Thursday, February 27, 2014

Preparation for Lambing

                                                           Preparation for Lambing
 It is probably erroneous to suggest that one period of the sheep year is more important than another. There is no doubt that lambing time should be the climax of the years' work. 
Unfortunately, in many flocks, this isn't always the case; often because of inadequate preparation and lack of attention to detail throughout the year.
   Birth is the most hazardous period in any animal's life. Since the sheep is a seasonal breeder, a large number of births take place over a relatively short time, putting extreme pressure on both the shepherd and the sheep. It is the shepherd's responsibility to minimize losses of both lambs and ewes and to ensure that neither are subjected to any unnecessary stress or hazard Apart from welfare considerations, it makes economic sense to rear as many fit and healthy lambs as possible. 
   At Karras Farms, we put extreme infuses in keeping our East Friesian dairy sheep and our Awassi dairy sheep in tip top shape year round! 

                                                      email @

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thought for the Day

It is the duty of the shepherd or anyone who is in charge of sheep to identify sick or injured animals promptly and to give appropriate treatment immediately or obtain veterinary advice as soon as possible.
It is a simple matter to spot a sheep or to decide that a sheep which is not eating or that constantly walks around in circles is unwell, but it takes considerable skill, experience and massive commitment to detect animals in the early stages of many diseases.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fullblood Awassi .... Or Not? MythBuster Andy Karras Here With Another Stop The Naysayers Video :-)

Okay... Okay....

We know there are people in the USA and overseas who are, well... not real happy that Karras Farm took a huge leap forward and decided to be the first farm in the United States to import fullblood Awassi dairy sheep.

It's often out of jealousy, intimidation or fear of loss that people result to spreading false information or simply speculate without researching facts. This Awassi importation and breeding program is the result of a vision to enhance the dairy industry in the United States and quite frankly it's a massive undertaking mentally, physically and financially. I love being a shepherd, I love these animals and I will go to my grave knowing these animals are of the very best quality available for importation to the US. Karras Farm has built a highly recognized and trusted name in the dairy sheep community and I personally value everyone involved with advancing the cause of dairy sheep in the United States.

Here is a quick video that should give some insight to our New And Improved Awassi Dairy Sheep bloodline and some other fun facts along the way. The video is not the best quality and all of our original documentation can be viewed on our website or we are happy to pass along copies upon request.

Needless to say, Karras Farm has the highest quality pedigreed Awassi dairy sheep in the USA. It's unfortunate that even after sharing all the official documents and importation paperwork there will be some people who will question the heritage of these amazing sheep. We can't stop that and really feel sorry for those who have nothing better to do. But, if misery loves company you will have to look elsewhere for your company because Andy Karras is not interested in your invitation. This will be the only video I ever make to this effect and I will leave it up to the rest of you to make your own logical conclusions. So with out any additional delay lets get on to the low budget Karras Farm movie.....  3....beep....2....beep....1.... beep!!

We encourage any healthy discussion about dairy sheep or Awassi and encourage you to post comments, send emails or call Karras Farm. 
We will post all comments on the blog ..good .. bad or indifferent. It's helpful to have a fourm where everyone is invited and can feel free to express their opinions.
Have a Very Merry Christmas
The Karras Family

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Magazine article on Karras Farm - Awassi, East Friesian and Assaf daiy sheep

Below is an article published in Sheep Magazine July / August 2013 issue. I would like to personally thank Mr Nathan Griffin from sheep magazine for all of his hard work and dedication to the dairy sheep industry in the United States.  I would also like to thank Alan Harman for his valued efforts in writing / editing the article. To link directly to the Sheep Magazine on their website please click HERE.


Andy Karras -Owner Karrars Farm

Karras Farm

Breeding Top Dairy Sheep For America

Alan Harman
Andy Karras qualified as a veterinarian in his ancestral homeland of Greece, but now runs a South Carolina sheep breeding operation producing top quality East Friesian, Awassi and Assaf dairy sheep.
Andy Karras qualified as a veterinarian in his ancestral homeland of Greece, but now runs a South Carolina sheep breeding operation producing top quality East Friesian, Awassi and Assaf dairy sheep.
A generations-long trek from the romantic sun-baked mountains of northern Greece to the New World has led to a pioneering American dairy sheep business that is creating a new frontier for cheese and yogurt makers.
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Andy Karras, 39, can trace his ancestry back to nomadic Greek farmers who prided themselves on the quality of their Chios and East Friesian milk sheep and the iconic cheeses they produced.
Andy’s great-grandfather started the first Karras Farm in Greece in the late 1800s.
“At that time the main focus was to produce the highest quality line of East Friesian sheep in the world,” Andy says. “He was breeding only the very best genetically pure sheep for superior blood line, milk production, wool and meat.”
Three generations later this same focus on breeding the perfect East Friesian sheep bloodline made its way to the United States.
His parents moved to the U.S. in 1962, settling in South Carolina because that’s where other family members, aunts and uncles, had preceded them.
“My family did not bring their sheep genetics with them from Greece,” Andy says. “Our original sheep genetics were bought in 1996.”

Start-Up Challenges

There were special problems when Andy founded his farm in the humid heat of the southeastern U.S.
“When we first got the sheep, we had some losses due to the humidity,” Andy says. “Since then, we have not had any losses or conditioning impact from the heat. The sheep now are well adapted.”
Coming from a family of nomadic shepherds, the interest in sheep has always been in Andy’s blood, but it never crossed his mind to go into mainstream meat and wool production in the U.S.
“My ancestors raised their family from sheep for many, many years, with the milk and meat,” he says. “They made clothing from the sheep’s wool to clothe the family.
“Those are our roots, and it’s what kept us focused on pursuing the dairy sheep industry.”
He started his 417-acre farm from scratch.
“I do believe that when Karras Farm got started in 1996, neighbors saw it as ‘Mission Impossible,’” Andy says. “The reasons being: (1) At the time dairy sheep farming in the U.S. was rare. (2) A lot of people knew little about sheep, even the fact that there are different types—dairy, meat, wool.
“Our family’s experience is in dairy sheep and we consume the milk products in our own home. We make yogurts, cheeses, and ice cream, all with sheep’s milk that is the healthiest you can consume, has no chemicals, and is made from old family recipes.
“Dairy sheep genetics are in demand in this country and it has been profitable for our family—and that’s why we stayed in the dairy sheep industry.”
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Andy’s first memories of dairy sheep farming are from when he first obtained embryos of East Friesian ewes and rams.
“I was very excited in having this type of breed here in the U.S., because this was the breed my family had in their country of Greece,” he says. “I felt a sense of accomplishment and was very eager with the knowledge I’d learned from my father and grandfathers, to get started in raising this beautiful breed of dairy sheep.”
Andy says there are several hundred dairy sheep farmers in the U.S. and the number is increasing each year due to the popularity of sheep milk.
The Awassi breed inherits considerable resistance to parasites, and is very hardy.
The Awassi breed inherits considerable resistance to parasites, and is very hardy.
The prized Karras East Friesian dairy sheep first entered the U.S. in 1996 through Canada.
Mary and Rusty Jarvis of Groveland Farm Wisconsin partnered with Peter Welkerling, an investor from Canada, to import full-blood East Friesian embryos from Europe.
Awassi sheep, an ancient Israeli breed, have large ears that help dissipate heat.
Awassi sheep, an ancient Israeli breed, have large ears that help dissipate heat.
The prized Karras East Friesian dairy sheep first entered the U.S. in 1996 through Canada.
Mary and Rusty Jarvis of Groveland Farm Wisconsin partnered with Peter Welkerling, an investor from Canada, to import full-blood East Friesian embryos from Europe.
The embryos entered Canada in 1995 and were implanted in ewes and the first North American East Friesian sheep were born. The full-blood lambs were then imported into the U.S.
Andy purchased his original East Friesian stock directly from Groveland Farm and since then, using a selective breeding process, has developed some of the highest quality East Friesian dairy sheep available in the U.S.
In the process, he has become a leader in dairy sheep genetics, focusing on physical characteristics, milk production, wool and overall animal health.
His purebred East Friesian ewes and rams can sell for up to $1,000 a head with an average price of about $800.
“Our genetics from Karras Farm are now in 38 different states known to us,” he says. “But I’m certain there is at least one sheep farmer in every state across North America with our sheep genetics.
“We have more than 200 clients on our mailing list who have purchased from us.”
When Karras Farm started, there was no dairy sheep farming in his region.
“We started with only our knowledge from our ancestry and practice of every-day dairy sheep farming, along with my education—I am a qualified vet in Greece and that is where I received my education.”
He obtained his degree from the Karpenisi Veterinary School in the region where his parents once lived.
“I feel the lack of knowledge on husbandry of the dairy sheep itself has affected the dairy sheep industry, causing the sector to slowly increase or sometimes decrease. Also, the importation of dairy sheep products such as cheeses and milk products is affecting the growth.”
There are two main groups of buyers for Andy’s sheep.
“We have a lot of customers at Karras Farm that purchase animals for homestead farms, using the dairy sheep for the milk, meat, and wool for private use by their family,” he says.
“We also have had a number of dairy companies purchasing large numbers of dairy sheep for the production of milk to make cheeses, yogurts, and ice cream.”
Karras Farm may have started out specializing in breeding the highest quality East Friesian dairy sheep in the world, but now Andy had taken the business even further, producing the first Israeli Awassi sheep in the U.S. as well as the Assaf, another Israeli breed created by crossing the Awassi with East Friesians.
Andy now has dairy sheep bloodlines originating from Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
The process leading to the birth of the first Awassi lambs in the U.S. took two years.
Andy spent a year in Australia searching for the best Awassi sheep dairy genetics, an odyssey that could be likened to hunting for a needle in a haystack in a country that focuses on meat genetics.
Awassi sheep, being from hot, desert regions, accumulate fat in their tails for survival during dearths, a delicacy to people of Mideast descent.
Awassi sheep, being from hot, desert regions, accumulate fat in their tails for survival during dearths, a delicacy to people of Mideast descent.
Australia was selected because its strict quarantine laws lessen the chances of foreign sheep disease being found in their sheep.
“We had to specifically find a dairy farmer that was producing dairy products,” Andy says. “Then we had to trace through the records of these particular Awassi to confirm their purity. Once we found our breeder of Awassi genetics, we had to follow all guidelines and protocols of each Department of Agriculture.”
The work paid off.
The first full-blood Awassi sheep were born in March 2012, and Andy now is in his second year with the breed. He is accepting orders for Awassis and expects the live sheep and semen will be available within two years.
“It was difficult waiting a whole year to announce the birth of Awassi sheep in the U.S,” he says. “Our Awassi USA dairy sheep program will be a welcome enhancement to the dairy sheep industry in the U.S.”
The Awassi is a fat-tail dairy sheep that is very hardy by nature, fully adapted to arid environments and widely considered the highest milk producing breed in the Middle East.
The sheep have beautiful wool coats and are known for being resistant to many diseases and parasites that can badly affect other breeds.
The first F1 Assaf was born Jan. 3, 2013 to a purebred East Friesian ewe. The sire is a full-blood Awassi ram born at Karras Farm in March 2012 via an imported embryo from Australia.
“We have noticed the F1 Assaf dairy sheep have rapid weight gain, durability, and high parasite resistance,” Andy says.
The first of his Assaf lambs—costing $2,500 apiece—went out to sheep farms across the country in May.
The USDA has set requirements for the importation of new genetics into the U.S. The country of origin of the embryos also has its own Dept. of Agriculture guidelines that have to be met.
University of Wisconsin-Madison sheep researcher Yves M. Berger (now retired) said in a report for the Spooner Agricultural Research Station that the East Friesian is considered to be the world’s best milk-producing dairy sheep.
He says it averages 2.25 lambs a litter with milk yield of 1,100 to 1,540 pounds. (500 kg to 700 kg) per lactation of 240 to 260 days, testing six to seven percent milk fat, the highest average dairy milk yield recorded for any breed of sheep.
The lactation of the average U.S. sheep breed is about 100 to 200 pounds per lactation.
“They are highly specialized animals and do poorly under extensive and large flock husbandry conditions,” Berger wrote. “An example of the dramatic effect the East Friesian milk sheep can have on breeds adapted to environments too severe for the purebred East Friesian is from the development of the composite Assaf breed in Israel from crossing East Friesian with the Awassi, a breed adapted to the arid Middle East. Lamb and milk production among yearling Assaf is double that of the Awassi.”
Karras Farm now has 63 Awassis, 92 F1 Assafs, and more than 300 East Friesians.
The F1 Assaf retains traits of the Awassi, like its large ears, but is white like the Friesian.
The F1 Assaf retains traits of the Awassi, like its large ears, but is white like the Friesian.
“We try to keep 10 to 15 rams of each breed depending on demand,” he says.
Until recently, Andy says, the U.S. dairy sheep industry was growing only slowly.
Not any more.
“I have seen in the past few years a rapid increase in the demand and interest, both from commercial operators and homesteaders,” he says. “I feel in the next five to 10 years, the sheep industry will double due to people realizing the sheeps milk is very good for their health.”
He recommends a stocking rate of five dairy sheep to the acre, but says a knowledge of the sheep helps determine the size of flock, along with the farm help available, the size of the barn and the availability of a food supply.
The dairy build is evident in the red-headed breeds of sheep.
The dairy build is evident in the red-headed breeds of sheep.
Regular wool and meat producers could also run a dairy flock as the milk will increase a farm’s revenue, along with the wool and meat from the dairy sheep flock.
“We don’t recommend having sheep and goats in the same living quarters,” he says, “but combining sheeps milk and goats milk does make a blend of excellent artisan cheese that is very popular in Europe.”
The dairy sheep have to be milked every 12 hours and they have to be shorn once a year. The animals are easily trained in the use of a milking stall.
“We like the sheep to be heavily grazed and at times we feed a 22% protein feed,” Andy says.
The Karras Farm sheep average seven to eight pounds of milk a day during the prime milking season and have an average 10-month lactation period. The average ewe produces milk for about eight years. After milk production levels drop, the sheep is still good for eating.
About six pounds of sheep milk is needed to make one pound of cheese. Sheep milk is fattier than that of cow or goat milk. There’s a higher proportion of fatty, curd-producing solids in the milk and not as much is required to make the same amount of cheese.
Another benefit of sheep milk is it is naturally homogenized, meaning the fat globules are smaller and don’t separate from the less-dense, water-based components in the milk.
An Oklahoma State University report says the Awassi evolved as a nomadic sheep breed through centuries of natural and selective breeding to become the highest milk producing breed in the Middle East. The breed is calm around people, easy to work with and easily milked. When machine-milked, they can be milked in four to six minutes.
Prices for dairy sheep milking stalls start at about $1,000.
“The stalls can range up to many thousands of dollars and I have seen stalls holding up to 100 sheep,” Andy says.
U.S. sheep milk production is increasing annually to meet a demand that constantly exceeds supply.
As a result, about 53 million pounds of expensive sheep-milk-based cheese is imported annually.
The U.S. sheeps milk is being used to make sought-after yogurt and milk products by people who are being told by their doctors that it is better than cows milk for health benefits.
“People are really interested in the sheep milk cheeses,” Andy says.
Also, soap made from the sheeps milk is becoming popular.
Karras farm is not in the dairy business itself, but sells live sheep, semen and embryos.
East Friesian sheep have high milk yields and good size but aren’t considered as hardy.
East Friesian sheep have high milk yields and good size but aren’t considered as hardy.
It has become a destination for everybody from church and school groups to curious neighbors and farmers. Many of those farmers end up buying dairy sheep, seeing an advantage in an animal that produces a new income source in addition to wool and meat.
“We are constantly researching and studying for ways to produce the highest milk producing sheep that’s hardy, parasite resistant, and that can withstand varieties of climates,” Andy says.
“On record, our highest milk yield is 4,200 lbs. from one ewe during a 10 month lactation period,” he says.
Overseas, the main countries that specialize in sheeps milk are Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Russia and Libya, where the demand is high, especially from countries around the Mediterranean.
There are hundreds of dairy sheep throughout the world; most of them being in the countries of their origin, Andy says, indicating that he has plans to introduce new breeds in the future.
Karras Farms runs courses for first-time buyers.
“We help clients get started on their farm by getting them set up for their dairy sheep before the sheep make it to their new home,” he says. “We also like to stay in contact with all of our customers to continue to help them with different things.
“We have a true passion,” Andy says.

“My dream is of operating a nationally renowned sheep farm in the U.S.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

Karras Farm - Weak Lamb At Birth - Sheep CPR

Weak Lamb at Birth

A lamb weakened by a by a protracted or difficult birth may be suffering from Anoxia (lack of oxygen) or have fluid in the lungs. The first few minutes are crucial to the lams survival. If the lamb gurgles with the first few breaths or has difficulty breathing, dry off the nose; grasp the lamb momentarily on the return end of the upswing with your free hand so the lamb is stopped abruptly in the vertical position. This accomplishes two things. The centrifugal force aids the movement of fluid from the lungs and the weight of the Viscera presses on the diaphragm causing a forced expiration. When you catch the lamb on the upswing, the weight of the Viscera falls in the opposite direction causing a forced inspiration. Normally two or three swings will get the vitals performing normally. If the heart is beating and the lamb is still not breathing after this exercise, artificial respiration is mandatory. Grasp the lamb by the nose so your thumb and fingers are slightly above the nostrils and respirate until you see the chest expand. Repeat this procedure until the lamb begins breathing. Please be cautious not to blow too hard as the labs lungs are quite small and can be ruptured by excessive pressure. If your attempts are still unsuccessful sometimes a cold water shock treatment will do the trick. Dunk the lamb in cold water, such as a drinking trough. The shock may cause the lamb to gasp and start breathing. Sometimes a finger inserted gently down the throat will stimulate a coughing reflex and get things going. After the lamb starts to breath, be sure to keep it warm and have it checked by a livestock veterinarian asap. 

Andy Karras

Assaf Ram - F1 50/50 cross 

Assaf Ram - F1 50/50 cross

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ram Epididymitis - East Friesian Dairy Sheep - Karras Farm

Recently, there has been heightened awareness of Ram Epididymitis, a disease caused by one of several different organisms which damage sperm producing tissue. The infection is well under way and contagious prior to external symptoms showing in physical examinations. Symptoms can include swelling of the Epididymitis, located at the base of the testacies, and the presence of hard lump tissue can indicate the disease is already in an advanced state. In some cases the ewe may become infected resulting in abortions, still births and weak lambs. It is more commonly contagious from ram to ram  but can be transmitted through a ewe who has recently been serviced by a ram. Vaccination has not yet proved highly successful. Early extensive monitoring of your sheep and rapid isolation could save your valuable animals.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Independance Day!

God bless
Andy Karras
Karras Farm Inc.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mechanical Pneumonia in Sheep

Mechanical or “foreign body” pneumonia results when fluids or objects enter the lungs, such as excessive birth fluids or milk in the lungs of lambs. An abnormal birth position or any interruption of the umbilical blood supply to the lamb results in an oxygen deficiency. This in turn stimulates the respiratory reflex and causes the lamb to attempt breathing prior to birth.  The respiratory reflex causes inhalation of excessive fetal fluids resulting in mechanical pneumonia. Forced bottle feeding of as lamb with impaired sucking reflex, improper stomach tubing or oral medication may also allow fluid to enter the lungs. There is no cure for mechanical pneumonia.