BILLINGS – When most people travel to Hawaii it’s to experience the state’s beautiful tropical weather and tourist attractions. But that’s not the case for one Montana State University Ag Extension Agent and his family from Miles City.
“No, we’re not at a resort,” said MSU Custer County Ag Extension Agent Mike Schuldt. “We’re actually shearing sheep on the Kahua Ranch.”
Schuldt said it was actually a special invite from a fellow shearer that started his journey to the Kahua Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii.
“Keith Braaten from Hobson has been coming over here for the past 16 years shearing the sheep here and he invites people to come along every year just to have the experience and I guess this was my year to come," Schuldt said. "It’s one of the biggest cattle ranches here on the Big Island and they also have the biggest bunch of sheep here which they raise for the direct market into the restaurant trade here on the Island.”
He says believe or not, the wool that they sheared actually has a connection to Montana.
“It’s quite a bit different here,” said Schuldt. “It rains every day and the grass is green all year long. These sheep are a little bit different than what we have in Montana. But it’s essentially the same because they grow wool and we shear the same pattern and harvest it. The wool they grow here is actually put in a container and shipped back to Montana for Center of the Nation Wool to market for them.”
He says fewer and fewer people are learning the art of shearing sheep.
“It’s getting pretty slim," he said. "We teach a school every year, but it seems like there’s becoming less of us all the time. There certainly aren’t any sheep shearers on the island that want to do the work.”
Mike’s wife Cheryl and son Chris were also able to travel to the Big Island as part of the experience.