After Afghan nationals relocated to Loudoun County as part of Operation Allies Welcome, they requested assistance from VCE Loudoun in learning and developing best management practices for sheep production in Virginia.

In response to these requests, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Jim Hilleary coordinated extension agents from across the state to form the Afghan Shepherd Program (ASP). The program includes a series of online and in-person sessions that address sheep production, marketing and processing. All written materials are translated and printed in Dari; all verbal instruction is also presented in Dari.

The sessions provide an introductory overview of topics such as handling facilities and infrastructure, sheep health, nutrition, parasites, predators, genetics and reproduction.  In-person classes have been hosted at the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Education Center.  Field trips to the livestock auction in Madison and Virginia State University’s Mobile Processing Center in Petersburg are also planned. 

Organizers of the Afghan Shepherd Program expect to develop future courses focused on the technical aspects of business marketing and financial management. Additionally, the program may expand to include other topics. Some of the Afghan nationals have requested assistance exploring the production of saffron in Virginia as well as assistance in importing traditional livestock unique to Afghanistan, including Baluchi and Zel sheep.

To learn more about VCE Loudoun programs, visit

The Afghan Shepherd Program was made possible by six VCE county units, two departments from Virginia Tech’s (VT) College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, one VT Agricultural Research and Extension Center (AREC), Virginia State University’s (VSU) College of Agriculture, VSU’s Agricultural Research Center, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s (VMCVM) Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development (LC DED).