Unity College is celebrating the arrival of four new Katahdin sheep to the Unity College Heritage Livestock Barn this spring, with students gaining an immersive experience in sustainability science and hands-on study in sustainable agriculture.

Katahdin sheep are a Maine-native breed known for being covered in hair, not wool. Because of their lack of wool, Katahdin sheep do not require tail docking or shearing. This cuts down on cost and labor for the farmer, according to Unity College Barn Manager Megan Anderson ‘09.

Anderson said the volume and fat content of the milk from Katahdin sheep allow the lambs to grow to market-weight animals in a shorter time than some other breeds. Unlike many types of sheep, Katahdins are known for a mild-tasting meat.

Anderson said Katahdin ewes (female sheep) generally have one to three lambs per litter. The gestation period is approximately five months from the time of breeding.

Along with the daily husbandry of new Katahdin lambs, Unity College students assisted in determining the date of breeding and the expected lambing date. Students also helped drying off newborn lambs, clearing their airways, and dipping the lamb’s umbilicus to stave off infection.

Of the four lambs born in the Unity College Heritage Livestock Barn this spring, Anderson said two ewe lambs will be kept as future breeders. The two remaining ram lambs will be sold to other farms for breeding purposes.

“Students at Unity College learn biology, animal management, care, and interpretation by working directly with our unique collection of animals in the Unity College Barn.” Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said. “Students expect an immersive education from Unity College — you don’t get much more involved than when you participate in the spring lambing process.”

Work-study students at the Unity College Heritage Livestock Barn are held to professional husbandry standards as they feed and pasture goats, chickens, rabbits and other animals. The Barn currently is home to a supply of college-owned livestock including San Clemente goats, Wyandotte chickens, Katahdin sheep, American guinea hogs, and silver fox rabbits — all developed in the United States.

Throughout the animal studies programs at Unity College run stories of alumni who used the facilities to become successful in their chosen careers. To name only a few recent ones, Julie Fox ’15, is an intern at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut; Derrick Maltman ’14 is an animal keeper at the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas; and Kristen Volpi ’14 is an animal educator at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

For more information, visit the Unity College Animal Room page on Facebook. For more images of the new Katahdin lambs at the Unity College Heritage Animal Barn, visit Flickr.

Thursday, March 24, 2016