Re-Build Committee Makes Progress Over Past Year
By Amy Trinidad
Sheep Industry News Editor
(March 1, 2012) Clint Krebs, American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) vice president and chair of the Re-build the Sheep Inventory Committee, kicked off the committee meeting at the annual convention by stating, “Over the last 12 months, I have seen an overwhelming response of sheep producers wanting to grow their flock. The positive aspect of the Let’s Grow initiative is that producers are helping producers, it’s a self-help program and it’s really been rewarding.”
All committee members in attendance provided comments on what they have experienced in regards to industry growth in their part of the country, some of the comments follow.
Bill Sparrow Jr., North Carolina, said, “There are three things that are driving growth in the southeast: 1) there is a core group of active folks centered on the club lamb industry; 2) meat sheep producers are seeing growth selling into the ethnic markets; and 3) there are pockets of folks participating in the high-end fiber business.”
“Last year’s high prices put a capital infusion into the industry and we needed it,” said Greg Ahart, California.
Rob Rule from Iowa said, “We are seeing a growth in the industry in the Midwest. A great number of ewes came into our area last fall, producers are increasing their numbers and we are seeing some producers come back into the business.”
A committee member from North Dakota, Wes Limesand, said, “We are seeing people looking to change their operations for better production results. The enthusiasm and interest about growing the industry has been tremendous.”
Over the past year, Jay Parsons, Ph.D., associate director of the Western Center for Integrated Resource Management at Colorado State University and owner of Optimal Ag Consulting Inc., has been working on a couple committee initiatives – a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grant, a sheep education catalogue and new producer toolkit.
The grant, which was submitted to USDA last November, will help develop a national program to bring the opportunities of the sheep industry to beginning farmers and ranchers on a regional level. If granted, the program will address entrepreneurship and business training, diversification and marketing, up-to-date production technologies, risk management tools and record keeping for success and sustainability of the business enterprise. Mentorship of the trainees will be a key component in the success of this program and provided by experienced producers in their specific area of interest.
“This grant is the lone opportunity at USDA, beyond the sheep center, to help support the Let’s Grow campaign. We ought to be a perfect fit for the program and we hope to hear this spring if we are approved for extra funds to support expansion of the sheep business,” explained Peter Orwick, ASI executive director.
The 2012 draft edition of the Sheep Education Catalog has been created and according to Parson will soon be available electronically on ASI’s Let’s Grow website, www.growourflock.org . The work to compile this information was supported by the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center’s Sheep and Goat Industry grant initiative with the assistance of ASI and provides a one-stop place for sheep producers looking for way to learn about sheep production, whether it be with online courses, extension programs, sheep symposiums and conferences or a home-study course.
“This draft is a baseline document and we will continually be updating and adding to it,” Parsons explained.
Rodney Kott, Ph.D., extension sheep specialist at Montana State University, spoke to the committee about developing a community of practice for sheep on eXtension, an interactive learning environment delivering the most researched knowledge from land-grant universities about specific resource areas. Currently, there is not a sheep group on this site, www.extension.org ; however, Kott and the committee are looking to change that.
“eXtension fits well into the Let’s Grow and mentor programs that have been and are being developed,” explained Kott, who said a proposal has been submitted to develop a sheep community practice on the site.
The next step for Kott will be to identify a group of researchers that develops the topics and determines what materials need to be made available on the site. He hopes that there will be a sheep community practice on the site by the end of this year.
The committee also received a run down on the Let’s Grow media relations campaign that occurred last fall. The objective of this campaign was to build a relationship with agricultural media and utilize this source as a way to help tell the Let’s Grow story. The strategy developed to achieve this objective was to host a media event in six targeted states, and through ASI and state representatives, provide a clear understanding of the industry’s situation and vision for growth.
The states that were identified were Tennessee, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana and California. From these events, ASI was able to garner 92 editorial placements online, in print, on air and through social media outlets which converted to 65 pages of editorial coverage, 60 minutes of broadcast coverage and more than 5.5 million impressions.
To read some of the press that was developed through these events and watch a video pertaining more details about the media events, go to www.growourflock.org .
Over the past year, the re-build committee made $1,000 grants available to state associations to help in the development of state-wide mentor program. To date, 29 of the grants have been distributed. The committee also decided to help fund a proposal from South Dakota that grew out of the Let’s Grow initiative to help grow the sheep industry in that state, called SheepSD.
Dave Ollilia, South Dakota State University’s extension sheep field specialist, presented a funding proposal to the committee at the convention.
The goals of SheepSD are to:
- help potential and beginning sheep ranchers enter and expand into the sheep industry;
- provide mentorship from current successful sheep ranchers for beginning sheep ranchers;
- develop production and management skills for producer efficiency, profitability and sustainability;
- establish perpetual learning communities of sheep producers that will continue to seek knowledge and skills toward becoming progressive and prosperous ranchers; and
- gain perspective of the global sheep industry and participate in marketing of industry products.
“The primary outcome of the project will be the successful establishment of beginning sheep ranchers that participate as financially, ecologically and social sustainable ranchers, land stewards and leaders of their communities,” said Ollilia when explaining the program.
Ollilia explained that through the spring and summer, he will be seeking 45 sheep producers with less than 15 years experience to apply and participate in the three-year educational program. By September, they plan to announce the participants. A more in-depth story regarding the program will be highlighted in the April issue of Sheep Industry News .
Krebs closed the committee meeting with a call to the industry for funding proposals that have the goals of the Let’s Grow initiative in mind, stating, “This committee has come a long way over the past year and we are now looking for other good ideas in which to grow this industry.”