"This year at the American Sheep Industry Association convention in Reno, we developed and implemented an expansion plan for the sheep industry," High says. "One of things we're going to focus on is expanding the flock in Ohio."
The strategic plan, and renewed focus on expanding the Ohio flock, is a result of a significant imbalance in supply and demand of lamb. Demand for lamb is strong, and supplies to fulfill that market are very tight.
Naturally, a growth in demand without a corresponding result in supply leads to strong prices. The problem, however, is a long-term concern over having enough lamb to fill the market.
"If we don't get some sheep numbers back into the industry, our infrastructure will not be able to stand those lower numbers," High said. "Auction yards and packing houses can't stay in business if there aren't enough lambs to support them."
To facilitate growth in the flock, Sheep Day will focus on the issues that surround expansion. Keynote speaker Richard Ehrhardt, a small ruminant specialist at Michigan State University will speak to producers on developing larger flocks, increasing productivity in the flock, and how to raise more lambs per ewe.
The host farm for the program, Blue Heron Farms of Lisbon, is a 300-head, forage-based commercial sheep operation in the rolling hills of Columbiana County. High said the Sheep Day program has moved around the state for each of the past seven years, to allow farmers to see different types of operations and learn about different practices and production concepts.
OSU Extension educators, faculty from the Department of Animal Sciences, and researchers from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) will present a diverse program around the expansion theme. Sessions include forage and pasture management, watering systems for intensive grazing, utilizing EQIP funds on a sheep farm, manure management issues and more.
"We have a couple of farm tours so attendees can see what makes a successful sheep farm," High says. "We also have a couple of general sessions on basic sheep management because we have so many new people in the industry, and they need to know how to handle and raise lambs with best management practices."
The influx of new and younger producers into the sheep industry is an exciting opportunity, High said, and presents significant opportunity for advancing the industry goal of expanding the flock.
"Most of my calls are from young people wanting to know about the industry, or about how to raise sheep," High says. They want information on sourcing and buying lambs, among other basic information about sheep and lamb production.
Ohio Sheep Day (http://www.ohiosheep.org/OSIA/SheepDay.html) is July 16 at Blue Heron Farm near Lisbon. The program is free; the lamb luncheon is $10 for members of the Ohio Sheep Industry Association, and $20 for non-members. Sheep Day is a cooperative program of Ohio State Extension, Ohio State's Department of Animal Sciences, OARDC, the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, the Ohio Lamb and Wool Program and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Information on the program, as well as other activities of OSU's Sheep Team, can be found at the Sheep Team website, http://sheep.osu.edu/.