Kalista Altom began her own sheep operation to provide other young people get into the business
PANGBURN, ARK. – As an 18-year-old senior at White County Central High School, Kalista Altom maintains a hectic schedule.
School life is busy for most high school students, especially seniors. There is a lot of planning for graduation and the next phase of life, whether pursuing higher education or entering the workforce. Kalista has balanced school activities with extracurricular activities, such as softball, basketball, FFA, 4-H and barrel racing.
Being involved in FFA and 4-H came naturally for Kalista. Her parents, Brandy and Timothy Altom of Pangburn, Ark., have raised cattle on their small farm in northern White County. As an FFA and 4-H member, Kalista has shown a variety of animals over the years, but it is only in the last couple of years she has turned her attention to sheep. Not only showing them but raising them.
“One of our family friends got me into showing and I really liked it. When I began showing sheep, I found out how expensive they were,” Kalista said, adding a lamb she wanted was in the neighborhood of $900. “They can sell for anything from several hundred dollars to a few thousand for a good ram. That prices a lot of kids out of the sheep market. So, I decided to start raising sheep with the sole purpose of helping others get into the business. I’m hoping to be successful enough to help other young people with good sheep at a fair price.”
Raising sheep and helping others has become a personal mission and passion for Kalista. She said she wants to raise lambs to complete as market animals and as breeding stock.
With advice from her parents and a beginning farmer loan from the Farm Service Agency, Kalista bought her first ewes, a small crossbred flock, and began her livestock business. It was a rocky start at first. Starting out with 12 sheep, the new farmer lost four head to a lung infection common among sheep. Kalista was able to secure a good, proven ram, and the first sets of lambs are due very soon.
“I have talked to several people and they said when I have lambs on the ground, they would come, look and them and see what they think of them, and if they want to buy some,” Kalista said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Plans are to grow the herd to about 30 ewes, and her show lamb business is one she hoped to continue after high school and during her college career.
“I could not have done it without my parents,” said Kalista. “They provided the hay and the land to get me started. They have encouraged me from day one. With school and all my other activities, things get hectic, but my parents have been behind me every step of the way.
While she has not chosen a college yet, she plans to attend college in Arkansas next year and start her studies for pediatric nursing.