Somerset Shepherd Joins Livestock Hall of Fame

10/5/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

HARRISBURG, Pa. — On Thursday, Tom Calvert was inducted into the Pennsylvania Livestock Association’s Hall of Fame. His induction was part of the Keystone International Livestock Exposition’s opening ceremonies in the Small Arena.

“I was pretty surprised,” Calvert said of his selection before the ceremony. He had taken a break from working at the show until a few years ago when he returned to help with the bred ewe sale. But he said the announcement of the award “brought me back” a lot of memories of volunteering at the show.

The Hall of Fame award honors excellence in animal agriculture and leadership in local, state, national and international endeavors. Selection criteria include having an desire to improve the livestock industry, showing efforts to improve rural living and participating in the development of community affairs.

Calvert’s framed portrait will be placed on display with the other Hall of Fame members in the main hallway above the entrance to the Large Arena of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.

A native of Greene County, Calvert grew up on a farm with a flock of sheep. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in animal husbandry, he worked as a Somerset County Extension agent.

At the same time, he started his own sheep flock with his brother-in-law. They started with a flock of purebred Hampshires, then added Shropshires.

He said the family decided to move from a registered purebred flock to commercial crossbred sheep in 1980. At its peak, the flock had as many as 120 commercial ewes lambing on spring pasture.

Today, the flock has 57 crossbred ewes, with a spring lambing season. Not surprisingly, the flock is managed on pasture, and minimal grain is used.

Spring lambing for the fall market is not typical. Calvert said he does not get the top Easter prices for his lambs, but his costs for raising them are significantly less.

“There has always been an emphasis on winter lambing and trying to hit the Easter market with lambs,” he said. “That emphasis doubles the price of producing the lamb.”

He said his costs are slashed in half because the ewes and their lambs are able to meet their needs on pasture.

He said the lambs he sells at the end of the fall market season will bring as much as his best lambs sold at the beginning of the fall season because the lamb supply has tightened.

His breeding rotation includes Katahdin and Dorper crossed with black-face sheep. His flock is mainly hair breed crossbreds.

Calvert left Extension after a few years, becoming executive director for the Somerset County USDA-ASCS, now the Farm Service Agency. He then moved to USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service as the conservation agronomist and pasture management specialist. Calvert was a part of the group that founded Project Grass and served as its first coordinator until his retirement in 1995.

Calvert has also served on the Pennsylvania Farm Show sheep committee and with the KILE sheep show from the 1960s to the ’80s. He is a past president for several organizations including the Pennsylvania Livestock Association, Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland Council, Penn State Stockman’s Club and Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association.

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