2015 Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School:


2015 Howard Wyman Sheep Leadership School report to the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center

Lamb Feeding & Marketing in the U.S. June 21-24, 2015 in Denver, CO

The 2015 Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School was held during June in Denver, Colorado. The primary objective was to offer students a broad-based understanding of the industry, specifically how and where lambs are marketed in the US, the various marketing options available, including direct, auction, video, electronic, formula and supply agreements, current sheep industry challenges, plus the opportunity to network with experienced lamb feeders, direct marketers and those who merchandise lamb in the US. To this end, the agenda included a marketing panel of industry experts discussing and answering questions about marketing lamb. The agenda included a visit to Mountain States Rosen processing, JBS Swift processing plant, and Nugget pelt processing facility to more fully understand pelt grading and quality issues.


There were 53 applicants for 26 positions. The 2015 School accepted a group of 29 participants, consisting of 27 students and two special invitees who were accepted because of their ability to reach other industry members through future Extension and University avenues.

The 2015 class included 19 males and 10 women, ranging in age from 22 to 68 years. The participants represented the states of: Alabama (1), California (4), Colorado (1), Idaho (3), Iowa (3), Maine (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), North Dakota (2), New York (1), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (6), and Wyoming (2).

The class included representatives from feedlot operations, wool industry, commercial, purebred, and range operations, as well as a packer, an Extension specialist, manager of a grazing operation, and a manager of a grass-based cooperative.

Students listed by sheep producing states

State & Rank # Sheep 2015 Attendees

1. Texas                 720,000      0
2. California            600,000     4
3. Colorado             420,000     1
4. Wyoming             345,000     2
5.Utah                     290,000      0

Idaho                   260,000      3
7.South Dakota      255,000      6
8.Montana              215,000      0 
9.Oregon                195,000       0

10.Iowa                   175,000      3

12. Minnesota        130,000      3
18. New York            80,000     1
24. North Dakota     64,000      2
32. North Carolina   30,000      1
33. Other States     145,000      2  AL & SC
34. New England       43,000     1  ME


As part of the evaluation, participants were asked to select the topics or tours they felt were most beneficial. The most highly rated agenda items included the tours of JBS Swift and Mountain States Rosen processing plants, Double J Lamb Feeders and Harper Livestock, plus the panel presentations on alternative grazing options and the dynamics of transitioning family operations from one generation to the next.

A follow-up request for feedback was sought from attendees at the end of the year. While only a small number of participants responded to this request, the comments were expansive. Questions included:

 What concept or idea learned during the school made an impact on how you are doing business or has proven useful?  Given the vantage point of six months after the school, which topic or concept would you like to learn more about?  Have you had occasion to reach out to any of the people you met at the school and was the information obtained helpful?  Looking back at the school experience, what, if anything, was missing or would have made the school better?


It’s probably the overall confidence from being with those other classmates that have us pursuing NSIP more, selecting better genetics for our flock and working hard to make the future better for family and people who enjoy lamb.

I think just going through the processing plant really made an impact on how we are finishing our lambs, as well as how we are selling to our buyer in the area. I would also say seeing how they would bleed the lambs prior to harvest was very interesting and really added a value I had no idea even existed.

NLFA continues to be very beneficial to me in more ways than one. The main one is that I have been holding onto the lambs for a longer period, allowing me to use some of my extra feed, which in turn has netted me more profit. I have used the contacts that I made at the school and sold some of my lambs to them. Some of my neighbors have also sold to these contacts. I also learned there are a couple different options when marketing my lambs and cull ewes.

I would like to see more “meat” in the discussion, calculations of feed rations, cost of daily gain in the feedlot. It would have been useful to see calculations of yield and costs through the packing plants, which I realize is difficult to obtain.

If we have animals that finish well and efficiently without grain, the product is good and the consumers want it, then NLFA should help be the bridge to build a Grading System for that type of product. The Roadmap Initiative is great for the sheep industry, but I’m afraid is erring in thinking exclusively that ruminant animals must be finished with grain.

I would have liked to see some different feeding operations, maybe indoor setups and also a lambing operation or two around the Denver area to get different ideas on how others do it. I did like the discussions we had in the classroom on grazing and how to turn the land over from generation to generation. There were more things we could have covered in the classroom but instead we ended up discussing it later among ourselves while on break and after the day was over.

Nearly all of the evaluations mentioned some new idea they would try to incorporate into their own operation. These ideas included:

Try forage winter wheat and experiment more with grazing opportunities Alternative grazing plan Try to follow my lambs through the feedlot and the packer Try ultrasounding my lambs Regular Family meetings Feeding soybean hulls Round baling and bale processer Collaborating with NRCS for grants New ideas for breeding yearlings Asking for kill data to make changes on home operations Careful study of bringing lambs to market in a different season Fencing and grazing crop residue Looking at having lambs custom fed to retain ownership, instead of selling to a feeder

General comments about the school

It is a major resource. If you learn nothing from presentations, you will learn from fellow classmates. It is an encouraging, positive experience.

An opportunity to see production in another part of the country and to network with producers with a variety of production practices.

Great tours and showing where my lambs go — great way to see things I normally wouldn’t.

I was surprised by the wealth of information amongst the students and instructors. Establishing these connections is powerful.