Penny Acres incorporates Katahdin sheep into their small operation
Jay and Kaitlyn Osborne, of Willard, Mo., have long had a passion for farm life and sustainable agriculture.
While living inside of Springfield city limits, they pursued their passion with a small flock of backyard chickens – but they knew they wanted more.
At the time, they both worked at Cox Medical Center. Jay is an anesthetist and Kaitlyn worked in a neurotrauma unit. Today, Kaitlyn is a stay-at-home mom and full-time farmer.
In 2016, they had the opportunity to purchase a house and 10 acres in Willard. With just two years under their belt, the Osbornes’ are well on their way to living their dream on Penny Acres with their 16-month-old daughter, Juniper, and another baby on the way.
One of the first animals to call the Osborne’s farm home was a llama named Penny. The farm is named after her and she serves as a guard animal, companion and conversation starter at Penny Acres. Penny was soon joined by more chickens, a couple of goats and some steers Jay and Kaitlyn raised and processed for farm family consumption and retail sales.
One of the more recent projects at Penny Acres has been the creation of the Osborne’s sheep program.
Jay and Kaitlyn’s small flock consists of primarily Katahdins. When they first started with sheep, their flock had some influence from the Barbados Black Belly breed.
The Barbados proved to be a bit more skittish than the Katahdins, Kaitlyn said, and their mothering instincts were not quite as strong, so they culled the majority of Barbados from their program and retained the Katahdins. The Osbornes’ manage their sheep flock by way of rotational grazing. This practice has helped them maximize their grass and keep parasite levels very low. Jay noted that in their area, barber pole worms can be a big problem for sheep, and that their grazing management has kept the blood-feeding parasite at bay.
Using portable electric fencing within their welded wire perimeter fence for ease of movement and extra security, the Penny Acres flock is moved to a new area every three days. The ram lambs from the flock are raised for meat or sold as potential breeders to other farms, and the ewe lambs are retained for breeding.
On top of working to improve their sheep flock, Jay and Kaitlyn also grow a small vegetable garden, and are getting into beekeeping; they have found active swarms around their farm and have placed swarm boxes in the wooded part of their acreage in hopes of catching their own bees.
They would like to increase their flock of laying hens in order to produce more eggs, and raising pigs is also included in the future plans of Penny Acres. Currently, they market their free-range eggs and farm raised beef through word of mouth, and social media.
As their farm continues to grow and produce more, Jay and Kaitlyn are considering joining one of the growing local farmers markets in their area to market their products, and net work with other members of the community who share their passion for small scale sustainable agriculture.