By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Dennis and Nancy Ahrens both grew up on dairy farms near Sauk Centre, but Dennis had the added experience of working with Suffolk sheep.
“My dad kept them for their wool, which was sold,” he said.
Dennis and Nancy married in 1993, and lived for four years on a farm two miles down the road from the home farm of Dennis’ parents.
In 1997, after the death of Dennis’ dad, they swapped farms with his mom. Dennis’ brother, Dan, moved their mom and her sheep to the farm down the road, while the Ahrens family moved to the home farm.
The Ahrens family grew to include Kyle, who is now going to school in Willmar, Katelyn, Kali and Kenna.
Kali has become the Ahrens most interested in sheep. Dan is Kali’s godfather, and although Kali was interested in horses, Dan gave her a lamb to bottle-feed about five years ago, when she was 8 years old. She named him Shebe. Dan had house-raised another sheep named Angel, and gave that one to her as well.
She enjoyed taking care of the lambs, who shared a calf hut enclosed by a fence and a gate in the yard.
“The next spring, he gave me two more sheep with their lambs,” said Kali, who is now 13.
“In the spring, we take the sheep over to Uncle Bernard’s place a mile away to be the chief lawnmowers,” said Dennis. “We bring them back in about November, to their own barn with a small pasture area.”
It’s Kali’s job to feed the sheep hay and make sure they have plenty of water.
Right now there are six older ewes and two older rams. Six lambs have been born since January and that includes two sets of twins. There is one sheep who has not lambed yet.
“Our goal is for them to lamb by St. Patrick’s Day,” Dennis said. “When they’re close to lambing, we pen them off to keep a better eye on them.
“Shearing is my favorite time, seeing them before and after,” Kali said. “The hardest part of taking care of them is feeding them when it’s cold. You don’t want to slip with full buckets of water.”
One of her favorite experiences happened in 2011, when she hand-fed a runt named Tiny Tim.
For now, tending sheep is a hobby for Kali, but she has her sights set on being a veterinarian or a vet tech.
“Science is my favorite class,” Kali said.
The funds from selling the sheep’s wool are put in the bank for either college expenses or a car.
“It’s a lot of work for not much money,” said Dennis.
For Kali, the rewards are not monetary.