Sheep specialists are optimistic about the future of the industry |

Sheep specialists are optimistic about the future of the industry

Gayle Smith
for Tri-State Livestock News
At the conclusion of the convention, SDSGA held an auction. One producer takes a careful look at what items will be auctioned off. Photo by Gayle Smith

The take home message was one of optimism and excitement for the future of the U.S. sheep and wool industry. Nearly 100 producers attended the Northern Plains Sheep Symposium and the 75th Annual South Dakota Sheep Growers Association convention last week in Lead, SD. These producers learned about everything from lamb and wool markets to how to strengthen their winter feeding plans and management programs on their own operations.

The two-day event kicked off with Dr. Rodney Kott and Dr. Lisa Surber of Montana State University talking about the importance of selecting superior rams to improve the genetic performance of the flock. According to Surber, ranchers should be working toward producing at least a 200 percent lamb crop, and raising lambs with better genetics that are more efficient in growth and will gain and grade well. She also discussed progress towards developing reliable EPDs in the sheep industry that producers could use to help them select the most efficient rams for their operation.

Improving lamb health

Dr. Larry Goelz, DVM with Pipestone Vet Clinic in Minnesota, discussed improving lamb health and survival. “If you plan to be in the business for the next 20 years, you need to make money,” he said. “To continue to be profitable you need to do what you are doing now better.”

During his presentation, Goelz discussed how the role of the veterinarian has changed as the popularity of cell phones and computers continue to skyrocket. Goelz told producers to work with a veterinarian they trust, and to not be afraid to cut open an animal when it dies to take photos that can be sent to the veterinarian. Goelz said many times he is able to tell a producer why a lamb died just by looking at photos the producer sent to his phone. It can save lives. “It is my job to find the tools and recommendations to maximize sheep health and productivity, while utilizing labor efficiently for my clients,” he explained.

Goelz also discussed the importance of providing the ewe with proper nutrition so she can produce a healthy lamb. “The health of the ewe can impact the health of the lamb,” Goelz explained. “Once pregnant, the ewe will sacrifice herself to provide for the lamb.” Producers need to monitor the body condition of the ewe through pregnancy and lactation. He discussed how to create a healthy environment for lambing, and what conditions cause lamb mortality during the first few weeks of after birth.

Create a health management strategy

During Saturday’s SDSGA annual convention, Goelz spoke to the group about creating a health management strategy to increase the number of lambs marketed. “My strategy is based on the premise that it is easier, cheaper and less labor intensive to prevent disease than to treat or cure it,” he said.

Goelz told producers it is critical to develop an effective health management plan, write it down, and post it in the barn for the rest of the family and employees to follow. Goelz said by doing this, each member of the operation will be following the same treatment protocol, instead of everyone giving different medications or treating animals differently, he said.

It is important to control the health of the flock by quarantining new animals, and never mixing pregnant ewes that have been in the flock with new arrivals. Goelz encouraged producers to pay careful attention to what vaccines they are giving ewes, and do what they can to prevent abortions. Contagious abortions like Campylobacter and Chlamydia can be devastating, Goelz told producers. He encourages vaccination of replacement ewe lambs for Campylobacter two to four weeks prior to breeding, and then give them an annual booster shot.

Developing a feed plan

During the conference, Dr. Reid Redden, NDSU sheep specialist, and Dr. Chris Schauer, director of the NDSU Hettinger Research and Extension Center, talked about feed resources and winter feed supplementation, while Brian Sebade of the University of Wyoming gave an update on his Forage kochia research.

During Saturday’s activities, the SDSGA celebrated their 75th annual convention with speakers from the American Lamb Board and the American Sheep Industry talking about ways they are working to strengthen lamb consumption and the sheep industry.

Dr. Rodney Kott of Montana State University updated the group on some growth in the domestic wool industry that will benefit sheep producers in the United States.

During a noon luncheon, Dr. Jeff Held, SDSU state extension sheep specialist, recognized the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers and presented them with a plaque. He recognized 2012 Feeder Lamb Producers Clay and Molly Olson of Newell, and Lamb to Finish Producers, Joel and Bonnie Foster of Brookings.

Held and SDSU extension sheep field specialist, Dave Ollila, also updated producers on ongoing research and new sheep programs at SDSU during Saturday’s event. The day concluded with a banquet featuring American lamb, an auction, and the South Dakota State Make-It-Yourself-With-Wool contest.