Fisher Desires to Help U.S. Sheep Industry
March 31, 2005
By Amy Conner
March/April 2005 -- No one can say that Texas sheep producer Glen Fisher doesn't give time and effort back to the industry he loves. He has been involved with organizations in the sheep industry for more than 20 years and now serves as the secretary/treasurer of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), on the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board and as past chair of ASI's American Wool Council (AWC).
At times, finding a balance between his ranch work and his service to the many boards is difficult. However, Fisher says it's well worth it.
"I've always been a strong believer in organizations," says Fisher. "I have a little saying, 'if you weren't put here to do things for others, than why did God send you?'"
Fisher's service to the industry is appreciated because of his vast knowledge of both the wool and sheep markets.
Raised near Lubbock, Texas, Fisher attended Texas Tech University, where he met his wife, Linda, to become an agriculture economist. After being employed at Texas A&M as an economist for five years, Fisher and his wife decided to move back to Sonora, Texas, to help with the family ranch where they raise sheep and cattle. Soon thereafter, Fisher accepted the manager position at the Sonora Wool Warehouse, where he worked for 16 years. Desiring more independence and following his true calling, Fisher found his way back to the ranch.
Recently re-named the Askew-Fisher Ranch, the 18,000-acre ranch has been in his wife's family since 1930, when his wife's grandfather first purchased half of it. The other half was purchased in 1940.
Fisher runs 2,000 head of Rambouillet ewes that are bred each year with Suffolk bucks. He also purchases replacement yearlings each year for wool purposes. Fisher says he is always striving to produce a larger lamb.
"It's a challenge for me to raise better livestock and a larger lamb each year," he says.
Fisher's sheep operation differs slightly from those commonly found in Texas. Because his ranch has a great deal of Texas winter grass, a grass that is actually good feed in the spring but after it dies in the summer is damaging to wool, he shears in early April. In October, he tags the ewes, which benefits the wool and also the lamb that is about to be born in November. Those lambs are then sent to market in May.
After several years of hardship, Fisher believes the sheep industry is looking positive. He says that the ewe-lamb payments, for which ASI is responsible, along with an increase in moisture, hopefully will increase sheep numbers. In addition to that, Fisher says lamb prices have been good now for a couple of years, wool prices are fair and the industry has the Wool Loan Deficiency Program (LDP), which Fisher was instrumental in getting included in the 2002 Farm Bill as a safety net.
"One thing we have right now that we haven't in the past is unity within the industry," Fisher says. "This unity gives us an advantage and makes us more effective when dealing with issues in Washington D.C."
Fisher also mentions the fact that he is proud of the efforts from ASI staff and the work of the AWC.
"These people are motivated and encouraging for the industry," he says.
One effort he hopes proves worthwhile is the certified shearing program that ASI will be rolling out for this year's shearing season. The goal of this program is to include sheep shearers in wool quality improvement programs, therefore improving the quality of the U.S. wool clip.
"The shortage of shearing labor is one of the industry's biggest challenges," he explains, "and hopefully this program (certified shearing) will be beneficial to the industry."
Another factor that Fisher says will benefit the sheep industry is increased participation by producers in the industry's many organizations. He stresses the fact that the work accomplished by these organizations assists everybody in the industry.
"If all the organizations had more membership and support, we would be able to get a lot more done for producers."