Local herders see sheep industry comeback
Shearing is an annual process usually done in the spring. Last week, from Monday to Saturday, about 2,300 sheep were being sheared in a five stand shed on Nations Road.
Matt Kyle of Kyle Farms learned the art of shearing during a three month stay in New Zealand five years ago. It’s an uncommon skill and Matt had to go to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and even Wales to seek out the crew which was assisting him last week.
Shears consist of a hand piece, comb and cutter. During intensive shearing, cutters are swiftly dulled and need replacement every 15 minutes. A shearer will go through eight combs and 32 cutters a day. Evenings after shearing are spent sharpening.
Devastated by cheap imports during the past two decades, the market for wool in the United States hit rock bottom ten years ago, but is now beginning to make a resurgence.
“There are markets out there,” Kyle reveals. “We sell our wool to Mid State Wool Growers of Ohio.” Much of the purchased wool is exported for carpet production.
The sheep are being pastured at Seven Nations Farm in Geneseo belong to Kyle Farms, a partnership of Matt, his brother DJ and cousin Nate. Flock manager is Joe Enenheiser. Seven Nations Farms has a legacy of sheep raising, having hosted populations equivalent in number to the Kyle flock throughout many decades of the farm’s almost 200 year history.
Matt’s personal involvement with sheep dates back to a 4-H project of his youth, when his parents, David and Jeanne Kyle, were keeping about 200 ewes.
Kyle Farms is based in the Rush-Geneseo-Avon area. More lucrative than wool is the market for meat. The business goal is to produce a quality all natural lamb for the consumers of western New York.
“The sheep industry on the east coast has started to look a lot brighter,” Matt observes. “Lamb meat is healthy for you, and I think you are going to start seeing it a lot more in the grocery store.”
Kyle Farms lamb is guaranteed to have been raised on pasture and mother’s milk, has no growth stimulants or artificial hormones, and is fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet from birth to harvest.
Matt, his brother and his cousin hope to revive this part of the livestock industry which at one time was a mainstay of the upstate New York agricultural economy. He describes the partnership as “three young individuals wet behind the ears, trying to build a sustainable business.”
Kyle Farms was founded by Matt and DJ’s parents David and Jeanne Kyle over 35 years ago. Upon the death of David Kyle, the flock was downsized. After attending Cornell University and spending time in New Zealand, Matt began to re-grow the flock and seek out varied marketing opportunities.
The full Kyle Farms family is today the recently married Matt and Shannon Kyle, DJ and his wife Alexis, and Nate and his wife Kelly.