Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.
June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2021
Milliron Monday: Rambouillet-Targhee
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Pete Smith, D.V.M., and Milliron: Abbott “Pete” Smith, D.V.M. The Biography (Monday Creek Publishing 2017), including his wife Jody (1938-2021). Pete, a well-known veterinarian in southeast Ohio, and Jody lived life to the fullest. They continue to motivate and inspire.
February 17, 1974
Sheep Raising Experiment Utilizes Marginal Lands
by Carol James, The Athens Messenger Staff Writer
AMESVILLE – If you’ve been out Amesville way recently, you may have noticed several hundred animals in the area that you wouldn’t have noticed six months ago.
The nearby 1,200 sheep are part of an experiment that was in the talking stage for some four years before Dr. Abbott P. Smith and Roman Warmke, both with farms on Route 50A, formed this partnership and rounded up the flock which is reportedly the largest sheep breeding operation east of the Mississippi River.
Veterinarian Smith said he and Warmke, professor of economics education at Ohio University, received a lot of help from local people and officials at all government levels as resource personnel for the project, which is to see if Southeast Ohio’s “marginal lands” can be used, and if raising sheep is a feasible way to use them.
By summer the flock will be expanded to 6,000 sheep, with 3,000 remaining here and the other 3,000 to be located in northern Ohio. Expenses and hiring people to watch the sheep make only a break proposition with just 1,200 animals, Smith said.
And it’s “strictly business,” Smith said, with the money the fate of the experiment depending on the sale of wool and lamb’s meat.
But the project will be experimental, Smith said, until the end of their first full season, about next October, after shearing in April, lambing in May (“to stay out of the mud” and cold weather) and marketing in September.
Holding unusual jobs for this part of the country are Charles Loeb, a sophomore at Ohio University, and John Branner, a graduate of Purdue University who will be attending OU in the spring. They’re the shepherds for the operation, and the sheep require their attention 24 hours a day.
To help them they have a dog, Jim, and a horse, Fritz, and while Loeb attends classes, Branner watches the sheep, with nights divided four a week for Branner and three for Loeb.
The night shepherd beds the sheep down around the trailer in which he sleeps, and sleeps with one ear tuned to the sound of the sheep’s bells, one on every 25th ewe, which serve as alarms in the event of trouble, such as dogs attacking the flock, but so far dogs have not been a problem, Smith said.
Loeb said the Shepherd’s job is to watch that the sheep don’t get away, or stray too far, and he said they don’t stray singly or in pairs but instead groups of 20 or so, so they’re easier to spot.
Philosophically, the job “gives you a lot of time to think,” Loeb said. Except when curious folks stop by to talk, but he said most of these are very interested in the outcome of the experiment and enjoys talking to them.
The project requires a lot of temporary fencing, Smith said, and a plenty of work in grinding feed every day. There is also a lot of labor involved in feeding the animals hay and grain daily.
Smith and Warmke rent 10,000 acres on a day-to-day basis for the sheep, including two small coal company holdings and private lands. The renters pay as long as the sheep eat. They just eat the best and then want to move and “you can’t hold ‘em,” Smith said.
Are sheep stupid? “They’re good at what they need to do, they’re adaptable, and you can train them to do about what you can teach a dog to do,” Smith said, “if you’re clever.”
They are the least domesticated of domesticated animals, he said.
Smith’s practice as a veterinarian also comes in handy in the business. Since they acquired the flock in November, Smith said they have had little trouble, facing some dozen specific problems such as worms, diseases and acclimation of the Rambouillet-Targhee sheep to their new surroundings.
But they have a lot of sophisticated machinery to keep tabs on the sheep and their ailments and relations of blood values to performance, if any. “We have a lot of information at our fingertips that not everybody does,” he said.
Smith’s farm is the base where the sheep are processed and they’re moved out from there.
He said they are hard to find, however, and the two flew and drove through several western states to find these. They did personal buying to insure the quality of their sheep and Smith said it will take at least two weeks next summer to get more.
A good flocking instinct is necessary to manage most of the large flocks, Smith said, and that is one reason for the choice of Rambouillet-Targhee, also a fine wool sheep.
In addition, he said the sheep were chosen from western stock because they could be bought in flocks of 600 to 1,000, rather than groups of 50 to 100 as could be found in the East.
If the experiment is a success, which its initiators hope it will be, perhaps raising sheep will become a feasible and profitable way to put marginal lands to use in Southeastern Ohio and other areas and shepherding will no longer be such a rare job in the eastern and midwestern states.
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Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.
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