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Indiana symposium to address change in U.S. sheep industry
Indiana Correspondent

ATLANTA, Ind. — Nick Forrest will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Sheep Assoc. (ISA) annual symposium Feb. 23. As chair of the American Lamb Board, he will address changing times in the sheep industry.

Other speakers include Kristie Herr, “What’s New in Sheep Medicines and Treatments;” Val Slack, “The Value of Good Record-keeping;” and Tad Thompson, “Using Artificial Insemination with Sheep.” Also, a panel discussion will cover trends in the club lamb industry.
“The economics of the sheep industry have drastically changed over the last two years,” said Paul Russell, ISA publicity chair. “We no longer are enjoying record lamb prices. We have suffered one of the worst droughts in recent history, and are paying record prices for our feeds. Nationally, the sheep inventory struggles to grow because of the ongoing adverse weather conditions that have plagued most of the country.

“We will get through these situations and should emerge as a stronger industry. It is very important that Indiana sheep producers stay informed about national and state issues. Our bottom line is affected by events that happen in other states.”

Slack will focus her record-keeping comments on learning the difference between details and data that lead to making good decisions. “New growers need to determine what they want to get out of their project. They need to look at their market and analyze it,” she said.

Slack, a former Purdue University extension educator in Whitley County, and her husband, Tom, have 400 ewes currently lambing at Slack Club Lambs, near North Manchester. The changes she foresees in the sheep industry differ from those expressed by some other growers.

For instance, she sees a specialty niche market developing to produce fine wool for spinners and weavers. “I think we need to develop some specialized meat marketing,” she said. “The club lamb industry is changing. We may want to add some large-frame breeding sheep. One size doesn’t fit all.”

Aaron Leininger plans to attend the symposium. He and his brother, Thad, and their father, Bill, a member of the Indiana State Fair board, combine their energies and talents as Leininger Club Lambs in southern Kosciusko County.

“We’re a small operation – only 45 ewes,” Leininger said, “but we’re constantly searching for cheaper ways to produce quality lambs. That’s not always through traditional feeding.”

He expects the Easter lamb market to be fairly good, maybe in the $2 range as opposed to last year’s $3 prices. “There’s still a market for lamb,” he said. “A lot of producers are not keeping a steady flow of lambs going to market. We intend to keep our flow steady.”
Bill agreed with his son. “I think the sheep industry will stay strong,” he said. “There’s a demand for good breeding stock, but startup operations need to take a hard look at what they’re getting into. Startup is expensive. A lot depends on feed costs and the crop year.”

The symposium will be at Beck’s Hybrids Conference Center in Atlanta, Ind. Registration is from 8-9:30 a.m. Additional information is available by contacting Russell at 765-749-6342, ISA President Mike Crowder at 765-366-3135, Sheila Sink at 317-758-0864, Duane Sickels at 765-969-0190 or Lance Lumpkin at 765-914-1148.