Supreme Champion Ram Over All Breeds.” Between 4,000 and 5,000 rams were in the entire show.

“We were the first from Minnesota to win this show. We’ll be in the record book forever,” Steve said proudly.

The Kathreins sold the champion ram to a group from North Dakota for $1,500.

This past year they entered a ram in 10 different major shows. The ram was named the champion at the Montana State Fair, the New Mexico State Fair, the Los Angeles County Fair and at shows in Tulsa, OK, Perry, GA and Dallas, TX. The four reserves were at the Minnesota, Idaho, Utah and Arizona state fairs.

Steve, Judy and Stephanie all show the animals at some shows but Dew Drop Farms of New York Mills does most of the showing.

“It’s a lot of work, takes a lot of time and is expensive to show the animals. Dew Drop Farms usually will take several on the road. They keep the premium money but the awards stay with the animal,” explained Steve.

“It usually takes two to show an animal because of its size. One person is needed at the head of the animal and another is needed to keep the legs in the proper position,” he added.

“Only the good animals go to these national shows. It’s really a lot of fun,” he also explained.

Steve and his family have shown sheep in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kentucky, Missouri and Utah.

“We haul the animals in a fifth-wheeler and usually drive straight through so we don’t have to worry about finding a safe place for the animals at night when we are on the road. We bring along our own feed also,” Steve said.

Columbia Sheep are the largest white-face sheep in the world.

Columbia Sheep have the traits of good longevity, heavy wool clip, hardy, fast-growing lambs, natural herding instinct and easy handling.

The Columbia Sheep was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as a true breeding type to replace cross breeding on the range.

The mature Columbia ram weighs between 225 and 300 pounds and the females weigh 150 to 225 pounds.

The average fleece weight of the ewes ranges from 10 to 16 pounds.

‘The biggest rams are about 42 inches from hoof to shoulder. We won’t use a ram that is under 40 inches,” Steve explained.

“We try to get the ram as long as he is tall. The fun part of the business is to see how big we can get our rams,” Steve said with a smile.

The Kathreins have about 100 ewes on their farm and have about a 150 percent save ratio.

First-time lambers usually have singles while the older lambs usually have twins or triplets.

A ewe can continue to have lambs for up to 10 years.

The Kathreins farm about 180 acres.

Steve, who also works as a machinist off the farm, farms with his son, Clint. Clint also raises Charolais cattle.

Judy also works at Larson Boats in Little Falls.

Another son, Cody, is a carpenter and helps showing the sheep.

Stephanie, who works at a veterinary clinic in Baxter, still helps show sheep. She has won several state and national awards for showmanship.

The Kathreins also have three grandchildren.

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