South Dakota Sheep Growers Association sees cause for optimism

South Dakota Sheep Growers Association
Farm Forum

The South Dakota Sheep Growers Association met for the 81st time for their annual convention in Brookings Sept. 28-29.

Friday morning activities began at the South Dakota State University Animal Science Arena with in-depth workshops designed to help producers with: marketing and selection utilizing ultrasound technology; learn more about lamb cuts and processing; and ultimately improve their bottom line. Attendees then rotated through several educational presentations in the afternoon which included: grazing management and cover crops; predator management resources; NRCS rainfall simulator; lambing time management and wool quality improvement.

Friday evening featured a “Lamb Lover’s Social.” A wide variety of lamb appetizers were offered and proved to be a huge hit. The family-friendly social featured a lamb BBQ Bootcamp, trade show booths, a fun speed shearing contest, and a special guest appearance by Miss South Dakota, Carrie Wintel.

The convention held a trade show on both Friday and Saturday, which provided plenty of opportunities for lamb and wool producers to network with others and meet with industry leaders from the region.

Saturday morning the main program began with Dr. Jeff Held and Dave Ollila reviewing current research & extension programs at SDSU. The SDSGA and SDSU Extension has a long-standing partnership supporting the activities of the South Dakota sheep industry. Chris Diaz, USDA-AMS, reviewed lamb and wool prices. South Dakota fine wools have seen record prices in 2018 and indications look for that trend to hold for the upcoming 2019 shearing season. Regionally, average wool prices were around $3 greasy, a dollar more than last years reported prices. Peter Orwick, the American Sheep Industry executive director, covered current issues and sheep industry updates. Jim Percival, American Lamb Board president, reviewed priorities for lamb promotions. Trends in the lamb industry were discussed by Steve DeGroot (Sioux Falls Regional Livestock) and Mike Caskey (Pine Lawn Farms). The overlying theme from all speakers was there is much to look forward to in 2019.

The South Dakota Master Lamb Producer Association luncheon highlighted two award winning sheep operations for 2018. This awards program has been in existence for more than 35 years. Tom and Marilyn Schwebach are from Egan, S.D. The Schwebach operation runs 850 Ile de France ewes with OPP-free status. They manage their pasture system with a dynamic grazing management plan established 15 years ago with the partnership of SD Grasslands Coalition. The Ile De France ewes are a highly prolific, maternal breed. They provide both finished lambs and replacement females. The Erk Ranch from Newell, SD was established in 1912, currently running 300 registered ewes and 750 commercial Rambouillet ewes, providing quality registered Rambouillet rams nationally. The Erk’s have focused on wool quality improvement driven by use of objective measures of quality, Dakota Ram Test performance results, and linebreeding practices. In recent years, the ranch has implemented more performance based selection with NSIP flock records enabled by a Shearwell data system. Dr. Jeff Held, SDSU Extension sheep specialist explained, “These two operations are outstanding examples, showcasing the quality of the South Dakota sheep industry; and what makes it even better is that they have the next generation involved to move forward into the future.”

Saturday was capped off with the evening social, live and silent auction (proceeds used for education and promotion activities), and the “Make it with Wool” style show and SDSGA awards banquet — featuring fresh American lamb from Strauss Brands.

Trapper of the Year was awarded to Brent Vander Ley, of Chamberlain, S.D. Steve Clements, ASI’s Predator Management Committee chairman, stated, “Brent has been with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks for over 20 years and works tirelessly on the sheep producers behalf.”

The SDSGA presented Sioux Falls Regional Livestock, Todd Nordmann and Steve DeGroot, with the Shepherd’s Award for their outstanding support of the sheep industry in South Dakota.

The South Dakota state finals for the Make It With Wool contest were held on Saturday during the SDSGA convention. The MIWW winners were announced during the evening banquet. The winner in the pre-teen category was Lexy Faulhaber of Plankinton. In the junior category, with the winner advancing to the National MIWW contest in New Orleans, first prize went to Cortney Olinger of Plankinton. Senior winner Susan Roth of Parkston cannot attend the National MIWW contest so the alternate, Allison Duerre of Bristol, will be going to New Orleans. In the adult division, Anna Erk of Newell was the winner.

Professional Koreen Anderson of Lemmon was chosen as South Dakota representative in the National MIWW. She now submits her garment and a video of her modeling for official judging.

In the “made for others” division, winner Denise Muntefering of Dimock created adorable outfits for her three grandchildren. Haile Stuck of Brentford spun the yarn from her own sheep and made a finger knitted scarf to win the wearable accessory division. In the South Dakota special contest, Stephanie McCord of White Lake won the challenge division, Barb Hoff of Madison won the quilt division, Charlette Kvale of Lemmon won the novelty division, Mina Doerner of Brookings won the knitted accessory division.

During the annual business meeting, members of the SDSGA elected 3 new directors to 4 year terms. Kris Schweigert of Gregory, Lisa Dennert of Frederick, and Scott Kilber of Ipswich will fill the vacated director seats left open by Steve Clements, Tom Dosch, and Tim Flint. Rufus DeZeeuw of Elkton, completed his two-year term as president while Wade Kopren of Bison was elected as the incoming president.

To learn more about South Dakota Sheep Growers Associations contact Dr. Lisa Surber at or go to

South Dakota Sheep Growers Association elects new directors and executive board during annual convention in Brookings. Front row, from left: Rufus DeZeeuw (past-president, District 10), John Erk (treasurer, District 3), Lisa Surber (executive secretary), Tammy Basel (District 4), Scott Kilber (at-large, East), Bill Fuller (secretary, District 9), Tom Manning (District 12). Back Row, from left: Lisa Dennert (District 8), Jon Beastrom (2nd vice president, District 7), Wade Kopren (incoming president, At Large –West), Jim Van Dyke (1st vice president, District 11) Max Matthews (District 2) and Lynn Perry (Co-chair East Promotions). Missing: Estelle Cook (District 5), Dustin Vining (District 1) and Dallis Basel (co-chair West Promotions).