Many years after swearing off the farm life when she left the family farm for college, and following a career as a nurse, Joyce Keibler and her husband, Gary, chose to spend their “retirement” as sheep farmers. In 2005, they bought Hemmer Hill Farm outside of Louisville in northeast Kentucky and began raising Saint Croix sheep.
While Joyce’s family had experience with both beef cattle and wool sheep, she preferred the smaller size of sheep. After attending a free class at the University of Kentucky which introduced her to different sheep breeds, she decided on the Saint Croix, a small meat breed with hair rather than wool, known for its resistance to flies and parasite problems that often plague other breeds. Today, the Keiblers raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep at Hemmer Hill Farm. As an AGW-certified source farm for sheep, Hemmer Hill Farm is approved to raise and sell sheep to other AGW-certified farms.
Joyce explains that becoming Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW was an added marketing tool to help communicate the rigorous husbandry practices that Hemmer Hill employs when raising their animals. She is proud of her ability to manage the pastures without the use of pesticides and keep her animals parasite-free without worming. With Gary’s attention to soil health and management, they are able to grow excellent grass and practice rotational grazing, moving their sheep to keep them on the fertile pastures and to minimize overgrazing. This can be challenging depending on weather, but it leads to their animals’ superior nutrition and health.
Hemmer Hill Farm’s registered and purebred sheep are primarily sold as breeding stock all over the Midwest and East Coast. The Saint Croix sheep is on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy “Threatened” list, meaning that they have a global population under 5,000. While they don’t produce wool, the breed is desired for their easy care, multiple births and lean meat, which many customers prefer over the oily or lanolin-tasting meat that some think wool sheep produce. Customers who would like to buy breeding stock should reserve their lambs ahead of time by calling or emailing Joyce at (502) 228-3860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.