Increasing Sheep Flock Profitability for New and Experienced Producers

Dennis DeWitt, Livestock, Northwest Iowa


The educational needs of sheep producers are more diverse depending on if you are a relatively new or an experienced and expanding sheep producer.


Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and the Northwest Iowa Sheep Producers Association planned two lambing times in the barn workshops and an advanced seminar for selecting breeding stock for economically important traits. Through a competitive grant program the Iowa Lamb and Wool Promotion Board provided $1,100 in funding.


Twenty-seven individuals attended the two lambing time barn meetings at Mark & Lori Loutsch farm, LeMars. Ewe flock size ranged from 18 to 400. Fifteen of the producers plan on expanding ewe flock size in the next three years. Fifteen out of 19 producers rated their overall satisfaction with this program as excellent. Seventeen different ideas were identified as most important or re-enforced from the workshop. Fourteen new ideas were identified as going to be put into practice in the current lambing season. Nineteen producers indicated that the lambing workshop increased income level by $5,150. Twenty sheep producers with flock size ranging from 25 to 1000 attended an all day seminar studying the economically important traits for selecting breeding stock. For over 35 years, sheep genetic research at Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska has identified the economically important traits of raising sheep. Commercial sheep production profitability and efficiency can be improved markedly by implementation of research results. Seventeen producers completed a pre- and post-test to measure increased knowledge from attending the seminar. There was a 17% increase in knowledge of genetic resistance in Scrapie; a 26% increase in knowing differences among breeds; a 27% increase in knowing the challenges for improving maternal traits; a 31% increase in understanding the National Sheep Improvement Program; a 36% increase in knowledge of using EPDs in ram selection; a 39% increase in knowledge for understanding the relative performance of breeds for key traits affecting efficiency; and a 47% increase knowledge of the superior reproduction of the Romanov-sired ewes. Fifteen different ideas were identified as the most important being learned today. Ten new changes in the producer’s sheep genetic improvement program will be implemented. Thirteen producers indicated that the changes in their sheep program were estimated to have increased $9,850 in their operation.

August 30, 2005
121 -- Adding Value and Enhancing Agricultural Products

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