76th annual South Dakota Sheep Growers Convention

Farm Forum

Many of you know that I was raised as a cattle producer, so I gladly accepted the invitation to expand my knowledge and attend the 76th annual Sheep Growers Convention in Brookings. It was well worth the trip.

We toured the VanWell Sheep Operation by Watertown. This is a very impressive operation with excellent facilities, innovative feeding techniques and extensive marketing capabilities. Not only is this a 3,000 head commercial ewe lambing facility, but it is also a large scale finishing operation. Each week the VanWells market up to 1500 finished lambs to packers. These market lambs come from their own ewes as well as their weekly purchases of additional sheep from local markets that they have finished in their feedlot.

Next we toured the SDSU Sheep Unit. Our large group was divided into 4 smaller groups to get better hands-on experience with: Working Dogs (Tim Flint), Sheep Research (Dr. Jeff Held, SDSU), Lambing Time Management (Dr. Larry Goetz, SDSU), and also Wool/Fleece Grading (Larry Prager). This provided an excellent hands-on experience of the stages from start to finish in the sheep industry.

One of my favorite highlights was the “Taste of Lamb.” The meal we had that night was outstanding. The next time you are grocery shopping, I would strongly encourage you to pick up some lamb!

On Saturday it was a full day with educational meetings featuring both local and national speakers. I was able to listen to Dave Ollila, SDSU Field Sheep Specialist, discuss the opportunities with his SD Sheep Program and also to Dr. Redden, NDSU Sheep Specialist, on sheep industry opportunities and advances.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable and educational weekend well spent. It definitely has given me a better understanding of how I can assist the clients that are in our program and also in the sheep industry. Contact the South Dakota Center for Farm Ranch Management at 1-800-684-1969 or David Koupal at 605-995-7193 or email David.Koupal@mitchelltech.edu.