Improving Sheep Flock Profitability

Dennis L. DeWitt, Livestock Field Specialist, Northwest

Problem Statement:     

Over the past 60 years, the number of sheep and lambs in the United States has declined; a fact attributed to a confluence of forces.  Despite the downward trend, the domestic sheep industry had taken steps towards transforming itself into a more efficient, competitive industry.

Programmatic Response:

A regional northwest Iowa meeting with 28 producers attending showed that with a concerted industry effort and focus on new technologies, products and markets, the downward trend can be stopped and possibly reversed.  To show and tell these industry efforts, a follow-up producer tour of 4 sheep operations was attended by 52 persons.  The 4 producers were utilizing many of the new technologies and markets to increase profit per ewe.  Another technology is the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP).  Designed to provide information for everyone from industry veterans to newcomers in sheep production, the northwest Iowa NSIP event continues to grow in size and popularity, drawing participants from far and near. “The people of NSIP who consign to this event are so willing to talk, to share information and to help someone who is new to this business,” said Janet Gibbs of Benson, Ill.

The combination of one stop-shopping for whiteface, blackface and hair sheep in a single location on a single day backed by NSIP EPDs has proven very popular with buyers and consignors. In addition, every animal, with the exception of wool-breeds and hair sheep, is sold slick-shorn, so the buyer can truly see the animal’s true confirmation.

“The beauty of these sheep goes far beyond what you see to most importantly, what you get from them and their offspring in terms of genetic consistency and productivity,” said event chairman Mike Park of Woodhill Farm of Woodbine, Iowa. For the benefit of buyers, all sheep in the CNSIP sale are sold objectively on the basis of true performance, rather than simply on one person’s opinion on one day like many shows and sales. Every single animal sold at this much-talked-about industry-leading event is backed by objective NSIP data backed up by EPDs to help producers get the most for their time and money.”

Outcome Statement:     

Short-term result was buyers truly appreciate the unique national event. It’s easy to compare flocks based on NSIP data, and the best part is, you can select from good sheep all in one spot,” said David Moeller of Elm Creek Acres, Fairmont, Minn. The combination of the educational programs that provide information to help improve your herd and the chance to purchase stock to do it is very valuable,” said Jerome Nelson of Volin, S.D.

Medium-term result was in 2008, buyers from 12 states enjoyed “one-stop shopping” and purchased registered maternal and terminal sire breeds including Polypays, Suffolks, Columbias, Dorsets, Hampshires, Katahdins, and Targhees in a single setting. Those same breeds are expected to be sold at the 2009 event featuring lambs and yearling entries backed by the objectivity of NSIP records.  In the 2008 sale, 164 sheep sold, with rams averaging $509 and ewes averaging $230 per head. 

Long-term result is the fourth annual Center of the Nation NSIP Seminar and Sale (CNSIP) attracted sheep enthusiasts from 11 states to the Clay Co. Fairgrounds, Spencer, Iowa.  Educational seminars presented by Dr. Dave Thomas, Professor of Animal Sciences and Extension Sheep Specialist at the University of Wisconsin focused on how to use NSIP to enhance your flock’s productivity and bottom line.  The educational seminar precedes the sale featuring rams and ewes from the nation’s leading breeds and NSIP breeders.  This one-of-a-kind sale brings out the nation’s highest-performing breeding sheep.  “The best part of the CNSIP sale is the variety and excellent quality of sheep sold,” said buyer Vernon Meinberg of Hampton, Iowa.


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Page last updated: August 5, 2009
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