18-year-old producer grows his sheep operation

Caleb Pirc, 18, has built his Katahdin hair sheep flock into a sizable and sustainable operation that has room to grow.

He operates his Good Shepherd Farm from his parents’ home in southwest Meridian, Idaho, and several grazing sites he leases nearby.

“Some of the people are a little surprised it’s me they’ve been talking to,” Pirc said. “But a lot of farmers have been really supportive. Customers and other sheep breeders with the same goals have been really helpful.”

He owns all of Good Shepherd’s livestock. He manages the animals as well as a lambing operation and three leased pastures.

“Caleb is incredible,” said Matt Brechwald of Kuna, an ag broadcaster and owner of Off-Farm Income. “He has done an incredible job of developing niche markets and leasing property from neighbors to grow his farming enterprise.”

Pirc’s parents, Tony and Jodi Pirc, aren’t farmers or livestock producers. They moved to a rural setting about seven years ago. Caleb and his twin sister, Hannah, started raising sheep a year later.

“I always loved animals,” Caleb Pirc said.

He finished buying out his sister’s share of the livestock in 2014.

Pirc has funded the business from personal savings, which include wages from working as an Idaho House of Representatives page during the 2018 legislative session. His parents have helped with a barn, fencing and other infrastructure at their home, where lambing and some grazing occur.

Challenges include reduced land availability and increased costs in the growing Boise area.

Pirc says he tries to make sure his flock maintains the best possible genetics and that the operation runs as efficiently as possible.

“Nice, even grazing and rotations,” and making sure sheep get the most nutrition out of each unit of plant material they consume are among operational goals, he said.

Pasture health and sustainability are critical, he says.

At his parents’ 1.4-acre property, pasture quality is excellent and the small barn is sufficient for a lambing operation that still has room to grow, he said. Lambing is done around in April and May. The breed can lamb outside a set season but is most productive in April.

In addition to a 5-acre parcel, 1.5 acres nearby is all pasture and contains multiple plant species from which the sheep can choose, including some with deeper roots, Pirc said.

A separate parcel of around 2 acres in southwest Meridian consists of “good, productive grass with thick stand,” Pirc said, and is similar in pasture quality to his parents’ property.

The flock has about 25 ewes — each producing an average of two lambs annually — and three rams. Katahdin are more prolific than many sheep breeds, he said.

Good Shepherd Farm raises the sheep for meat and breeding stock, emphasizing sustainable agriculture and all-natural production.

“We typically grow 10 to 30 percent per year,” he said. Headcount increases typically hinge on the quality of the ewe lambs born in a given year.

A university animal scientist mentored Pirc, who said the experience has been key to his own focus on animal and pasture health.

Pirc, who was home schooled and graduated from high school this year, said he is a year to 18 months away from completing a bachelor’s degree in business administration, emphasizing entrepreneurship and communications, from Liberty University.