Imbler teen introduces 'hair sheep' to NE Oregon
In fact, their hair is more like that of a goat. And you don’t have to cut it at all.
They’re St. Croix sheep, a breed new to the area that McKee said is like a mix between a Wiltshire and Katahdin sheep.“They’re basically a meat breed,” she said. “There are only 10 breeders in Oregon, and most are in the Willamette Valley.”
McKee, a junior at Imbler High School, has taken on the task of introducing St. Croix to Eastern Oregon, even with her already busy schedule.
She started showing animals at fairs when she was in the fourth-grade, and is now involved with FFA, 4-H, Future Business Leaders of America and is on the dance team. She also takes ballet.
McKee took to the hair sheep about five years ago when one of her sisters was competing at the Oregon State Fair livestock show. She knew she would have to get some with her own money, and recently did.
“Kristy’s done all of this on her own, she’s real responsible,” said J.D. Cant, McKee’s FFA adviser at Imbler High.
“Her moment will be this summer at stock shows and fairs. She’ll be a real advocate for the breed,” he said. “She just received her state FFA degree, the highest honor in Oregon.”
McKee said St. Croix originated in the Caribbean and are believed to have been brought to the United States aboard slave ships. They have a natural swayed back and are good in both warm and cold climates.
The two sheep McKee bought from a friend went into labor while she was at school recently. They each had three lambs, but one from each died. That’s something McKee’s father, Rod, said his daughter is able to handle.
“It’s kind of a risky business, but she knows,” Rod said. “I didn’t have a clue about the breed, but I know she kept talking about them.”
The family has several types of animals and the children have competed at numerous livestock shows. Rod said he and Kristy are close because she, unlike her two sisters, got into hunting. It became something he and his daughter could spend time doing together, enjoying what God provided, even though McKee said she’s remorseful before and after a shot.
“I always go, ‘Dad, I can’t kill Bambi,’ ” she said. “But I enjoy it, it’s a great experience for me.”
McKee’s deciding between college at the universities of Oregon and Idaho, where she’d major in either wildlife management or culinary arts. If she decides to do more than minor in dance, she could attend an arts school in California.
But right now McKee’s focused on her hair sheep and their future in this area. Her good friend Emilee Patterson, who helped her take care of them when they were lambing, is likely to take care of them once she leaves for college.
“Even now when I say hair sheep, hardly anyone knows what I’m talking about,” said Patterson, a freshman at Imbler High. “They’re about as big a deal as she’s made them out to be.”