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Lisa Surber, executive secretary of the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association
Courtesy Photo
Lisa Surber, executive secretary of the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association

State's sheep industry heads into 82nd convention


News Staff - September 26, 2019

SPEARFISH, SD – Just coming off of two very successful seasonal sales,  the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association will welcome optimistic sheep producers and related service industries to its 82nd Annual Convention Sept. 27-28  in Spearfish.

“I think there’s a lot of optimism in the sheep industry right now,” observes Lisa Surber, the association’s executive secretary.

She goes on to lay out plans for this year’s event that starts with a tour of Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, Wyo. The family-operated mill, owned by Karen Hostetler, is dedicated to supporting local ranchers, ranching culture and the wool industry. They will take visitors through the mill to see the complete "sheep to shelf" process, from raw shorn wool to the hand-dyed finished yarn end-product.

The group will then tour the Boller-Mills Ranch in Wright, Wyo., owned by Travis and Traci Mills. Tour participants will learn how they manage their operation, followed by a meal at the ranch before returning to Spearfish.

Morning sessions on Sept. 28 are themed “The Many Wonders of the Wool Industry.” Featured will be updates from the American Sheep Industry, American Lamb Board, American Wool Council and South Dakota State University. Technology being increasingly used by both seedstock and commercial producers is sure to be discussed, says Surber.

“Electronic I.D. is definitely gaining a lot of interest across purebred and commercial operations,” shares Surber. “Another area that is gaining a lot of momentum is the use of estimated breeding values (or EBV’s). These are used to determine the genetics of production in gain, reproductive efficiency and wool production.”

American Sheep Industry executive director Peter Orwick, American Lamb Board vice-chairman Gwen Kitzan, Wool Council Chairman Randy Tunby and Dr. Joe Cassady, head of the Department of Animal Science at SDSU, will attend. Six wool industry leaders will visit from around the world to share their perspectives in a round-table discussion that will explore local, specialty markets all the way to international markets.

The Saturday luncheon will feature the Master Lamb Producer awards, and Dr. Jeff Held and Dave Ollila with SDSU Extension will give an update and a review of the “Power of Partnership” between South Dakota Sheep Growers Association and SDSU in the afternoon. “Dave Ollila set the precedent for all young producer programs across the country with his SheepSD program.  And while it’s not currently being funded, the residual affects from young people involved in the program – we’re still seeing that, “ says Surber.

She continues, “I think one of the brightest spots in the sheep industry right now is that more and more young people are seeking out sheep enterprises.”

The annual business meeting is the final agenda item.

Saturday evening will culminate with the annual auction and lamb banquet. The Trapper of the Year and Shepherd’s Award will be presented, followed by the South Dakota finals of the Make It With Wool contest.

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