2012 Lamb Bonanza promotes sheep industry at South Dakota State University

Kelli Fulkerson, Interim Editor
Photo by Kelli FulkersonThe four dyed wool pelts with SDSU lettering, on display before the auction.

Nearly 800 people got a taste of lamb Jan. 14 when they attended the South Dakota State University (SDSU) men’s and women’s basketball games during the 20th annual Lamb Bonanza held at Frost Arena in Brookings, SD.

The Bonanza originally began in 1993 as a dedication event for the new sheep research facility built on the University’s campus.

“We knew there were other events on campus to showcase the beef and pork industry; it was time that the sheep industry showed-off what we have to offer,” said Jeff Held, SDSU professor and extension sheep specialist.

Since the event began, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association (SDSGA), SDSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences, and SDSU Department of Athletics combined efforts to host the Lamb Bonanza. The event highlight SDSU’s support of sheep and wool production in South Dakota.

This year the Jackrabbits faced the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos. Both men and women’s teams thumped their way to victory.

Each year the SDSGA serves a lamb sample at the Bonanza to display the versatility lamb can bring to the dinner table. Samples this year were sliced leg of lamb sandwiches and lamb spread served on of crackers.

“People say to me, ‘I look forward to this every year,'” said Dianne Perry, SDSGA Promotion Chair. “We served 100 pounds of lamb in 45 minutes during last year’s (2011) Bonanza. We are sure to do it again this year”

“The samples are such a large part of this event. People have to walk right through the line to enter the arena,” said Held. “Who is going to turn down free food?”

Samples were passed out by students, sheep producers, faculty members and various community members who support the American sheep industry.

“We also feel handing out promotional material is essential to helping consumers understand the nutritional benefits that lamb has to offer,” Held said. “It’s a protein that is overlooked and we as a nation need to incorporate it back into our red meat within our diet.”

The event is not just about promotion, but also a scholarship fundraiser. During halftime of the men’s basketball game, six sheep pelts were auctioned off. Four of the pelts were emblazoned with “SDSU” lettering, while two others featured a SDSU Jackrabbit emblem. Proceeds from the pelt sales provide scholarships to undergraduate students in the SDSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences as well as the SDSU Department of Athletics.

These pelts are truly one-of-a-kind in the sense that they are dyed SDSU school color yellow and blue, rather than left their natural pelt color. Before pelts ever see the South Dakota plains, they take a journey.

“We have to order the pelts from a distributor in Texas that dyes pelts professionally. Then they are sent to a woman in Iowa that emblazons them with the logos (only person that does this in the U.S.),” explained Held. “I truly believe the success of this auction is because of the unique product we have to offer.”

Held’s assumption is correct with one repeat buyer, Tom Wilt. Wilt has bought a pelt from the SDSU Lamb Bonanza for the past 11 years consecutively.

The 2012 pelt auction averaged $550 each. The SDSGA, SDSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences and SDSU Department of Athletics would like to invite you to attend the 2013 Lamb Bonanza and witness all that this industry has to offer.