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Carter knows his sheep

Brady Carter earned national FFA recognition for his sheep production Photo submitted

Brady Carter is serious about sheep. Carter, a graduate of Hancock High School, recently earned a National Finalist Award and fourth place in the nation in the FFA's sheep proficiency category. Carter received his award at the recent National FFA convention.

Carter is a student at Ridgewater Community College in Willmar studying agri-business but he's operated his own sheep production since he was 12.

He received a $5,000 loan from the Farm Service Agency when he was 12. He received a second $5,000 loan in 2016 to expand his flock. He keeps the sheep on the family farm.

His dad co-signed the loan when he was 12 but Carter was responsible for the $1,000 annual payments.

"I knew what I was getting into, at the same time I didn't," Carter said of getting $5,000 as a 12-year-old. It was exciting but then, "it all goes away and you have to pay it back."

Yet, he must have been wise about the loan because his flock was successful, he paid back the loan and qualified for that second loan.

"I encourage anyone thinking of starting livestock or crop production to talk with the Farm Service Agency," Carter said. "They do a really good job of working with kids on what you need to do to meet the requirements..."

He learned about loans through the FSA but he learned about sheep production from his dad Dale who has his own sheep flock.

"I grew up with sheep," Carter said. "My mom tells me I was in the sheep barn when I was a month or two old."

Carter has a flock of 23 breeding ewes and two breeding rams of registered Hampshires and Southdown sheep.

"I do the breeding on my own," Carter said. He and his dad have different rams and they will exchange the rams for breeding.

Breeding is one of the challenges of raising sheep.

For example, a ram may have what is called a break in the sheep industry. A break is slight dip or drop behind the shoulder blades of the ram. That genetic flaw can occur in several generations of sheep and it's difficult to remove that flaw through breeding, Carter said.

While he breeds through ram and ewe contact now, he'd plans to start using artificial insemination.

Carter's work in sheep production and his passion for the livestock prompted Hancock High School FFA advisor Elizabeth Johnson to suggest he complete a Supervised Agriculture Experience program which is a requirement for proficiency competition.

Johnson said Carter is a great example to other FFA members in the program.

"It shows that 'I can do it. I know it's possible do it if I'm willing to put the work in,'" Johnson said.

Carter said he was reluctant to pursue proficiency but that is part of what makes him a role model for other FFA members. He is passionate about sheep production and if another FFA member pursues an agricultural passion, they too, can pursue proficiency, Carter said.

Carter received his finalist designation and proficiency award at the recent national convention. "Walking on stage was so amazing," he said. As he stood on stage in front of more than 60,000 people in the audience, "it was truly amazing. Being able to stand in front of all those FFA members..."