Josh Pecukonis turns dreams into business, future

Senior+Josh+Pecukonis+observes+his+flock+on+his+farm+north+of+Great+Falls.

Senior Josh Pecukonis observes his flock on his farm north of Great Falls.

Christina Christianson

Senior Josh Pecukonis observes his flock on his farm north of Great Falls.

It is with pride that senior Josh Pecukonis surveys the small flock of sheep on his family’s farm north of Great Falls.

They mean much more to him than simply a way to be involved in 4-H; they represent his future, and he has wasted no time in getting his business – All Smiles Navajo-Churro Sheep, Rabbitry and Poultry – started.

 Pecukonis takes care of sheep, rabbits, birds, cats, and one guard llama. Of all his animals, Pecukonis said he is proudest of his sheep and rabbits.

 “[They] are my own line,” he said.

Pecukonis got started shearing sheep after his family acquired four of them 11 years ago.

“We always called for someone to do it for us, and sheep shearers are in low supply,” he said. As a result, as Pecukonis acquired and bred more sheep, he said he decided to pursue a shearing certification by taking a class through Montana State University in Bozeman.

“The class was three days long,” Pecukonis said. After those three days he knew how to use his electric shears and had earned his certification. Today, he shears his flock about twice a year.

Pecukonis also breeds his sheep, which are registered with the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association. The baby lambs are then sold online through his websitehttp://allsmilessheep.webs.com — and the wool is sold online on eBay and Craigslist.

“The nice thing about Churros is that [their wool] is beautiful naturally,” Pecukonis’ mother, Anita Pecukonis, said.

The Pecukonis farm currently is home to 32 female sheep (ewes) and nine male sheep (rams). They have this many sheep for “genetic diversity,” Pecukonis said. After a while they will acquire other rams from different flocks to keep the gene pool varied.

“Sheep are a triple purpose breed; milk, meat, and wool,” Pecukonis said. While he sells the wool, Pecukonis also makes goat-milk products such as soap that he sells on his site.

Along with sheep, Pecukonis also breeds rabbits. He has more than 60 rabbits altogether, including  a large number of meat rabbits, or New Zealands.

“These are the same as the Cadbury bunny,” he said.

Pecukonis’ pride in his animals doesn’t stop at home. He is a member of 4-H and actively shows his breeds at both 4-H shows and the local fair.

Pecukonis plans to go to school this fall at MSU-Bozeman to double major in Animal Science and Horticulture. His ultimate goal, after college, is to “open a plant nursery and have animals on the side.” Pecukonis already has his own greenhouse and has spoken to the Montana Legislature about his work and the National Flower Growers Convention, which was held in Great Falls.

“He has lots of little flower friends all over,”

his mother said.

Pecukonis takes much of the responsibilityfor his animals.

“I can feed all the sheep, rabbits, and birds in 45 minutes,” he said.

His parents help take care of the animals when Pecukonis goes to his part-time job at Big R. His parents will keep his sheep after he leaves for college, but many of his birds and rabbits are currently for sale.

 “He is high maintenance,” Pecukonis’ mother said. “We have orders like every day, but if we didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t do it.”