Families recognized as 2014 Master Lamb Producers

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Three families were named as the 2014 South Dakota Master Lamb Producers during the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association Awards program luncheon in conjunction with the 77th Annual South Dakota Sheep Grower’s Convention in Brookings late September.

The 2014 South Dakota Master Lamb Producers are the following families: Kitzan Sheep/JHK Sheep – Dwight and Gwendolyn Kitzan and Joshua and Heather Kitzan of Nisland; Marshall Sheep Company – Barret and Kristin Marshall Family of Arlington and father and son duo, Alan and Seth Evenson of Toronto.

“These families were selected based on excellence in sheep production practices and management skills,” said Dr. Jeff Held, SDSU Extension Sheep Specialist and Executive Secretary for the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association. Held further explained the awards program gives public recognition for their achievements and provides other producers with new concepts and production efficiencies to consider for implementation.

Kitzan Sheep/JHK Sheep were recognized for outstanding accomplishments in the purebred division. The flock tallies more than 650 mature ewes including the South African Meat Merino (SAMM) and Suffolk breeds.

The SAMM line was developed over the past 20 years using artificial insemination with imported semen from genetically superior Australian stud rams. Both SAMM and Suffolk animals on this ranch are evaluated for economically important performance traits and indexed to identify superior genetic merits. Performance records serve as the primary criteria to select flock replacements and used extensively in marketing rams and ewes to commercial range sheep producers.

This flock has earned a national reputation for producing predictable performance based genetics designed for range sheep operations.

Marshall Sheep Farm from Arlington, is also a purebred operation. For more than 30 years this operation has developed a national reputation for outstanding quality Rambouillet sheep. They have exhibited numerous champions and class winners at state fairs in the Upper Midwest, the annual National Rambouillet show and sale, and at the North American Livestock Exposition held each November at Louisville, Ky.

In the past 10 years the Marshall’s have added a purebred Hampshire flock and were awarded an Oxford breed starter flock in 2010 from the National Oxford Sheep Association.

“The Marshall Sheep Farm stock exhibited or offered in regional and national sales is always top of the line quality and exceptionally well presented and fitted,” Held said.

To expand their seed stock marketing opportunities the Marshalls rely on Facebook to post pictures of animals available for sale privately and entries consigned to national sales.

Evenson commercial lamb-to-finish operation began less than 10 years ago with a current mature ewe flock of 200 head on their eastern South Dakota farm. In a relatively short period they have developed a highly prolific flock of ewes and gained the management skills to excel in lamb finishing practices.

To achieve a high level of flock performance, this year the lamb crop weaned was 190 percent, they have selected superior performance based genetics to create replacement stock from both prolific and maternal breeds including the Finn, Dorset and Polypay.

The operation plans to expand to 1,000 ewes in the next five to seven years; this fall they will expose 400-head of ewes already doubling the number from 2014.

“It is clear this management partnership understands a key to successful flock expansion will be dependent on superior quality maternal lines that are both prolific and excel in milk production,” Held said.

As the Evenson’s grow their flock, they have been eager to gain more knowledge on improved sheep management practices and to implement labor saving concepts.

“SDSU Extension staff and membership in the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program have been invaluable sources of knowledge and advice in the development of their sheep operation,” Held said.

The event was hosted by the S.D. Master Lamb Producers Association and supported by the following program sponsors: Badger Farmer’s Co-op, Center of the Nation Wool, Inc., Faith Livestock, Farm Credit Services of America, Hub City Livestock Auction, Inc., Menno Livestock, Purina Nutrition, Volga, S.D. Livestock Foundation, S.D. Sheep Growers Association, SGS, Inc., Sioux Falls Regional Livestock, Sydell, Inc., St. Onge Livestock/Newell Sheep Yards, and Van Well Sheep Buying Station.