Karen Locke recipient of 2014 Charles Boyles Ohio Master Shepherd Award

| April 30, 2015

004_USEWARSAW – Karen Locke of Warsaw was the 2014 recipient of the Charles Boyles Ohio Master Shepherd Award, which is presented annually since its inception in 1987 to a shepherd who has made substantial improvements in the sheep industry.

“This award was very meaningful, more than I thought it would be,” said Locke, who also had the privilege of knowing Boyles personally. “I think it was more emotional because the entire family came, and they’re spread all over the place. My kids came over 1,700 miles. I love the farm and everything I do. It was a wonderful honor because it honored my family and my heritage.”

Locke’s heritage spans back for three generations on her century-old sheep farm located just outside of Nellie, and the farm is now on its fifth generation as Locke’s children and grandchildren help run the farm. Her farm sits on 460 acres and consists of 260 acres of crop, 300 ewes, and numerous horses and cattle. Her flock is made up of 100 seed stock Dorsets, 50 weather-type ewes, and 150 Dorset / Suffolk cross ewes.

Parts of her 460-acre farm were purchased in 1910 by her grandfather who was a farmer and coal miner. Locke’s father was one of 16 children and was pulled out of second grade to help on the farm.

Locke’s flock began in 1957 with a Columbia, Corriedale, and Lincoln-cross long-wool ewe given by her mother and father. After her father’s death in September of 1970, she became the sole manager of their sheep farm.

“I loved the farm,” she said. “It’s what I knew and liked. It’s different for me to become a farmer because I wasn’t eligible for FFA. No girls allowed. So I did mine through extension. Anyone who would help me, I was willing to listen. The extension has been very instrumental.”

She was also encouraged to continue the family farm by one of her neighbors.

“I was led toward sheep the most because my neighbor had a lot of knowledge and loved sheep,” she said. “I knew very well I didn’t want to leave.”

She started showing at the Ohio State Fair in the late 1970s until the 1990s. Her children showed sheep at the fair until 2005. In 1984, Locke started lambing three crops, or litters, in two years.

In preparation for breeding, farmers subject ewes to flushing, or increased feeding 10 to 15 days before breeding as it increases the rate of twins or triplets. When it’s time to deliver, the ewe is placed in a small pin for the care of the mother and the lambs. After the lambs are born, the mother and her babies are put in a bonding pin for four to six hours so the lambs can bond with their mother. They are then transferred to a claiming pin where the lambs are exposed to a few other young lambs and their mothers. They then move on to a larger pin where they learn to find their mother. They are weaned after 60 days.

“We have very intelligent consumers and they want to know why something is done and what the impact is,” said Locke. “Our job is to figure out new ways to educate the consumer that we are making good science-based decisions. We need to teach consumers to read carefully and where they read. There is some really good science-based information out there. Let’s not take everything written or said as gospel because it might be uneducated. When we speak and ask questions, make sure you’re talking to someone that is science-based. Where your knowledge stops and theirs starts may be a wide gap. We need to bridge that gap.”

Locke enjoys helping out at the AG Day at the fairgrounds to expose young children to sheep and help them understand the process of farming sheep. Sheep are marked if they are sick and have been treated so the farmer knows which sheep has already been treated. Their feet are examined as well to make sure there are no cracks or injuries.

“All this is caring for the animals,” said Locke. “If someone sees this and doesn’t understand, it could get blown out of proportion. They might think we’re abusing the animal when actually, we’re helping them.”

Locke has definitely lived a life devoted to agriculture and especially sheep. She was a 4-H advisor for 40 years and is now an ambassador. She was president of the Coshocton and Tuscarawas Lamb and Fleece Association for more than 10 years. She organized a sheep-shearing school at River View and a queen contest. Her daughter, Lisa, was named queen one year. She was also a charter member of the State Lamb and Wool program, which helps to promote sheep at a consumer and producer level. She was also chairperson for the State Lamb and Wool board in the 1990s. She received the YWCA/BPW Women in Agriculture award, and was the 2012 Coshocton Soil and Water Conservation Award winner, as well as numerous other awards.

But, all awards aside, Locke’s favorite place is to be behind the scenes.

“I like to stay in the background,” she said. “The best place for me is behind the scenes with the kids who are showing lambs and watching them being so proud of what they’ve learned.”

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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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