Lexington producer raising hair sheep

A Nebraska man is raising a commercial flock of hair sheep, and he's also developed a feed that seems to be growing in popularity.

We caught up with Neal Amsberry recently to talk about his flock. "We've had sheep going on five years now. We were heavily into goats before that," Amsberry said. "We made the transition to sheep after the drought of 2012."

Amsberry now has around 200 white Dorper hair sheep, and the meat, not the wool, is what is driving the demand from customers in various parts of the country. "We don't shear the sheep," Amsberry said. "Right now, you might see the sheep blowing off their hair. Wool sheep as a general rule are a lot bigger. They will run more than 200 to 280 pounds on a ewe. The rams are bigger than that. The hair sheep are a meat animal. They are a little over knee-high, and they weigh about 150 to 180. It's all about the meat production for the hair sheep."

"We are leaning more and more toward the pure-bred white Dorper," Amsberry said. "There are a few people doing this. I'm with the Mid-States Hair Sheep Co-op, and I'm the president. We have about 25 good-sized producers around the state. There is a difference between wool sheep meat and hair sheep meat. The wool sheep have more lanolin in the wool, and that sometimes translates to the meat. The hair sheep does have a small amount of lanolin, but you would never know if you were eating a hair sheep lamb burger. You would not know it was a sheep. You would think it was the best beef burger you ever had."

Amsberry says there are always challenges that come along with hair sheep. "One of challenges for me was we could not buy a good commercial feed to specifically target my sheep. So, I wound up developing my own feed. I sell it. People who use this "bull tackle" feed seem to like it," Amsberry said. If you'd like to know more about Amsberry's operation, or his sheep feed that he says is also used for calves and goats, you can call him at (308) 651-0327.