ENTITY - National Lamb Feeders Association


The primary reason for creating the Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School was to help new people in the industry increase their knowledge and understanding of the changing industry. Today’s industry has changed vastly. The traditional mode of pricing lambs is changing. In spite of a recent period of good prices, the next few years will be critical for the future of the sheep and goat industries. Never before has education been more important.

The 2014 Leadership School in Dixon, California will offer attendees the chance to examine the various by-products that come from sheep. Many in the industry understand there are two products produced from raising lambs and two associated prices. The two products are the livestock and the corresponding meat processed for sale. The two prices are for the live animal and for the meat. However, there are a variety of additional factors that contribute to the sheep
industry. Those factors include by-products and the production and sale prices associated with them. Along with providing leadership training and education, the goal for the Leadership School is to explore the many, less common products that come from lamb. 
The California Leadership School will be an excellent opportunity to stimulate thinking and problem-solving among a group of serious and highly motivated participants who are capable of helping move the industry forward.

2014 Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School

“Lamb By-Products – Discovering the 5th Primal” 


            The 2014 Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School was developed to provide attendees with an insight into the by-products that come from processing market lambs. The grant was originally written to accept 30 participants; however, upon receiving more applications the National Lamb Feeders Association decided to accept 36 applicants to participate. There were 16 men, 14 women, and three couples. Of these 24 represented the western states of Oregon (9), Idaho (6), California (4), South Dakota (2), Wyoming (1), Texas (1) and Oklahoma (1). The other states represented included: Kentucky (1), New York (1), Iowa (3), Alabama (1), Pennsylvania (1), Louisiana (1), West Virginia (1), Ohio (2) and Hawaii (1). This was the first time someone from the state of Hawaii has attended the Leadership School. 

Attendees arrived in California on the afternoon of Sunday, July 13, 2014. As is the tradition with the program, a welcome/ orientation dinner was held at a local restaurant. Attendees were provided a general orientation that included an overview of the NLFA, introductions to the participating board members, and a brief description of the agenda for the Leadership School. During the following four days, both NLFA board members and school attendees spent time learning about the non-meat products that come from lamb and the role of those by-products in the market. For anyone unfamiliar with the term “5th primal”, this refers to the products produced after removing the shoulders, racks, loins and legs. 

The following morning attendees were transported to the Superior Farms Dixon processing facility where they were granted an in-depth tour of the operations, including the areas dealing with the offal cuts or hearts, livers, heads, casings, and hides. Vice President of Operations, Shane MacKenzie, demonstrated the cost breakdown of a lamb carcass, while expert USDA-AMS grader, Dennis Weatherford, disclosed the various aspects of quality and yield grading lamb carcasses. Upon the completion of the tour, attendees learned about by-products collected outside of the processing facility. Ian MacKenzie of Roswell Wool discussed wool quality and Hemostat’s Gordon Murphy explained ovine blood collection for research purposes. When asked about the top three topics of the Sheep School, many participants included the overview of Hemostat’s products.  

Additional tours on the first day included Emigh’s Market, which features their grass fed lamb and beef, plus a visit to Meridian Jacob Sheep to examine the further processing of wool into usable garments and household items.

On the second day, the program continued the overview of by-products with a detailed tour of the Sacramento Rendering Company, where the ingredients for lamb and rice dog food are created. This opportunity for attendees to learn about the rendering process and the resulting products is what makes the Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School a unique experience. The opportunity to examine and question the rendering process provides a greater understanding of the entire process and the factors that influence the overall industry.  

This year’s attendees were fortunate to have a sheep dairy located nearby and the opportunity to discuss the by-product of sheep milk. Jed Asmus of Ewetopia Dairy introduced the attendees to details about his operation, as well as samples of his cheeses. One attendee noted they “liked his innovative thought process”.  

The last portion of the by-products program included an overview and tour of Superior Farms Pet Provisions. Attendees were shown raw offal products at the plant on Monday and asked to guess their origin. Samples of the same offal were provided in their further processed pet treat form and attendees were again asked to identify them. This reiterated the various uses of non-meat products from lamb carcasses.  

Each night at dinner, attendees were separated into strategic groups to discuss topics their applications had indicated were important. Discussions focused on niche marketing, herd health, pelt quality, and maximizing carcass yields. This format for the group discussions was different from the previous schools. Instead of having a single group, which worked together throughout all three days of the program and concluding with a presentation from each small group at the end of the school, this year’s attendees were able to discuss specific topics with a variety of other attendees representing diverse backgrounds in the sheep industry. This exchange of ideas and networking among the attendees is frequently identified as one of the most beneficial aspect of the Leadership School. Attendees are able to meet and share questions and ideas with other sheep producers and representatives of all segments of the industry.    

The final day of the School was capped with a roundtable discussion, including various executives from Superior Farms: Superior Farms Chief Executive Officer, Rick Stott, Vice President of Operations, Shane MacKenzie, Vice President of Sales, Greg Ahart, Vice President of Marketing, Anders Hemphill, Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Evanson, and the Operations Manager, Ryan Mahoney, from a large local sheep producer Emigh Livestock. The format allowed attendees to ask questions about anything they had seen or learned over the past few days. Topics ranged from live animal pricing, marketing strategies, the future of the industry, and the need for more lamb research. Questions from the applications submitted by the attendees were introduced to ensure the attendees received the insight they were looking for when they applied to the Leadership School. The Leadership School survey indicated that attendees significantly enjoyed the discussion panel.   

Overall, responses from the Leadership School participants were positive and appreciative.  Attendees mentioned the Leadership School covered a wide variety of by-product topics.  One evaluation stated this year’s program was “beyond my wildest expectations”. Nearly across the board, attendees indicated they were going home with a new idea or something they would attempt to incorporate into their own operation. Some of the ideas attendees stated they would be exploring were: requesting yield grade data and conducting more evaluation of yield grade on current lambs, examining the cull process, looking for ways to increase carcass consistency, talking with local restaurants about featuring lamb on the menu, and conducting small scale cooked lamb promotions for non-lamb eaters. 

Suggestions offered on the evaluation survey provide constructive ideas for future schools. The suggestions represented the differing interests of the participants and the type of information they had been seeking to gain through the Leadership School. While the availability of all types of industry tours at a single school location is not entirely feasible, i.e. proximity of processing plants, feedlots, producer operations of different scale and practices, wool processing plants, the suggestions indicate the strong interest in learning about all phases of the industry and how to improve their own operations. Interestingly, one common suggestion from this year was the request that more lamb be included on the menu during the school. Obviously, this is a prime opportunity for NLFA to reach out and increase the use of American lamb at all future Leadership School sites.