King adores his sheep, leads industry

AFP Correspondent

PULASKI, Va. (Dec. 22, 2015) — The barnyard here on Colonial Farms is deserted except for Smith and Weston, two fainting goats, as the late fall sun casts shadows across feeders containing feed for sheep.
Cecil King walks toward a gate where an employee has brought his flock of Hampshire-Suffolk crosses.
The gate is opened and sheep explode across the barnyard running, jumping and circling, creating a scene that would do an Australian sheep ranch proud. The sheep finally settle down to eat their evening feed and King talks about his flock.
There is a reason he feeds late in the afternoon. He likes to bring the sheep in to the barn at night to help protect them from the coyotes that are increasingly becoming a problem.
While King and his wife Tina have a diversified livestock operation, the sheep are the animals King devotes most of his time and effort to developing as his product and as an industry.
“I like the sheep the best,” he said with the shy smile that is his trademark. “I like to see how fast they grow. We raise show lambs. I like to see the progress in genetics.”
King said the he formulates his own show lamb feed and has it mixed at a mill.
His flock consists of 325 bred ewes. He said this year 25 of these ewers have been designated to be bred to Texel rams.
King has a dual marketing plan.
First priority is selling show lambs and replacement ewes. The remainder of the lambs are sold through the New River Valley Sheep and Goat Club efforts to New Holland Livestock Market in Pennsylvania. They are shipped four times a year with lambs from other club members to coincide with ethnic holidays.
King has long been active in promoting the sheep industry and educating young people about the agriculture industry. He is a moving force of the NRV Sheep and Goat Club which he serves as president. He is also vice president of the Virginia Sheep Producers Association.
The state’s last two governors have recognized his leadership abilities by appointing King to serve on the Virginia Sheep Industry Board.
He is currently the president of that board.
The King’s Colonial Farms consists of one owned farm in the Robinson Tract section of the county and several other leased farms spread across the county.
These total 500 acres, he said.
Their cattle operation includes 35 Angus cross brood cows and 200 stockers, he reported. The stockers are sold in tractor-trailer loads and the calves are marketed at a nearby cattle company.
King said his operation is a conventional one with animals grazing on pasture on the various farms. He makes his own hay on these farms.
During the breeding season, the ewes are separated into different flocks on the farms.
King takes lambing seasons very seriously.
During these times, he lives in a small camping trailer at the barn so he is available all the time to help his ewes deliver healthy babies.
He has a part time employee, Terry Henley, who raises any lambs that are orphaned. He also has a full time employee, Rudy Garner, who helps with all the farm work.
Even though the barnyard is occupied by the two pet goats and at times filled with sheep, there is an empty spot in it and the hearts of community members driving by. Lester the Llama, longtime resident and protector of the sheep, died earlier this year.
Lester’s death saddened his fans that looked forward to the big stately white animal leisurely crossing the pasture.
King said he is looking for another llama. Lester’s fans seem to be demanding it.