Three rams are certified by Columbia organization

Three yearling Columbia rams earned Certified Columbia Ram honors based on their performance in 2018–2019 ram tests in Hettinger, ND and Laramie, WY. The rams were consigned, respectively, by Eagleson Sheep Company of Buchanan, North Dakota, North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, and Bell Columbias of Gillette, Wyoming. They are the first to achieve certification status in a program established in 2017 by the Columbia Sheep Breeders Association of America.

The Eagleson ram, W-59 (Reg. # Y15253), is an April-born RR twin sired by Jarvis G-722 (Reg. # Y11641) and out of a home-bred ewe ESC-905 (Reg. # U17356). He gained 0.82 pounds per day over the course of 140 days on test and had a fleece fiber diameter of 24.51 microns, a 365-day estimated staple length of 4.89 inches, and an impressive rib eye area of 1.75 square inches per 100 pounds of body weight. Asked to describe the ram, Eagleson stated that he is “long and structurally correct with a nice ½-blood fleece.” The ram’s Jarvis-bred sire stood third in his class at the Diamond Jubilee National Show and Sale in Minot, North dakota, in 2016. His dam is an aged ewe that Eagleson describes as “a stylish, heavy-framed, brood ewe.” W-59 will be going to work for a long time Columbia producer in Wyoming.

It is no surprise that Fred Eagleson is among the first Columbia breeders to produce a ram achieving Certified Columbia Ram status. He has been raising Columbia sheep for 65 years, starting as a seven-year-old with a 4-H breeding project of five registered ewes. When asked about his long-term commitment to Columbias, Fred replied with trademark soft-spoken generosity, “The strength of the breed is the people.” Fred has earned respect from sheep producers all across the nation for his contributions to the Columbia breed and to the wider sheep industry.

NDSU’s Certified Columbia Ram, 18201 (Reg. # Y15571), is an April-born QR twin that gained 0.87 pounds per day on test, the highest average daily rate of gain among the Columbia rams tested at Hettinger. He had a 26.18 micron fleece fiber diameter, an estimated 365-day staple length of 5.30 inches, and a test-topping rib eye area of 1.80 square inches per 100 pounds of body weight. NDSU Sheep Unit Manager Steve “Skip” Anderson describes the ram as “balanced and complete.” 18201 was sired by Frey 15-38, a ram that earned championship honors at the 2017 North Dakota State Fair. Frey Columbias donated the buck to NDSU to use for one year, and he sired all of their 2018 Columbia lambs, 14 of which have been selected as replacements for the university’s flock. The dam of newly certified 18201 is a 2014 ewe and five-year veteran of the NDSU Columbia flock. Anderson describes her as “moderate-framed, stout, easy fleshing, and rich in NDSU genetics.” 18201 will join NDSU’s ram battery and be used first to sire fall-born lambs.

Anderson is proud to be referred to as the “university shepherd.” He first began working with Columbia sheep 10 years ago when he took over management of NDSU’s sheep program. His experience with sheep, however, is life-long. His family raises Hampshire sheep, and he remains part of their Wisconsin operation. Anderson advocates for performance goals that are based on objective data. Beyond that, he emphasizes that all of us in the sheep industry must work to ensure that such data are valued appropriately in show rings, in markets, and on the rail. Anderson’s role with NDSU provides an opportunity for his advocacy to support Columbia sheep and influence the entire sheep industry.

Bell Columbia’s certified ram, B-883, (Reg. # 15724) is a late March QR twin that gained 0.93 pounds per day during his 140 days on test and had a fleece fiber diameter of 26.2 microns, a 365-day estimated staple length of 5.39 inches, and a rib eye area of 1.47 square inches per 100 pounds of body weight. When asked about the ram, Bell noted that he ranked 17th among the top 30 percent of rams on test for his loin eye measurement and 24th among the top 30 percent in scrotal circumference. He was sired by Bell-raised stud buck, B-709 (Reg. # 14264), who also grand-sired the Champion Production Ram and the Best Fleece Ram at the 2018 National Columbia Show and Sale in Gillette, WY. He is out of a home-bred 2014 ewe, G-271 (Reg. # 14306), that Bell describes as “one of those good ewes that you don’t notice because they’re trouble free.” B-883 is consigned to the Production Ram class in the upcoming Columbia National Show and Sale in Tooele, UT.

Russell Bell, of Bell Columbias, started in the sheep business as an eight year old in 1964 with a flock of five bum lambs. Two years later, he entered the Columbia business when he was given a yearling Columbia ewe that had been badly injured by coyotes. Bell freely admits that his first sheep may have had belly wool that would be unacceptable to him now, but through the decades he has focused on improvement in his wool clip, and his operation is now noted for its wool, as well as its emphasis on efficient, moderate sheep that work for range operations as well as farm flocks.

– Columbia Sheep Breeders Association of America