Breaking ground: Von Krosigk Targhees move to UW in unique agreementWritten by Saige Albert
The Von Krosigk Targhees now call the Laramie Research and Extension Center’s (LREC) Animal Science Livestock facility home.
“The main focus of the agreement is to continue with the genetic program that the Von Krosigks have had for more than 30 years,” says WWGA Executive Vice President Bryce Reece, noting that the arrangement provides a rare opportunity.
The Von Krosigk Targhees
“The Von Krosigks are the number one premier Targhee breeder in the country,” says Reece.
At the 2011 National Targhee Show and Sale, the Von Krosigk family received the honors of the grand champion ram and grand champion ewe, as well as grand champion pen of yearling ewes.
Charleen says, “We’ve had a lot of national champions over the years.”
After her children started the flock in 1976 as a 4-H project, Charleen says, “We just happened to have really good luck in the sheep we bought, and we had God as a guide. There is no other reason why our sheep turned out better than others, except that we have a love for Targhees.”
Both Charleen and Dean are retired, and, since their children don’t have the facilities to house the sheep, they began looking for options to get out of the sheep business last spring.
“We wanted the sheep to stay somewhere where they would be available to people,” explained Charleen. “We mentioned to Bryce that we were thinking of selling, and he got the WWGA board together. They surprised us and said they wanted to buy our flock.”
A unique agreement
“We started talking in late spring, but the deal finally came together this fall,” says Reece. “We bought 50 head of ewes, with one stud ram.”
Reece explains that the ram will be kept by the Von Krosigk family, but says, “We got the heart and soul of their operation.”
“It’s a unique opportunity,” he adds. “I can safely say there is no other sheep association that owns its own flock of sheep, so we are breaking new ground.”
The partnership is also unique for UW.
Reece continues, “There is a whole lot of trust.”
“We all have the same goals in mind for the flock,” says LREC director Doug Zalesky. “We hope to continue to propagate the genetics of the flock, and to provide those genetics to the industry.”
In the agreement reached late last fall, the Von Krosigks, WWGA and UW decided the ewes would stay together, stay in Wyoming and their genetics would be continually offered to the sheep industry through ram sales.
WWGA owns the sheep, while UW provides housing and the day-to-day management of the herd and the proceeds are split between the two groups. Reece also mentions that an advisory group has been assembled that will meet once a year to discuss management.
“The Von Krosigks will sit on that group for as long as they want to, and we will continue to take their advice,” says Reece. “They will be a valuable component of this thing moving forward.”
“We still intend to be involved,” adds Charleen. “We will be on the advisory board to help the university make decisions, and they can call us if they have problems. We also still plan on helping to market the sheep.”
The flock will serve as a wealth of information that could lead to an increased understanding of the Targhee breed.
“Part of the agreement is that the WWGA has access to any and all the data on these sheep,” says Reece. “There will be more data collected on this bunch of ewes than probably any in the history of ewes.”
“Being at a research facility, it will allow us to do exciting things in terms of developing new information and new technology, but they are not research subjects,” clarified Reece. “Their purpose is to do what they’ve been doing, but if we can gather information to benefit the industry, we will.”
Larson notes they will likely be used as part of feed efficiency trials utilizing UW’s unique GrowSafe system, in the ram sire tests and in wool studies.
“It gives us an opportunity to evaluate the breed as they continue to become more popular in the industry for some of their strong traits and characteristics,” adds Zalesky. “We look forward to feed efficiency trials with them.”
He continues, “To be able to look at feed efficiency on a fairly uniform group of sheep like this will be a real advantage from a research standpoint. I think they will provide UW with a really nice resource.”
“We will also have wool data on every ewe, and that’s something that hasn’t been done on any of the purebred flocks,” explains Reece.
Reece also says he’s contacted the Wyoming Livestock Board to inquire about electronic implant animal identification programs, for which the Targhees could sever as a pilot herd.
“We have offered up the flock to become a pilot project in terms of animal ID implant record keeping,” says Reece. “I’m a big believer in animal ID, and I’ve asked the Wyoming Livestock Board to see where we are at in terms of using implants in livestock.”
Genetics, genetics, genetics
While the sheep will be available for more than showing and breeding purposes, maintaining the genetic superiority of the flock is paramount to all parties.
To maintain the integrity of the line, Reece says they will continue to utilize the Von Krosigks’ current stud ram along with two other rams.
“They do a lot of line breeding and we think it’s time to infuse some outside genetics into the herd,” says Reece of the Von Krosigk breeding program. “Brent and I went to the Montana Ram Sale and bought interest in two rams.”
“Those two young rams are tremendous rams, and we are pretty excited to see what will come,” Reece adds, noting that this year most of the ewes will be bred by the Von Krosigk ram. “The majority of the ewes were bred to the stud ram. We split the remaining half between the two new rams.”
A new home
The Von Krosigk herd remained at their home ranch for as long as possible, until it was necessary to remove them from pasture. From there, they were moved to UW.
Ultimately, Reece says the prize flock is in good hands, adding, “They will be taken care of very well.”
Reece adds that the university is extremely capable of taking care of the sheep, saying, “We have unwavering trust in Brent, and they are in great hands. If he ever leaves UW, we will decide whether or not to keep the ewes there.”
At the end of the day, Zalesky says, “The biggest thing is that we want to be able to help the industry keep those genetics available and continue to propagate them. We wanted to keep the flock together and in the state of Wyoming.”
Reece adds, “It’s a pretty exciting deal.”
UW facility provides student opportunities The University of Wyoming’s Animal Livestock Center, constructed in 1990, is a vast facility that offers students the opportunities to obtain hands-on experience related to livestock.
The facility consists of 12 buildings, including a temperature modified lambing barn, beef and sheep sheds, a wool laboratory and classroom, a sheep handling building, a sheep confinement building, a multipurpose building, a swine confinement unit and a feed mill.
Because of the high traffic through the facility, primarily from students at UW and 4-H and FFA members who are judging, Brent Larson, livestock manager at the Sheep Unit, says, “We do things a lot differently than the normal operations would. It is labor intensive.”
Four to five classes utilize the sheep facility in particular, including Introductory Animal Science, Sheep Production, Livestock Evaluation and several reproductive classes.
“We have between 400 and 450 mature sheep here,” adds Larson, noting that the five registered breeds housed in the facility include Columbia, Hampshire, Rambouillet, Suffolk and now Targhee.
“There are good uses for all of them,” says Larson. “Most all of the sheep in the registered breeds go on the ram sire test in the fall, and the Columbia are coming up on their 100th anniversary of being here.”
Ultimately the sheep facility provides a number of animals for a hands-on learning experience for students and for a myriad of research projects by both graduate students and faculty at UW.
To learn more about research at the Laramie Research and Extension Center, visit uwyo.edu/uwexpstn/centers/Laramie.
Riverton – Charleen Von Krosigk says her family’s Targhee herd started as her son’s 4-H project in 1976.
“We were looking at getting Columbias,” explains Charleen. “Then Barney Cosner, our extension agent here in Fremont County, told the boys about a breed that he thought would be better and take us farther, so we went with Targhees.”
The Von Krosigks purchased their first ewes from Bob Innis of Gillette after attending their first Targhee show and sale there. They also bought two market ewes and two bred ewes from Jon Beastrom of Pierre, S.D.
“Inside one of the bred ewes was our first good ram,” says Dean.
“We called him Big Max, and he stamped the breed,” adds Charleen. “The kids showed him for 10 years.”
The Von Krosigk brothers, Wendell, Sam and Clint, raised sheep for a number of years. Later, Charleen and Dean’s grandchildren helped them to raise and show the sheep at the National Targhee Show, earning showmanship honors of their own.
“We’ve bred and raised range rams that happened to be national champions,” says Dean.
Since the herd first started, the Von Krosigks have only missed the national show twice, and only when they decided to get out of the business once before. Dean notes that they have kept 15 ewes and are planning to sell part of those throughout the year.
Prior to selling their Targhees to the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Beastrom purchased a number of ewes from the Von Krosigk family’s 2011 herd, including the national champion ram, national champion ewe and national champion pair of ewes.