By Jan Jackson
When the 2nd World Ovinpiades Challenge Event for young shepherds opens in France this September, members of the American Sheep Industry Association will focus on 21-year-old Dani Buskohl of Wyndmere, N.D., and 25-year-old Woody Babcock of Corvallis, Ore.
Chosen from eight finalists, the ASI Young Entrepreneur Committee selected Buskohl and Babcock to represent the U.S. sheep industry and compete with the two contestants from each from 20 countries. An Olympics of sorts, the two will compete and be judged individually on a variety of tasks, including sorting sheep, handling and crutching techniques and shearing and be questioned on sheep breeds, flock management and health issues.
The World Ovinpiades Challenge, which was first held in New Zealand during the 2012 Tri-Lamb Conference, takes place Sept. 24 – Oct. 4. It was designed to promote sheep farming amongst the students and apprentices of agricultural schools and colleges, to strengthen the partnership between agricultural teaching and the profession and to give a modern image of the sheep farming profession. Open to young shepherds age 18 to 25, each contestant had to submit a written application, a video showing their prowess working with sheep and to participate in a live telephone interview.
Buskohl, a senior majoring in Elementary Education at North Dakota State University, and Babcock who holds a Bachelor in Agriculture Sciences from Oregon State University, were both stunned and thrilled to be chosen.
“I never thought I would be in this position and it doesn’t feel real yet,” Buskohl said of being chosen to compete for the United States. “Growing up on our family’s lamb feedlot and working with both lambs and ewes at the NDSU Sheep facility has given me experience in many different areas of the industry though I will be working hard on my shearing skills.
“Also, I’ve been fortunate to work with knowledgeable industry professionals who are much older than I am, this will be the first time I will be with so many shepherds my age. I will do everything I can to make sure I am prepared to represent the U.S. to the best of my ability. ”
Babcock, who works full time as a shepherd/all-around handyman for lamb feeder Don Gnos, describes himself as someone who works hard, gets the job done and faces challenges with a good attitude and cool head.
Because his workday doubles as practice, he is concerned more about boning up on sheep breeds and health issues than the hands-on tasks.
“In the Willamette Valley, we lamb-out somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 – 2,200 ewes and pay per-head per-day to graze them on some of the best grass seed fields in the world,” Babcock said. “I’m excited about being with other contestants my age and sharing how we each do things.”
The event is of particular interest to Burdell Johnson, past ASI President (2007-2009) and founder and current chair of the ASI Young Entrepreneur Committee.
“My goal for so long has been to bring younger people into the sheep industry so I’m very excited about this program and I hope it continues to develop,” Johnson said. “We interviewed eight finalists – one each from Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon and Tennessee and they were all good. There is an opportunity for anyone interested in supporting these two candidates to donate. All contributions are welcome.”