Wendy Villarreal first got interested in sheep through her love of border collies. She first witnessed a sheepdog trial on a beautiful historic farm in Virginia called Oatlands. With the idyllic farm backdrop and becoming entranced by the harmony between the highly-trained dogs and wiley sheep, Wendy vowed she would do that someday. In 1996, she purchased her first herding-bred border collie and began the arduous process of learning to herd sheep; having no farm, no sheep, with only weekly lessons to guide her. Wendy was persistent and even helped to manage the sheep flocks of friends just to get the chance to train her dogs for the sport of sheepherding competitions.
A lifelong Michigan resident, Wendy earned a BS in Microbiology and Biochemistry at Eastern Michigan University but soon moved into the financial field, earning an MBA from the University of Michigan and obtaining post-graduate education as a Certified Financial Analyst. Wendy worked as a Block Equity Trader, negotiating the purchase and sale of millions of shares of stock for pension fund and mutual fund clients. After the closing bell, Wendy would rush home to take her dogs to the nearest farm to herd sheep.
After the tech bust of 2000, Wendy transitioned out of investments and into self-employment; leveraging her dog training expertise and business knowledge to launch Gooseworks, LLC, in partnership with her husband, Kirk Mehlhaff. Gooseworks, LLC provides Canada Goose control services to clients throughout the State of Michigan, using trained border collies to chase geese off corporate properties. Kirk and Wendy have built the business into a full-time enterprise, employing 6 dog handler teams. Now in their 20th year, Wendy and Kirk are training their 3rd generation of dogs for goose control and have a planned litter on the way.
In 2008, Wendy and Kirk took the leap and purchased their own farm in Ingham County. The farm grew quickly to accommodate 75 ewes and transition from spring pasture lambing to an accelerated lambing operation. In that period, Wendy also raised hogs, turkeys, meat chickens, tended a vegetable garden, and hand-milked a beloved Jersey cow named Jezebel. It would be easy to say that the love of all things farming overtook her. Wendy took an interest in managed grazing and structured her farm to be as nimble as possible, in order to take advantage of any grazing opportunities that were presented. Along with the prolific, out of season breeding capabilities of her flock, Wendy endeavored to find a profitable, sustainable way to raise as many lambs as possible on a small farm with very little infrastructure.
Wendy gained almost all her sheep knowledge through her participation with the Michigan Sheep Producer’s Association. She credits the MSPA Symposium for offering high-quality producer oriented content, along with the ability to connect with other producers in her area. Wendy also participated extensively with the “Sheep for Profit” seminars put on by Richard Ehrhardt along with members of the MSPA who opened their farms for tours and instruction. As a new producer, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information one must quickly master to set up a new enterprise. The MSPA does a wonderful job of mentoring new producers.
Feeling the need to give back to the MSPA, Wendy served on the board for 2 years, focusing on the introduction of technology in order to streamline executive functions. Wendy also serves on the board of the Ingham County Farmland and Open Space Preservation Board. After a health scare in 2018, Wendy has scaled back her farming activities and now concentrates on taking her border collies to the highest levels of sheepherding competition.
The Ludlam Family
Mike and Heather Ludlam having been raising sheep for over twenty-five years on their farm, Windswept Farms, LLC in Hopkins, Michigan. Mike is a retired DNR Conservation Officer and is now serving as the Allegan County MAEAP Technician. Heather is a veterinarian and operates her own mixed practice. They have three children, Samantha, Alexander, and Joseph who have all been involved with sheep production throughout the years.
The Ludlams got their start in the sheep industry after the third day they moved into their current farm. Heather was an associate veterinarian at the time and while on a farm call, was given a Shetland ram. Soon For about twenty years the Ludlam family raised Shetland sheep exclusively and showed them across the nation. In 2011, a flock of club lambs and a flock of commercial white-face cross ewes were started on the farm as well. Today, the commercial flock has grown to approximately 150 ewes, and both the club and Shetland flocks have been significantly condensed.
Currently, the Ludlam family is also involved in a project, called the GM1 Project, in which they are raising sheep for medical research. The sheep they are raising as a part of this project have a condition called gangliosidosis in which they overproduce a lipid in the brain. This lipid can be harvested and use for the treatment of diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s. The project they are working with is called The Shepherd’s Gift, which is using this technology as a potential treatment for Huntington’s.
Both Mike and Heather have held various leadership positions in the sheep industry throughout the years. Mike served as President of the North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Association for five years, and Heather as Vice President for three. Today, both Mike and Heather serve as members of the Michigan Sheep Producers Association small flock committee, and Heather is completing her second term on the Board of Directors. As small producers and first-generation sheep producers, the Ludlam family also recognizes the value of mentors. Mike and Heather are both more than willing to share their experiences and expertise with other young and up and coming producers; contact Heather at email@example.com if you are interested.