What is your background and current involvement in the sheep industry?
I grew up in a cattle family who raised registered Gelbvieh and Angus cattle for several decades. There were always sheep around, but never for anything more than 4-H projects to go to the county fair with. In 1998, we decided that we either needed to sell out or get serious and here we are now. I am a co-owner in MacLennan Club Lambs and run about 200 ewes selling lambs all over the country.
How does your current operation effect what you look for when evaluating sheep?
In my opinion, something that a progressive sheep producer understands much more than a judge who is not actively involved in production of show wethers is the appreciation for the unique ones and how hard it is to make not only 1 really good one, but to try to do it consistently. Because of that, I tend to lean toward skeletal quality and balance before muscle because as a breeder I have realized that muscle can be achieved in one generation but it takes years and tons of work to get a group of sheep put together that overcome the traits that are supposed to be only low or moderately heritable.
What person/people influenced or helped to shape your view on what the ideal sheep should possess?
There is no question that my parents have been the biggest influence on me even being involved in the sheep industry and teaching me what practical, functional sheep need to be. But in terms of really shaping my preference of a certain kind, I would say Clay Elliott was the first one to introduce the importance of reading all of the pieces of balance and putting them together in the hardest to make package. But there is no doubt that the most influence comes from a group of 4 or 5 feeders who are the most critical evaluators I know and because of that they are among the most successful. I always find myself listening to those guys’ opinions on what direction we need to be going.
Where did you attend college and what awards did you achieve while judging in college?
I went to Butler Community College where I was on a hugely successful judging team winning 4 of the 5 national contests. I was a Junior College All-American and was fortunate enough to have never placed out of the top 10 at any contest. I then transferred to New Mexico State University where we were also very successful and I bettered myself and never finished out of the top 5 at any contest.
What are your initial sorts when evaluating market lambs?
My priorities in order are balance, structure, muscle and handling quality. In my opinion, many of those cannot be achieved without the other. However at most shows the sheep are presented to you in a way that handling quality and muscle are what you must make your first set of decisions on. Bottom line is, you’ve got to be acceptable in muscle and the way you handle in order to get to be in the hunt at the end.
When you get down to those top end lambs, what separates them for you?
There is no doubt when it gets down to the end I am going to try to find the one that is shallow chested, deep flanked, level and made right with an acceptable amount of muscle and condition. I like sheep to be naturally full and fresh and being the smallest or biggest in a class generally won’t play much of a role in my decision. But it gets tough to answer that question because many times, legitimately the best sheep in the class might not be exactly the one that mirrors my ideal and rather than choosing one that really should be 4th only because he sort of has the same look as my other class winners, I am going to risk “consistency” and go with the one that might not fit perfectly in a lineup in order to get the best one standing in front of me.
What would you consider an acceptable fat range and weight range for an August state fair?
I have a pretty large fat range in terms of acceptability. It really depends on the sheep in my opinion but you most likely won’t see me shy away from anything from .18 hundredths to .35 hundredths depending on weight and frame and maturity along with muscle volume as long as it fits the sheep. Weight is a little the same. If the best sheep I have ever seen walks in and weighs 118 then it will be pretty tough to beat him. If the best one I’ve ever seen is 160 then there is no sense in leaving him stand. Obviously preferred is 125-155.
Do you consider yourself more of a handle judge or a profile judge?
No question a profile judge!
What’s the best lamb you have ever seen?
From a judging perspective bar none the best individual I ever judged was a 109 pound ewe lamb that I used to win a county fair in California. Otherwise, on show day I wasn’t sure I had seen anything quite like Erica Walker’s 2008 Grand Champion at San Antonio.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the sheep industry today?
Dwindling numbers of people involved in 4-H and FFA. Nearly every county fair in Colorado has half or fewer the numbers showing as they did 10 years ago.
Now that you are a Dad do you look at the showing experience differently?
A little bit. I often wonder how much different showing will be in 8 years. Sometimes I wonder if at many places there will even be shows anymore. But having a kid certainly gets me excited to get back into feeding and the fun that my siblings and I had when we were showing.
What’s your biggest pet peeve in the showring?
Many people could answer this question for me. Wool above the knees and hocks irritates me immensely. I find nothing beneficial about it when I see it. Also, when showman are making a circle on the walk and they are along the rail, when they stop they push their sheep out about 6 feet from the line causing a chain reaction for everyone to do it. I like to have as much room as possible to get off of the sheep from the side and in small rings this kills that opportunity. You aren’t going to fool me into something by making your sheep stick out of the line.
What is your favorite place to vacation?
Never been anywhere that most would really call “vacation” but I have some family in Durango, Colorado with an old mountain cabin, miles from anyone or anything. I could move there.
You’ve got one night to go anywhere in the country and watch one band, where is it and who you watching?
Alive? George Strait and I pick the songs… In my back yard…With only my family… I hate concerts!
Someone from the past? Conway Twitty… I pick those songs too.
What is your favorite cartoon to watch with McCrae?
They have ruined cartoons since I was a kid, but McCrae thinks that Mickey Mouse Club House is entertaining and whatever it takes to occupy him for a couple minutes a day, I am IN.
Thanks Logan for your time!