Because of their tremendous value for teaching and research, as well as the diversity of their breed, we maintain a flock of sheep. Small ruminants are a useful teaching tool, particularly for students who are interested in pursuing professional careers with animals but have limited experience with large animals. Introduction to agriculture classes teach students how to catch and handle sheep, because it is easier for novice students to learn with smaller ruminants. Animal science majors participate in the sheep's vaccinations and de-worming; by learning with small ruminants, they become more practiced and efficient with larger animals. Students in sheep systems and management classes monitor the ewes during lambing and participate in caring for the lambs.
One of the greatest challenges of maintaining sheep in the Southeastern United States is that of parasite control. Our flock of sheep consists of Suffolk-Hampshire crosses, a Dorset ram, and Katahdin. The Katahdin sheep have the ability to cope with our climate because they are a hair breed as opposed to a wool breed, so they shed their hair when it gets warm. Additionally, the Katahdin is noted as an exceptionally parasite-resistant breed. The Suffolk sheep are less adaptable to warm weather, because wool breeds like Suffolk do not shed. However, they can suitably manage the climate as long as they are sheared when warm weather approaches, and we make sure that they are comfortable under our care. Suffolk sheep are not as parasite-resistant as Katahdin, but we have observed very little trouble on that front at Berry; furthermore, Suffolk sheep grow bigger than the Katahdin and are therefore more valuable in some ways.
We appreciate the support of the industry and in particular recent donations of some exceptional animals that should help to continue our pursuit to provide students an exceptional learning opportunity.