Hopland Research Center Reducing Sheep Flock

For more than 65 years, the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center has been well known as one of the last large-scale sheep ranches and research facilities in the northwest. The sheep's woolly forms are a familiar sight against the backdrop of the 5,358-acre site, well loved by the community for school field trips during the lambing season and for the sheepdog trials in the fall.

This summer, the HREC flock will be reduced from 500 breeding ewes to approximately 125, and the full-time shepherd position will be cut. The sheep will be sold at auction on the site on Monday, June 3. The sale will allow sealed bids from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., with a minimum lot size of 20 animals. This reduction echoes a change that can been seen across the state in flock size and management styles.

The sheep population in Mendocino County has fallen from 140,000 in 1954 to 10,400 in 2018, and statewide sheep numbers have fallen from 2,034,000 in 1954 to 550,000 at the end of 2018. As California flock numbers have declined, so has sheep research interest and funding.

Magnifying the impact of these changes, HREC is facing a significant reduction in funding from the University of California system. HREC is one of nine research and extension centers under the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources division which has seen significant budget challenges in the last few years due to flat state funding.

Overall, budget reductions of $3.1 million from central funding across the REC system are planned, and HREC's share of these cuts will amount to more than 30 percent of its budget. The scale of this budget reduction is driving a statewide reevaluation of priorities and strategic decisions about where ANR should allocate limited funds to best meet its mission of strengthening the health of California's people, communities, food systems and environment.

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Source: Ukiah Daily Journal