Trailblazers Tour

Project Information:

 The HWSILS was held in Texas September 26-29, 2021 in partnership with the

American Lamb Board and the American Sheep Industry’s Young Entrepreneurs and the

Trailblazers Tour. The event began in Austin and toured toward San Angelo over the course of two and a half days. Attendees visited sites as diverse as fine wool producers, sheep and goat enterprises, feed suppliers, a wool scouring plant, livestock auction markets, and lamb harvest facilities. The event welcomed 23 participants and 9 guests (host organization staff and leaders) from 13 states.

Activities Performed

Sunday:

Welcome reception and dinner in Austin at the Sour Duck Market hosted by the American Lamb Board.

Chef Zechariah Perez prepared a lamb meat loaf sandwich and shared his inspiration with the group.

Attendees heard from Allison Beadle, founder of the marketing and public relations firm Wild Hive, about consumer expectations and current food trends.

Monday:

Visited the Hamilton Sheep Station where Alan and Jolene McAnnelly focus on soil health while raising White Dorper sheep.

Visited the Hamilton Sale Commission, where they average sales of about 1300-2500 head of sheep and goats per week with periodic sales of exotic animals as well. Manager Derek Poe noted their sale numbers had been lower in recent weeks due to livestock losses associated with the severe cold snap earlier in 2021. Lunch at the Hamilton Sale Commission.

Visited the Stegemoller Ranch where owner Cody Stegemoller told participants his operation consists of several smaller acreage locations. When they wean lambs, they leave them on the fields they’ve been grazing and remove the ewes in order to reduce stress. They are experimenting with grazing crops, but currently are using primarily a seed mixture of half oats and half triticale for grazing during lambing. Most of their commercial flock lambs in the fall and they have a broad variety of breeds they are currently running, including Dorper,

Katahdins, Royal White, and cross bred.

Final visit for the day was the Capra Foods lamb plant in Goldthwaite. Participants toured the small plant that works with a network of ranchers to produce high quality Dorper lamb products while focusing on regenerative agriculture practices.

A catered lamb dinner and an overview from Mr. Tommy Head of the sheep and goat industries in Mills County brought Monday to a close.

Tuesday:

Visited the Cornerstone Ranch and heard from Gary, Karen and Aaron Jennings. They focus primarily on the club lamb market and raise various breeds with an historic focus on Southdowns. Their operation includes native range along with “improved” irrigated pastures that feature a variety of African and South American grasses. They raise sheep as their primary income stream, but always keep an eye toward improving their resource base through brush and predator control, improving water infrastructure and working to maximize their forage availability and utilization.

Visited Jacoby’s in Melvin. Jacoby’s is a large family-owned operation primarily focused on providing livestock and deer feed. In the late summer/early fall they clean and sell a lot of deer corn for deer hunting. Their family business also includes a feed store and restaurants located both on site in Melvin and in Austin, TX.

Attendees were treated to lunch at the Jacoby’s restaurant while Jason Jacoby shared insights about the Texas show sheep industry, which is a major economic driver. There are six major sheep shows in Texas, but there are regional and jackpot shows every weekend throughout the summer. Approximately 20,000 sheep and goats are validated annually to participate in the various shows and Jacoby’s bags and sells about 30,000 tons of show lamb feed every year. The net proceeds from the sheep and goat shows to the kids who are showing is about $100 million annually, with roughly three quarters of that coming from local competitions.

Visited the Powell Ranches’ 6 Mile Ranch outside of San Angelo where they have a closed flock of fine wool sheep. They operate a total of six ranches, but sheep production has been concentrated to two of those where predators can be best controlled. They currently run about 2,500 ewes, which is comparatively low for their operation, but they don’t plan to transition to hair sheep as they have the labor necessary to maintain their focus on wool. They also raise registered Hereford cattle and market approximately 100 bulls annually.

Visited the HF4 Ranch, where the group met David and Stacy Fisher. The Fisher family has been ranching in the Sonora area for more than a century. They also raise cattle alongside their sheep and goats. Their sheep enterprise is highly diversified and includes primarily fine wool sheep with some cross bred Suffolks. They also have a small direct meat sales business and their son has a small show sheep business. Stacy has a degree in fashion and they are also starting to dabble in wool marketing and fashion.

Visited the Buchholz ranch in El Dorado. Historically they raised sheep, though they have transitioned to more goats in recent years. They utilize guard dogs and noted bells are useful when moving their livestock through the brush.

Dinner at Coopers BBQ in San Angelo where the group enjoyed great BBQ, including

smoked leg of lamb.

Wednesday:

Visited Bollman Industries wool scouring plant in San Angelo. Bollman is owned by a hat company and was originally located in San Angelo because it is a good source of wool for hat making. Today, they primarily do commercial scouring (including for Pendleton), where they have the capacity to clean 13,000 – 17,000 pounds of wool per hour. Lanolin is captured and sold in 55-gallon drums, primarily for the cosmetics industry but also for a wide variety of other uses. Bollman estimates they touch about half of the U.S. wool clip each year through either scouring or storing wool. Bollman often has to re-pack the wool they receive for storage so it will fit in a shipping container. Manager Ladd Hughes noted that freight costs have increased tremendously since the beginning of the pandemic.

Visited Producers Livestock Auction where attendees had the opportunity to tour the sales facility and hear from Benny Cox, sheep and goat sales manager. They host sheep and goat sales on Mondays and Tuesdays with additional sales on Wednesdays if needed. Cattle sel on Thursdays. They also handle private treaty sales, which are primarily load lots of wool feeder lambs. The market has been owned by the same family since 1954 and sheep and goats were sold mostly into traditional markets until the mid-1990s when nontraditional ethnic markets became the primary buyers.

Visited the Double J Lamb Texas plant where attendees had the opportunity to tour the newly re-opened plant in San Angelo. The harvest floor started operations the beginning of January with the sale of carcasses going to the East Coast. The fabrication room is scheduled to open the first week in November to start moving boxed product. The plant has the capacity to harvest up to 1900 lambs per day and has the capability to feed up to 3,000 lambs on site.

Lunch at Miss Hattie’s restaurant in downtown San Angelo, owned by Mayor Brenda

Gunter. Mayor Gunter shared her story of how the fiberglass sheep located around the

community became the city’s way to honor the area’s sheep industry. The sheep are a project of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, purchased by local business and decorated by local artists. To date, 170 sheep have been sold with 89 currently on display, some in storage awaiting updates or repairs, and 16 new ones in progress.

Visited the Southwest Livestock Minerals facility where the Turner family has operated the range minerals operation since 1980. They are a small, family-run business where they specialize in custom blended products for sheep, cattle, goats, deer and horses. In presenting to the tour attendees, Tim Turner noted that precision in trace minerals is extremely important when creating a mineral mix.

Visited Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Research Station in San Angelo, where their

mission is to develop “ranching solutions” for west central Texas. Dr. Reid Redden is the

director for the Station and they manage four ranches in the region, focusing on livestock and wildlife production efficiencies and best practices for range management. The station is also home to the Bill Sims Wool & Mohair Research Laboratory where they conduct commercial fiber testing as well as research.

Accomplishments

Attendees were introduced to many types of commercial and seedstock sheep and goat operations.

Participants learned about soil health practices, predator control practices, and resource management.

Attendees also learned about animal marketing through auction market visits and club

lamb marketers and they saw small and large scale product marketing through harvest

facility visits and wool handling operations.

Event participants also had the unique opportunity to learn about the economic engine

that is the Texas show sheep industry.