Let's Grow Sets New Priorities

Let’s Grow Sets New Priorities

Sheep Industry News Editor

Hitting one of three new target priorities will increase your chances of receiving a Let’s Grow grant in the third round of funding this spring.

The Let’s Grow Committee set the new target priorities during its meeting at the ASI convention in Scottsdale. Those priorities are as follows:

• The development of producer groups to increase cooperation
    between producers with similar production systems.

• Increase the adoption of out of season lambing to help distribute supply more evenly and thus help decrease the seasonality of lamb production.

• Development of business tools to assist sheep ranchers/producers.

The committee was certainly influenced to place a high priority on out of season lambing after hearing a presentation from Richard Ehrhardt, Ph.D., the small ruminant extension specialist with Michigan State University.

While there’s no doubt out of season breeding can generate additional income and provide fresh lamb at ideal times (such as Easter), the question is how a producer goes about the process of breeding sheep during off times.

Ehrhardt said sheep can be “fooled” into lambing any time of the year at a peak lambing rate by controlling light exposure. He also stressed that breeds that evolved closer to the equator are less seasonal than other breeds when it comes to breeding. Preliminary studies have also shown success in off season breeding with Dorset and Romanov breeds.

There are additional costs for producers to keep in mind with out of season breeding. Factors such as nutrition, infrastructure, labor and flock maintenance are important to consider.

Committee members also heard updates on many of the programs that received grants in the first round of funding in fall 2015. One success story comes from Kentucky, where Let’s Grow funded a grant for small ruminant mentor training. In approving the grant, ASI identified Kentucky as a potential growth state. Data released by USDA in late January showed a 10 percent increase in total sheep numbers in the state – the second-largest increase in the United States from 2015 to 2016.

Second round grants were awarded in December 2015 and many of those projects are already underway, as well. Applications for third round funding are now available at SheepUSA.org and are due in by April 18. Grants will be awarded in May.