UW-Madison is home to two distinct flocks of sheep, both of which are used to enhance the research, teaching and outreach missions of the college. The flock located at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station is composed of dairy sheep, the types that Wisconsin farmers raise for milk production. The other flock, kept at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station, includes breeds that play a more traditional role in the production of wool, meat and breeding stock.
CALS photographer and reporter Sevie Kenyon recently paid a visit to the Arlington flock to take some photos and record a podCALS episode with shepherd Todd Taylor. Taylor explained that the Arlington flock is about 300 ewes (female sheep), three-fourths of which will give birth to two, three and sometimes four lambs each during the spring lambing season. “The ewes are made to take care of two lambs and some of them will care for three,” says Taylor. “Lambs the ewes can’t care for get milk replacer.”
Spring lambing starts as early as January, peaks in late February and early March, and is over in April. Lambs arrive in a cold, well-bedded barn and are moved into a nursery shortly after being born. Once Taylor and the staff are certain everything is fine, the lambs and ewes are moved to group housing in a larger barn nearby. Four breeds make up the Arlington flock: Hampshire, Polypay, Rambouillet and Targhee.
“While we do some research, we’re geared a lot toward teaching and extension work,” explains Taylor. “We furnish sheep for numerous classes across the animal science department, and vet students come out and use us quite extensively as well.”
UW-Madison sheep are well known on the show circuit. In fact, everything that goes into showing sheep on a professional show circuit is turned into opportunities for UW-Madison students to get hands-on experience. The presence of the flock also works as a recruitment tool for the Department of Animal Sciences and for UW-Madison around the country.