The Last Word

Center of Nation Sale Offers Free Educational Opportunities

Sheep Industry News Editor

It’s only June, but now would be a good time to start making plans to attend the National Sheep Improvement Program’s Center of the Nation Sale in Spencer, Iowa, on July 26-27. Whether you’re buying sheep or not, the trip might be worth your time.

The United Suffolk Sheep Association is planning a free educational program entitled, A New Direction in Sheep Breeding that will apply to sheep producers regardless of their chosen breed. The program will include the following sessions:

• Utilizing Quantitative Genetics with Dr. Dan Morrical;

• NSIP Searchable Database Demonstration with NSIP Program Director Rusty Burgett;

• Breeding Terminal Sires to Serve the Needs of the Commercial Industry with Dr. Morrical;

• Breed Improvement Progress: Lessons Learned Across the Sheep Industry, with Dr. Ron Lewis;

• Highlights from Utah’s Leading Edge Project, with Dr. Lewis;

• Sire Selection for Commercial Flocks: Crossbreeding and Using EBVs with Dr. Morrical;

• Commercial Producer Panel Discussion with Shawn Capouch, Mark Hoogendoorn and Mark Van Roekel.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion about ways to improve our breed and to provide opportunities that are relevant to the entire sheep industry,” said Brenda Reau of Michigan, who serves as the breed improvement committee chair for the United Suffolk Sheep Association. “We wanted to have a major educational event for our members, but we didn’t want to limit it to our members.”

And that’s why holding the educational seminar during the Center of the Nation Sale made sense. The sale features a fairly central location that routinely draws sheep producers from all across the country, and the Suffolk breed has certainly been an important part of the sale for much of its history.

“We felt the need as an association to continue to educate our members, but we’ve put together an outstanding program that will have a lot of great information for the industry as a whole,” Reau said. “The people who come to this sale generally have an understanding and an interest in this underlying component to performance, and in learning how we really utilize quantitative genetics. We think that there will be some synergy by combining this educational program with the sale.

“And then they’ll have the opportunity to purchase some of these genetics. Some people who might be interested in getting started in this, might not always know where to go to get started or how to use the numbers. So we think it makes a nice package to have a large scale educational program in conjunction with the sale.”

Certainly, Dr. Morrical and Dr. Lewis are no strangers to sheep producers interested in NSIP. But the seminar will also feature a panel discussion involving three commercial sheep producers: Capouch, Hoogendoorn and Van Roekel.

Capouch has a commercial flock with operations in Wisconsin and Missouri. His flock uses Dorset and Suffolk genetics to create crossbred feeder lambs. Hoogendoorn is a full-time shearer who runs a flock of Polypay ewes in Iowa and is transitioning to an accelerated lambing plan. He’s used NSIP data to increase productivity for a decade now. Van Roekel is another Iowa producer with Polypays and Dorsets in his flock, and is a member of the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program. He’s used NSIP rams and estimated breeding values in selecting both maternal and terminal sires since 2009 to increase value in his operation.

While the program is free, USSA requests that participants sign up in advance by emailing or calling 641-684-5291. For more information, visit

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