Chet’s Master Shepherd Course is back for 2014!

January 14th, 2013

As many members know, Chet Parsons’ is a dear friend of the VSGA. He’s a long-time member and was the UVM Extension Livestock Specialist for many years. He’s a shearer and led the shearing schools co-sponsored by the VSGA and UVM. Now retired, Chet has designed a new project to keep him busy: A master shepherd course. And, for many members, this is like a dream come true.

The course will be a series of nine classes taught by Chet and Chet-approved guest teachers. The classes will take place at Chet’s farm – Parsons’ Farm in Richford, VT – and at the farms of a list of interesting and appropriate hosts.

Although the classes will cover the primary aspects of sheep husbandry, selected aspects of goat and camelid husbandry will also be discussed.

• Classes will be held on Sunday mornings from 9 to noon.

• Locations will vary based on the subject matter of the class.

• Course syllabus is available on the VSGA Web site:

• As class size will be limited to insure quality of the class, pre-registration is necessary.

• One can register for individual classes or for the entire course.

• Individual registration is $60 per class for VSGA members or $75 per class for nonmembers. Registration for the entire course is $500 and $600, respectively.

• Download the Registration Form here and mail to Chet Parsons with payment.

• Download the MasterShepherdBooklet here.

Or, see the course description and syllabus below:

The Master Shepherd Course is a series of nine classes that will be taught by Chet Parsons of Parsons’ Farm in Richford, Vermont (recently retired Livestock Specialist with the University of Vermont Extension) and members of the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association (VSGA).

The classes will cover the primary aspects of sheep husbandry and will include selected aspects of the goat and camelid husbandry. All classes will include a lecture and be held on a working farm where participants will be able to see and participate in the hands-on practical sessions.

Classes will be held on Sunday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. Locations will vary based on the subject matter of the class (see syllabus). As class size will be limited to insure quality of the class, pre-registration is necessary. One can register for individual classes or for the entire course. Individual registration is $60 per class for VSGA members or $75 per class for nonmembers. Registration for the entire course is $500 and $600, respectively.

To register, please fill out the registration form on the back of this booklet and send it along with the appropriate fee to: Parsons’ Farm, 463 Hardwood Hill Road, Richford, Vermont 05476 .

All classes will practice a high degree of Biosecurity to insure that no unwanted pathogens will be transferred from farm to farm. Please plan to wear clean clothes and footwear that is easily sanitized in a footbath.

These will be comprehensive classes that will cover a broad range of subjects providing shepherds with knowledge and a broad view of the small ruminant industry. 

Class: Lambing

Date: March 2, 2014

Location: Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT

Instructors: Chet Parsons and Renee LaCoss

Chet has been lambing sheep for almost 30 years and has had to deal with almost every situation that could possibly happen. Renee is the Shepherd at Shelburne Farms and has been lambing out their ewes for the past several

• Preparing for lambing

• Care for the ewe and lamb after it is born.

  •  Things to have on hand.
  •  Colostrum on hand –freezer pack.
  •  Caring for the ewe and her lamb(s) in a lambing pen
  •  How to deal with hypothermic lambs
  •  How to safely tube a lamb.
  •  Docking, tagging, etc.

• Dealing with dystocia and other problems related to lambing.

Do you feel apprehensive about lambing on your own? This class should dispel some of your fears. As this will be held in the middle of their lambing season, we may actually see a ewe lambing.


Class: Introduction to Sheep Management

Date: April 6, 2014

Location: Sterling College, Craftsbury Common, VT

Instructors: Chet Parsons and Sterling College Students

This is a class for beginners that will cover all aspects of sheep and goat production. If you are thinking of getting into the sheep or goat business, or have recently taken the plunge and now know what questions to ask, this class if for you. It will start with a classroom lecture and then move to the Sterling Farm for a “hands-on” session. We will cover handling sheep, basic health care, including foot trimming, etc. Everyone will have an opportunity to participate in the “hands-on” session.


Class: Small Ruminant Fiber

Date: May 4, 2014

Location: The Parsons’ Farm, Richford, Vermont

Instructors: Chet Parsons and Jessica Dillner

Jessica is an Angora Goat Breeder and Founder of Mountain Fiber Folks in Montgomery, Vermont.

• Wool 101, what is wool, how does it differ on different sheep.

• Learn how to care for sheep to maintain wool quality.

• Matching wool with products.

• Goat and other fibers.

• Setting up equipment and preparing sheep for shearing.

• Shearing instruction and demonstration.

• Wool skirting and packing.

If you don’t want to send your wool to the annual wool pool, try your hand at marketing your own wool products. Jessica will “show and tell” the products you can make or have made by a fiber mill. She’ll also describe optimal care of your fleeces for the highest quality. “Attention to detail = more money!”.


Class: Sheep and Goat Nutrition

Date: June 22, 2014

Location: Brigid’s Farm, Peacham, VT

Instructors: Chet Parsons and Jane Woodhouse

Jane is a sheep and goat breeder.

• The basic nutritional needs of sheep and goats.

• How the nutritional needs of animals change.

• Basic feedstuffs and how to match them with the needs of the animal.

• Weaning lambs and kids and feeding them accordingly.

• How to achieve appropriate weight gain.

• Parasite control.

This class will explain how a ruminant works and how you can balance the feed you have with the feed the animal needs.

o Creep feeding.


Class: Pasture Management

Date: July 13, 2014

Location: Open View Farm, New Haven, Vermont

Instructors: Chet Parsons and Anna and Ben Freund

Anna and Ben are raising lambs on pasture and selling them at the high-end markets in the Burlington area.

• Benefits of pasture management.

• Pros and cons of intensively rotated pasture.

• How to set up paddocks on your farm.

• Condition scoring sheep.

• Parasite control.

Ruminants were designed to eat grass. Utilizing your grass to raise animals is the most economical way to produce animal products from your farm.


Class: Parasite Control of Sheep, Goats and Camelids

Date: August 24, 2014

Location: The Parsons’ Farm, Richford, Vermont

Instructor: Chet Parsons

Chet is a certified instructor for FAMACHA training.**

• What parasites are important.

• The effect that parasites have on your animals.

• How to determine if your animals are affected.

• How to treat them.

• Management techniques to reduce the use of chemical treatments.

• FAMACHA training, $15 extra for a FAMACHA Card.

• How to do fecal egg counts with a microscope.

** The FAMACHA system of parasite control is based on the degree of anemia that an animal has based on their parasite load. It is measured with a FAMACHA card and the animal’s lower eyelid.


Class: Sheep Reproduction and Breeding Program

Date: September 14, 2014

Location: Smokeshire Hill Top Farm, Chester, VT

Instructor: Chet Parsons and Peter and Donna Hudkins.

The Hudkins are using genetics to get phenomenal gains of lambs on pasture.

• Why genetics are important.

• How to change traits in your sheep by selecting proper breeding

• How to select a ram.

• How to prepare flock for the breeding season.

• Using a teaser ram.

• Using Artificial Insemination.


Class: Markets and Grading Live Lambs

Date: October 19, 2014

Location: Settlement Farm, Underhill, Vermont

Instructors Chet Parsons and David Martin

Dave has a 100-ewe commercial sheep operation and has been producing quality lambs for many years.

• What markets exist in the Northeast.

• The Pros and cons of each market.

• How to grade a live lamb.

• Lamb grades and definition of lamb.

• How to tell when one is ready for market.

• Different options for processing lamb.

The ability to grade live lambs is essential to selecting the lambs that are ready for market.


Class: Sheep Health

Date: November 9, 2014

Location: Doolittle Farm, Shoreham, Vermont

Instructors: Chet Parsons and Bay Hammond

Bay has been raising animals and teaching Homeopathy for many years.

• Sheep health and diseases

o Emphasis on contagious diseases such as Contagious Foot Rot and Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL).

• How to keep diseases out of your flock.

• Homeopathy.

• Providing medical care for animals.

• Practical health care of animals

o Vaccinations, injections, etc.

o Trimming feet and foot care, etc.

With the looming crisis of drug resistant organisms on the horizon, it is becoming more important to explore the alternative methods of dealing with animal health. This class will go over some of the other options.