About Our Sheep

We select for economically productive traits – MATERNAL, GROWTH, CARCASS and



About Our Sheep

Registered Columbia Sheep &

Commercial South African Meat Merino Sheep

We have raised registered Columbia sheep since 1991. We like their larger frame size, rapid-growing lambs, and heavy, high-yielding white fleeces.

In 2006, we obtained our first commercial South African Meat Merinos (SAMMs) from the Dwight Kitzan flock in Nisland, South Dakota (www.kitzansheep.com). While the SAMMs have a slightly smaller frame than our Columbias, their lambs grow well, have a meaty carcass, and they also have high-yielding, finer white fleeces.

We select for economically productive traits – MATERNAL, GROWTH, CARCASS and WOOL.

Our selection tools include: National Sheep Improvement Program expected progeny differences (EPDs), ram gain test results, ultrasound Rib Eye Area measurements, fleece micron results, and extensive farm records.

Most of our ram buyers sell their lambs by the pound, so additional qualities we look for in our breeding stock are deep body, large capacity, and heavy bone.

In 1991, we enrolled our flock of Columbia sheep with the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP). In over 20 years of using NSIP expected progeny differences (EPDs), we have been able to make reliable, documented genetic improvement in maternal, growth, carcass and wool traits.

"The EPDs for an animal estimates how well its offspring (progeny) compare to the breed average." (www.nsip.org) In order to appreciate the EPDs, it is good to know the mean values for various traits.

The table below identifies mean values for maternal and growth traits in select sheep breeds. Each sheep and lamb producer must determine the traits and the breeds that will work best for their own needs.

NSIP Mean Values for Maternal and Growth Traits in Select Sheep Breeds
(sorted by 120-day adjusted weaning weight)
weaning wt
weaning wt
post weaning
wt gain
60-120 days
litter size
63.2 lb
116.3 lb
.87 lb/day
1.88 lambs
61.8 lb
105.8 lb
.73 lb/day
1.85 lambs
53.6 lb
 96.4 lb
.71 lb/day
1.85 lambs
47.3 lb
 84.8 lb
.62 lb/day
2.25 lambs
45.7 lb
 73.2 lb
.55 lb/day
1.80 lambs

We have found that genetic diversity vs. inbreeding works well in our flock, resulting in sheep that are prolific with hardy constitutions.

From A Breeder's Guide to LambPlan atwww.nsip.org, "The most common effects of inbreeding are poorer reproductive rates, higher mortality rates, lower growth rates and a higher frequency of hereditary abnormalities." The Guide recommends that the coefficient of inbreeding not exceed 6.25%, which would equate to mating a grandson to a daughter.

South African Meat Merino

Introductory information taken from National Sheep Improvement Program.

The South African Meat Merino or SAMM is a wool and meat sheep originating in South Africa, but now found throughout the world

Rockdale 05-0182 RR, SAMM in Australia

The SAMM has been developed as a versatile, hardy, polled dual-purpose breed.  Ewes have a good maternal instinct and high milk production.  Mature ewes will grow up to about 210 lb and rams to over 220 lb.  Ewes will produce 7.7 lb to 9.9 lb of wool [20 to 24 microns or 60 to 70 spin count].  The SAMM is bred specifically to produce a slaughter lamb at an early age 77 lb at 100 days of age.

SAMM rams have almost entirely replaced British breeds as terminal sires in the harsh regions of South Africa, where they and their hybrids are more adaptable than the former breeds.  They were first imported into Australia in 1996.  Also in 1996, Peggy Newman imported SAMM embryos from South Africa creating the first SAMM flock in Canada.  In 1999, Dwight and Gwendolyn Kitzan from Nisland, South Dakota, USA, imported one of Newmans’ embryo SAMM rams and have been developing the SAMM breed in the United States using top Australian SAMM producers’ bloodlines [via artificial insemination].


We purchased our first South African Meat Merino (SAMM) ewes in 2006 from Dwight and Gwen Kitzan, Nisland, South Dakota.  These sheep are slightly smaller than our Columbias, with excellent carcass quality and fine wool.  Since then we have added more SAMM sheep from the Kitzan flock, and our SAMMS now have bloodlines from Closeburn, Gracefield and Rockdale studs in Australia.

We are still in the process of evaluating the maternal, growth, carcass and wool traits of these SAMMs.  It took us almost 20 years to get all our Columbias to their current levels of production in these traits, so we will keep working with the SAMMS to achieve the same results.

SAMM stud ram 801-Y on far right (2 Langhus-bred Columbia stud rams on the left and center). (9-20-11)

Langhus-bred 11-month old SAMM ewe lamb
104-O out of Gracefield breeding from Australia and sired by our SAMM stud ram 801-Y. (1-26-12)

2011 MICRON REPORT on stud ram  801-Y, from Yocom McColl Testing Laboratories:

Micron                                21.1
Spin count                          64
Standard deviation             3.3 microns
Coefficient of variation      15.8%
Comfort factor                    99.5%
Mean fiber curvature          119.2 deg/mm

2011 MICRON REPORT on ewe J948 (104-O’s dam), from Montana Wool Laboratory:

Micron                               21.2
spin count                         64
Standard deviation            3.0 microns
Coefficient of variation    14.1%
Comfort factor                  99.4%
Mean fiber curvature        not available

Every spring after shearing our 9- to 16-month old ram and ewe lambs are ultrasounded for rib eye area (REA).  The vegetable oil used as a contact medium leaves an oily residue which attracts a lot of dirt over the subsequent year.  So, we ultrasound the sheep when their wool length is at its shortest and retains a minimal amount of oil.  In the photo below you can see a dark vertical stripe over this ram’s ribs (behind the leather marking harness straps) demonstrating the effects of the oil on a year’s worth of wool growth.

Langhus-bred 23-month old SAMM stud ram 012-G out of Kitzan-bred ewe 9221 (Closeburn breeding) and sired by our 801-Y SAMM stud ram.  (1-20-13)

Langhus-bred 4 year old SAMM ewe 961 out of Kitzan 2006-born SAMM ewe 6000 and SAMM stud ram J823. (1-20-13)

In 2012 our SAMM stud ram 012-G had one of the largest rib eye areas of all 30 yearling SAMM and Columbia rams on our farm.  In 2010 our SAMM stud ram 801-Y had the largest rib eye area of all 33 yearling rams at 4.65 square inches, and weighed 290 lbs at 16 months of age.




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