Family reaps benefits of sheep industryWritten by Liz LeSatz
Dean and Charleen VonKrosigk are well known and well-respected in the sheep industry for their purebred Targhee sheep. They were introduced to the breed after their kids starting showing in 4-H. It was Barney Cosner, a Fremont County extension agent at the time, who encouraged the VonKrosigk children to try Targhees and in 1977 Dean and Charleen started their own purebred flock.
Now over 30 years later, the Targhee breed has not only given the VonKrosigks a name in the Wyoming sheep industry, but has given the family an opportunity to gain friends and grow together.
As ranchers in the Riverton area, Dean and Charleen have raised Shorthorn cattle and other sheep breeds in their 48-year marriage, but it is the Targhees that have evolved as a lasting part of the family’s operation. Dean grew up on the VonKrosigk farm, which his family has owned since 1934. He and Charleen then raised their three sons and one daughter on the operation and over the years have kept agriculture values instilled in their 12 grandkids and one great granddaughter.
For the VonKrosigks, their Targhee sheep have always been a family affair. Kids and grandkids have been involved in raising, showing and everything in between.
“We would’ve quit a long time ago if it hadn’t been for the grandkids staying in it and wanting to go,” says Dean.
Throughout the years the Targhee sheep have brought the VonKrosigk family closer together. Charleen says their lives in the sheep industry have instilled agriculture values in their children and grandchildren. She says being close to the land has given their kids a more solid base.
“The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is all these years at national sales there was only one time we didn’t have our own kids or grandkids with us,” says Charleen.
The family has even taken “vacations” each year since the 1970s to travel to national Targhee shows. The VonKrosigks have only been absent from two shows since then. Dean says those two missed shows were an attempt to slow down. “We tried to slow down but that didn’t work,” he says. “We just got right back in.”
VonKrosigk sheep have been doing well at national shows for years and this year was no exception. The 2008 National Targhee Association Sale in Brookings, S.D. saw the Wyoming breeders walking away with Champion Ram, Champion Ewe, Champion Pen of Two Ewes and Premier Breeder.
The VonKrosigk name is also a familiar one at the Fremont County Fair and Wyoming State Fair where children, grandchildren and now their great-granddaughter have shown. Charleen still shows and came away with the Overall Champion Fleece at the state fair wool barn.
The friends made along the way have also been a source of joy for the VonKrosigks. Charleen says they’ve been in all but six states in the nation because of the national shows and sales.
“That’s the only reason as farmers that we travel,” says Charleen. “It’s like a reunion where we see the friends we’ve made through the years.”
The VonKrosigk Targhees have been a valuable asset from the beginning. The Targhee breed got its start at the U.S. Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho when crossbreeding between Rambouillets, Columbias, Corriedales and other breeds produced the “ideal range breed,” says Dean. The VonKrosigks’ success with the breed speaks for itself with the breed doing well at national sales and at the Wyoming Ram Sale.
“The Targhees have a large loin and are dual purposed,” says Dean of the breed used for both wool and meat.
Dean says the breed has a good spinning count with numbers 58 and up. He also says the Targhees’ twinning and milking ability has been a big boost to the breed’s success and he tries to emphasize those characteristics in his own flock.
Even though money can be hard to come by in agriculture, Charleen says they’ve justified the traveling to shows and all the work put into the Targhees because the animals have always paid well. Several of the VonKrosigk grandkids reaped the benefit of Targhee sheep by selling their sheep to pay for college.
Although the VonKrosigks show their Targhees, Dean says their priority has never been to win ribbons in the arena. They would rather focus their efforts on raising quality range animals.
“Our rams do well at national shows, but they are still just raised with the other range rams,” says Dean. “It just so happens that those are the rams we pick to take. Everything is geared toward raising range rams.”
The foundation Targhees the VonKrosigks raise have been emphasized as a range breed and that’s something Dean says has kept the breed pure and successful. He says over the years the Targhee has changed very little making it a reliable breed that sticks to the basics.
“We have good buyers,” says Charleen. “That’s a reward for our efforts when they keep coming back year after year.
The VonKrosigks also like seeing their customers do well in the market place.
“We smile if people who buy lambs from us get the premium of the month for the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative,” says Dean. Monthly the MSLC recognizes the top performing lambs for the month in their newsletter.
Dean and Charleen believe in helping carry on the Targhee breed and have been instrumental in helping aspiring producers gain a foothold. The couple has donated sheep on three occasions to the Wyoming Youth Flock program and Charleen says it is rewarding to see those youth still involved with Targhees today.
As for the future of the sheep industry, Dean says he hopes it maintains and producers can continue to address challenges. No matter what the future holds for the sheep industry, Dean and Charleen, along with the VonKrosigk Targhees, will have a hand in its direction and will support future Wyoming sheep producers.
Liz LeSatz is the 2008 Summer Intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.