September 15, 2003
Enthusiastic Crowd Gathers for Mountain States Lamb Annual Meeting
More than 120 people, including members and guests, attended the annual meeting of Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC) July 17-19, 2003, in Greeley, Colo. This was the first official annual meeting of MSLC since the formation of the new marketing company, Mountain States Rosen.
Events began Thursday afternoon with an update on MSLC activities as well as an overview of the first half of the year of Mountain States Rosen (MSR). David Gage and Bruce Rosen, both principals of the New York company, gave their perspective on the new company and the future trends and innovations being planned. Updates also were presented by Bob Harlan, lamb procurement director; Ken Chambers, chief executive officer; and Brad Boner, chairman. Monte McNamee presented the financial report. Jim Schwartz, deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, provided the closing comments, during which he congratulated MSLC on its vision and industry-changing approach to lamb marketing.
Friday?s agenda included tours of the Swift Lamb Plant, the MSR fabrication plant and the Research Management Systems? Lamb Vision System. Tour attendees also enjoyed a luncheon at which Wyoming Commissioner of Agriculture John Etchepare spoke. Etchepare noted that those in agriculture need to change the way they do business. He added that product identification and source verification will happen because that is what consumers want. Etchepare encouraged MSLC members to get ahead of the curve and create a system that will work for them and the industry. He added that getting a greater return on the investment in MSLC may result in a higher value than a few cents on a live lamb.
?I think there is a lot of room for growth in agriculture and more opportunity now than there was in the 1960s when business was doing well,? he said.
The tour continued with a visit to the Double J Feedlot in Ault, Colo., where owners Jay and Jeff Hasbrouck showed tour attendees around their 65,000-head feedlot ? a totally natural lot that includes high-quality standards which qualifies their lambs for all current natural-meat programs. Next on the agenda was a presentation by Mike Wheeler of Nugget International, who conducted a live lamb pelt-grading session and showed a variety of pelts produced and marketed by his company. A dinner and dance hosted by Double J Farms and Feeding and Mountain View Lamb Feeders rounded out the day?s activities.
Saturday?s session included a presentation by Bryce Reece, executive director of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA), on the Wyoming Ram Sire Test. Co-sponsored by MSLC and WWGA, the test is in its second year with 85 entries this year. Reece gave an overview of the purpose, criteria and intent of the test and showed results from the 2002 program. He and test co-manager Sandy Snider encouraged all participants to attend the field day and silent auction on August 27, and view the rams and results from this year?s test.
MSLC Co-Chair Pat O?Toole led a discussion of mountain west regional issues, during which he cited water as the No. 1 issue. Sandy Snider, a regional vice president for Wyoming Wool Growers, added that teamwork and communication are an important part of issues management, and that what affects Wyoming ranchers will affect ranchers in other states. Bryce Reece then gave an overview from his perspective as WWGA executive director. He spoke about the major issues he has been working on, which include a wolf-management plan, grazing, predator management and sage grouse recovery. He noted that sheep grazing has had positive impacts on habitat and may be used as a range-improvement tool.
The highlight of the morning was a panel discussion on the natural market place -- and opportunities for MSLC becoming more involved. George Kalogridas, president of Ojai Organics, gave the audience a quick overview of the natural and organic markets from his 30 years of experience. Kalogridas said there is tremendous growth in these areas -- especially for meat -- and commented that the current rate exceeds 20 percent. He expects this industry will see a huge increase in the conventional markets by 2010, going from the current 1 to 2 percent inventory to 7 to 10 percent by 2010.
Chris Sutliff, sales manager for MSR in Greeley, spoke about the current natural program being established by MSR and potential products and markets on the horizon. Sutliff was enthusiastic about the opportunities that MSR will have as the program expands.
Ken Chambers, MSLC CEO, finished up the panel discussion by sharing ideas and visions he has gleaned from his involvement in other industries. He noted that the standards and protocols for MSLC for natural products will coincide with or exceed any of the current programs in the country.
The final presentation of the day was by Bruno Cunha, a graduate student at Colorado State University, on the Lamb Vision System (LVS) (Cunha is working as the technician with this system in the Swift Plant in Greeley.)
The LVS equipment is used to predict the saleable meat yield of lambs -- information that will be used in the development of the value-based grid pricing system that MSLC and MSR are working to put in place to reward lambs with superior carcass merit.
The system is currently being tested in the plant with cutting tests to be done at the fabrication facility in New York to establish the methodology and information that will be included in the grid structure.
Brad Boner, MSLC chairman, closed the meeting by thanking the program speakers and main sponsors -- EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., Double J Farms and Feeding, Mountain View Lamb Feeders and Nugget International. He also thanked all members for their participation and support of the cooperative. He complimented the upbeat crowd on the quality of their lambs and their cooperation in marketing this past year. He indicated that new improvements and programs will be put in place in the near future that will add to the value of members? lambs as well as their profit potential in the company.