CHRISTIAN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Central Illinois is not known as sheep country, but one of the top sheep breeders in the country is tucked away in northern Christian County.

“I started in the sheep business when I was 4 years old.”

That’s Darrell Hall, whose purebred sheep operation is between Stonington and Moweaqua. It all started when his older brother wanted out of the sheep business.

“I purchased them from my older brother and that started me in the sheep business. We run approximately 60 head of ewes, give or take a few ewes each year. We’ve been in the purebred Oxford business; we started in the fall of 1979,” Hall said. “The top oxford breeder in the United States sold out on Thanksgiving weekend of 1979 and we purchased 10 of his top breeding sheep and that’s what got us started in the Oxfords. And we’ve had over 25 national champions since 1980 and over 25 national reserve champions since 1980.

How do you do that?

“A complete, sound breeding program, and a lotta luck,” Hall said. “We’ve had four Supreme Champion females over all breeds at the North American International Livestock show. No other breeder has had more. No other breeder has had more national champions in a breed than we have.

And he is passing down all of that expertise to Lydia Pol of Murrayville.

“It’s really nice,” Pol said. “He likes to describe and he helps you decide what you want and how you make decisions.”

Give me an example of judging this lamb. If you were looking at all these lambs, tell me why you might like that one.

“I like this lamb. He’s got a nice, big bone structure. He’s square in his hips, his tail sets high,” Pol observed. “He’s got a good hip-loin junction, clean fronted, nice depth of body. His rump structure is nice.”

You would take him home, then?

“Yes,” Pol responded.

And that’s how young sheep breeders get started.