A friend of mine recruited me to run for a board position in the Katahdin registry. Her wish was that the board remain balanced between the people who mostly breed sheep with the goal of winning in shows and exhibitions, and the people who breed sheep for meat, productivity and profitability. I have to admit, I had some reluctance. This comes from my years of service on the board of a national dog registry parent club, including being president of that club for four years. And my service to some other local organizations which you would think would be pretty casual, but turn out to be insanely political, like world-peace-is-at-risk kind of drama.

Here was, roughly, my top ten list of questions about this candidacy:

  1. Does the board spend most of its time arbitrating between parties who freely admit to having stolen animals, or have had animals stolen, or have gotten in a physical altercation at an event which resulted in a major public spectacle or injury to body or property?
  2. Is testimony from Psychic Animal Communicators presented as evidence in hearings on such scenarios?
  3. Has any club member tried to murder another club member before?
  4. Does the board regularly entertain threats of lawsuits, and does each board member need to have their own legal counsel, in addition to the insurance and bonding the board already has?
  5. Have there been any death threats to board members?
  6. Does the board have to figure out what to do when a proposed member fakes health tests by submitting the wrong animal’s data, and freely and casually admits to such crimes, and still expects to be accepted into membership?
  7. Are any of the organization’s members in federal prison?
  8. Have there been major embezzling incidents in the past in the organization, where tens of thousands of dollars are inexplicably, and yet not provably, missing?
  9. Do people regularly use the word “war” to describe differences of philosophy between different facets of the organization?
  10. Does the board meet for hours by teleconference every month, and yet it feels like nothing important is getting done because of the time involved in managing the above nine phenomena?

The answer was no to all questions (and some might think I’m crazy for asking, but seriously, these are valid questions, and you would know that if you’ve ever been in a dog fancier club). So I felt like, hey, that sounds pretty benign compared to the dog show world! Winking smile And, I do love Katahdins and am passionate about their future. Thus, I decided to throw my hat in the ring, and run for office.

The Katahdin breed has experienced exponential growth in the last decade, as most of our country shifts away from wool production and solely into meat production. We have now moved into the #1 spot in registrations and transfers,  meaning that more people are breeding, registering and buying/selling Katahdins than any other purebred sheep. Wow! This means our breed has a heavy burden to bear, being the industry leader.

I am hoping I can contribute balanced insight that combines my decades of dog showing experience and knowledge of conformation, phenotype and genotype, with my grasp of the statistical approach to selecting breeding stock for profitable production. Here are some of the things I’d like to see the organization maintain or pursue if I were to join the board:

  • investing in the education and mentoring of youth and young/beginning farmers, the next generation of Katahdin breeders; as well as continuing education for seasoned breeders to broaden their knowledge
  • forward-thinking programs such as NSIP, and using EBVs for making rapid genetic progress in productivity and profitability for our breed
  • facilitating farm-to-consumer connections which broaden our industry’s reach in the U.S., with an emphasis on Katahdins as a “brand” (think of how “Black Angus” or “Kobe” is marketed as “the” beef consumers want)
  • supporting research in husbandry and health issues such as OPPV, pasture and parasite management, genetic markers for important traits, and other topics which enable evolution in our industry and our breed
  • general promotion of Katahdins, and the sheep industry as a whole, at key national and regional events

If you are a KHSI member, I shamelessly ask for your vote. If you’re  Katahdin person and do not belong to the registry organization, I highly encourage you to join, as it is a fabulous resource for education and networking. If you’re not even a sheep or dog person, well, you probably had no idea that campaigning for office was not just for Capitol Hill, nor that the dog show subculture is sometimes even more bizarre than the movie portrayed.

Anyway, cheers, and wish me luck in the August election! I will be attending the KSHI Expo in Nebraska; about which I am super excited. A whole day with data nerds and statistics related to breeding sheep, touring USMARC and hearing about University of Nebraska’s research work relating to sheep. Yay!

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