Beth Ellen Doran , beef field specialist
One way agricultural producers can spread financial risk and add value to their farming operation is to diversify the enterprise portfolio. Ewe flock production provides this opportunity. However, ewe flock production is not without challenges, such as food safety and industry consolidation. Industry size has hampered scientific research and technical support for many of the issues prevalent in the sheep industry. Hence, producers are desperately seeking information that supports sheep production.
The Iowa Sheep and Wool Promotion Board and Iowa State University Extension have co-sponsored a series of Sheep ICN programs for four years providing opportunity for sheep producers to learn about a wide variety of sheep production topics and to interact with other producers. This year, 23 sites were offered statewide, with three (George, Hawarden and LeMars) in Northwest Iowa . The ICN programs, offered on November 13, November 27, December 11 and January 8, provided technical information on scrapies, nutrition, reproduction and health.
In NW Iowa, total attendance from all three sites ranged from 25 to 12 producers per evening session, with an average of 18 producers. The total number of sheep operations reached involved 30 families. This is down slightly from previous years. The decline may be attributed to declining market prices, with some producers exiting the industry. A few producers shared their reluctance to attend the fee-based program. One producer indicated that a flat $20 charge for the program might boost average attendance and prompt producers to attend sessions that, while they on't feel a need or have an interest in, might actually benefit them.
An evaluation was collected at the conclusion of the fourth session and compiled for NW Iowa. Over 45% of the respondents had attended all four sessions and requested that four sessions be offered yearly in subsequent years.
Five dollars was charged for each ICN session. However, 36% estimated the value of the programs to be $5-$50. Another 27% indicated that the value ranged from $50 to $100. Nine percent indicated the value to be $100-$500.
Important ideas obtained from this year's ICN programs encompassed foot baths, the scrapies issue, ram breeding soundness and pre-lambing management for mastitis prevention. More than 90% of the respondents indicated that they planned to make adjustments in their sheep operation. Changes cited included testing rams for reproductive soundness, eradicating foot rot from ewes and usingcorrect procedures for treating mastitis.
With new government regulations just issued on scrapies, to be expected, the session best attended was November 13th, which featured the National Scrapie Eradication Program and mandatory identification. This topic has since expanded educational efforts toward 4-H'ers enrolled in the sheep project.
Page last updated:
July 11, 2006
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