Sharon Krause is at the wheel of a large four-wheel drive pickup, maneuvering through narrow gates and bouncing over the rough terrain of 153 acres of rolling hills and shady draws in Dallas County.

“If you asked my parents what I wanted to do when I grew up, they would say slop hogs,” she said. Instead, she is tending a flock of 350 Katahdin sheep, a breed that grows hair rather than wool and that Krause selected because of its resistance to parasites.

“I really wanted a low-maintenance, low-stress herd,” Krause said.

Under Krause’s care, they also are hardy enough to survive blistering heat and late-spring blizzards. Ewes gave birth to 49 lambs in the fields of her Dalla Terra Ranch during a rare May snowstorm.

Krause is an engineer by education. She was the first female engineer hired at Des Moines’ Firestone Agricultural Tire Co. She helped coordinate Metro Waste Authority’s Curb It! recycling program while working there as an environmental specialist. She has worked in business development at Kum & Go LC, where her husband, Kyle, is president and CEO.

In 2006, she launched the sheep operation with the intent of developing a herd that would be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The herd has been certified, as have the 153 acres of grassland where they graze.

With the exception of an intern who helps out in the summer, Dalla Terra Ranch is a one-woman operation. Krause is nurturing remnant native prairies back to life, sampling the wild plums and raspberries that grow in the draws, and ridding the landscape of invasive trees and plants that are not native to Iowa.

“I have always had strong interests in healthy eating, land conservation, outdoor living and livestock in general,” she said. “As a young person, I dreamed of running livestock, so starting Dalla Terra Ranch allowed me to marry many of my personal passions into a professional career.”

On the Krause family’s 130-acre “home place” near Booneville, Krause has an organic garden and apple orchard. She also raises chickens and is a beekeeper.

She takes an engineer’s analytical approach to the sheep operation, culling about 10 percent of the herd every year when the critters show signs of weaknesses. Every detail of the operation goes into a database that she analyses for strengths and weaknesses in the herd.

Krause is more than a shepherd. Ask her whether she has any hobbies, and she is hard-pressed to identify one. Her endeavors become full-time tasks. She has taken classical violin lessons for the last 18 months, and was undeterred when asked to perform with the Ken Arlen Orchestra at this year’s Bravo Gala, which she chaired. The event set a record by selling out 138 tables, with Krause selling more tables than the rest of her group combined.

“She is completely committed to excellence in all aspects of her life,” said Michelle Gowdy, director of community and academic relations for DuPont Pioneer.