Sanford always wanted to farm
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 05/08/2012 10:20 AM
FARIBAULT, Minn. — Gene Sanford has made his living in the sheep industry, but he showed Jerseys in his youth.
Somehow, the 400 to 500 head of commercial sheep his parents had must have rubbed off on him. His parents were also purebred sheep producers.
After graduating from high school and teaching four and half years and tucking money away, Sanford came back to the farm.
"I always wanted to come back to the farm," he said.
His father, Howard, didn't want any of his four children, all U of M graduates, to farm, Sanford said. He had rented out his farmland.
Gradually, Sanford started to buy the land from his parents and make improvements to the farm. His parents moved to town.
He wanted the opportunity to be in charge of whether or not he succeeded. He wanted to raise livestock.
His parents had raised Shropshires, which is what all farm flocks were back then. His older brother, Elmer, had purebred Southdowns and younger brother Larry showed purebred Dorsets.
Larry became a proficient sheep fitter and to this day still does all the fitting for Sanford's Dorsets and Hamps.
Sanford shows his sheep at the Rice County, Minnesota State Fair, National Dorset Show and Sale and the National Hampshire Show and Sale. He is also involved in the North Star Bred Ewe Sale and the Minnesota Bred Ewe Sale.
Sanford lambs eight months a year. Dorsets breed out of season and have a five-month gestation. His goal is for ewes to lamb three times over two years. About every other ewe has twins.
A third of his ewes lamb in September and October and two-thirds in January through March. Half of the ewes that lamb in the fall are bred back to lamb again in late May or June.
Hampshires, on the other hand, are more or less seasonal breeders who lamb in January through March.
Raising sheep, as with any livestock, isn't easy, Sanford said. He must be with his ewes while they are lambing or there will be tremendous death loss.
Economically, it would be good for everybody to have a few sheep to take care of their yard. They're good lawnmowers, he said. There is also a good market for lamb.