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Summer is a Time for Friends

Susan Shultz, ASI President

Summer is here. This is a perfect season to get out and take advantage of the many field days, festivals, exhibitions, tours and educational events that are offered throughout our sheep industry.

Not only is it an opportunity to gain new ideas and expand our knowledge base, but it is a great time to renew old friendships and create new ones. In this column, I am sharing a few photos of the variety of folks from different states that I have had the pleasure of visiting with and learning from these past few years.

Regardless of the differences in environments, management systems, production goals or flock sizes they all share a common vision of working to produce lamb and wool that makes them proud and profitable.

Whether they are a producer, feeder, packer or scientist they each have knowledge that warrants listening to. Be curious, carve out time to observe and learn from others.

It is a key in making positive change in order to improve our own operations and our industry.

My best.

Lamb Market Falls in Summer Patterns

DAVID ANDERSON, PH.D.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

 

Now that we are past the spring holidays for lamb demand, it feels like summer already. Some areas in the broader lamb market are already falling into summer patterns.

 

Drought and Feed Costs

Drought and rising feed costs are impacting all livestock markets. Omaha corn was $8.16 per bushel in the first week of May, compared to $7.09 last year. While the war in Ukraine has fueled the most recent dollar or so increase, higher prices have been spurred by the expectation of fewer planted acres than last year.

High soybean prices and high fertilizer costs have shifted more acres to soybeans. The drought in the Western half of the United States has intensified and spread throughout much of Texas and the Plains. Higher fuel and almost all other production costs will continue to pressure profits.

 

Production and Supplies

After lagging well below last year and the five-year average throughout the first quarter of the year, lamb and yearling slaughter hit its spring peak of 39,700 head for the week ending April 2. That was just slightly less than the “Easter peak” last year, but well below later weeks in April and May when weekly slaughter peaked at 44,000 head. Slaughter for the year is about 11 percent lower than a year ago, and 3.5 percent below last year during the last four weeks.

Lamb and mutton production has dropped dramatically – down 21.4 percent – since the first week of April. Production tends to decline seasonally from April until July or August. The seasonal decline in production is comparable to last year – so far – but it has started earlier. Dressed weights have fallen from 69 to 61 pounds during the last month, contributing to the production decline. Lamb slaughter, dressed weights and production should continue to decline in coming weeks.

Lamb imports in March totaled a record 27.4 million pounds. That was 2.2 million pounds more than March 2021. Imports do tend to peak seasonally in March, although that was not the case in 2021 when imports continued to increase – peaking in June – and remained historically large throughout the year. High domestic lamb prices and tight supplies have encouraged imports. Lamb imports from Australia and New Zealand were 12 and 2 percent greater than in March of last year, respectively. Tight domestic supplies should support imports through the summer.

Lamb and mutton in cold storage was once again below a year ago in March. The balancing act of reduced domestic production, lower mutton imports, more lamb imports and likely good product movement resulted in reduced cold storage stocks. That is a positive development for lamb prices in coming months.

 

Demand

Demand is probably where the greatest uncertainty lies for the next few months. Demand has been growing throughout the last several years and it received a boost during the pandemic, as well. But even though unemployment is historically low, nominal incomes have been increasing and the economy has been growing, the burst in inflation has caused real incomes to decline.

How consumers change spending will go a long way to determining lamb prices, imports and stocks in cold storage.

One portion of growing lamb demand is new consumers. An interesting piece of data is the number of times Google is used to search “How to cook lamb.” This data implies consumers are looking for ways to prepare the product and might reflect first-time buyers or less experienced consumers. The attached chart contains an index of the number of weekly Google searches going back to 2004. The data implies a steady growth in the number of searches. That might include an increasing number of people using Google or the growth in search engine use to find recipes and instructions, but also indicates more interest in lamb.

It certainly coincides with growing demand in recent years. The data indicates two peaks per year in searches – around Christmas and Easter. The Christmas searches might indicate consumers having a special meal and wanting to prepare it correctly. It is an interesting set of data and might include several implications.

 

Prices

Lightweight, feeder lamb prices (average of Colorado, Texas, and South Dakota) have rebounded during the last six weeks from $261 per cwt. to $315 per cwt.

They remain slightly above last year. Heavy, wooled lambs at Sioux Falls, S.D., averaged $220 per cwt. for the first week of May – slightly lower than last year at this time. Mid-summer prices in for these lambs in 2021 peaked at $284 per cwt. While supplies are tightening, it might be difficult for prices to hit those heights again given demand.

On the meat side, the lamb cutout has drifted lower all year. It was $576 per cwt. during the first week of May and started the year at $613 per cwt. It remains about 24 percent above a year ago. Generally, most primal cuts have drifted lower so far this year, but remain above a year ago.

 

Wool

The Australian Eastern Market Indicator reported wool prices generally higher across all qualities for the first week of May compared to the prior week. Price increases ranged from U.S. $0.11 per lb. for 18 micron to U.S. $0.12 per lb. for 20 and 21 microns to U.S. $0.02 per lb. for 28 micron wool. Only the price of 18 micron wool is higher than the first week of May a year ago. Other reported micron categories are less than this time last year. The overall indicator remains lower than earlier in the season, but stronger than this time a year ago. In general, better prices since the peak of the pandemic have brought out more bales for sale during the course of the season.

One of the market trends since the pandemic has been the widening of the price spread between micron classes. For example, the price difference between 18 and 21 micron wools was about $0.49 per pound from July 2019 until the summer of 2020. Since then, the price spread has averaged $2.20 per pound in response to stronger demand for finer wools.

At the end of April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released annual statistics on apparel imports and exports for 2021. Wool apparel imports jumped 23 percent – to 454 million pounds – over pandemic impacted 2020 imports. Wool apparel exports increased 34 percent to almost 50 million pounds in 2021. Growth in exports and imports are indicative of world economic recovery. The course of economic growth under inflationary pressures will likely affect demand across all fibers.

 

Summary

Lamb supplies should further tighten seasonally as we head into summer, supporting prices. But demand will likely be under pressure as consumers respond to high prices across all goods and services.

Continued drought will be a critical factor in mature sheep slaughter as the summer progresses and will be worth monitoring. On balance, prices are likely to remain historically high during the next few months.

Deadline to Enter ASI Photo Contest is Aug. 1

With the start of summer comes the annual kickoff of the ASI Photo Contest and sheep producers, photographers and others are encouraged to begin collecting their entries now. The deadline to enter is 5 p.m. mountain time on Aug. 1.

Winning entries will be featured in the October issue of the Sheep Industry News.

“I’m always excited to see the many great photos that are submitted each year in this annual contest,” said Sheep Industry News Editor Kyle Partain. “These photos provide ASI with a tremendous collection of industry-related images that will appear in a number of ASI publications in the years to come. It’s also a great opportunity to provide a true producers’ perspective on the industry.”

Rules and prizes for the 2022 contest are the same as last year. Photographs entered in the contest will be judged on clarity, content, composition and appeal.
More than $1,000 will be awarded, with awards of $125 going to the first-place photographer in each of the five categories listed below; $75 for the runner-up in each category; and a $50 prize for third place in each of the five categories.

Entries must be received in the ASI office by 5 p.m. mountain time on Monday, Aug. 1, to be considered. Only the top three photographers in each category will be notified of their winnings.

Photographers are advised to submit photographs in the largest file size possible. Also, judges and ASI staff encourage entrants to provide both horizontal and vertical photos. This will better assure these talented and creative photos can be shared in future issues of the Sheep Industry News, as well as in the 2023 ASI Calendar and other ASI publications.

The five categories in this year’s contest are:

1. Shepherd/Shepherdess – Photographs of producers, shepherds or others working with sheep.

2. Scenic (East) – Photographs of sheep outdoors located east of the Mississippi River. Photos entered in this category cannot include people.

3. Scenic (West) – Photographs of sheep outdoors located west of the Mississippi River. Photos entered in this category cannot include people.

4. Working Dogs and Protection Animals – Photographs in this category should show herding dogs, livestock guardian dogs or any other livestock protection animal in their natural environments. Photos must also include sheep in some fashion as proof that these truly are working animals.

5. Open – Photographs with subject matter that does not fall into the four above-listed categories.

Other contest rules:

• ASI can use or reproduce all entries at the discretion of ASI. In addition, entries will not be returned.

• ASI is not required to notify photographers when photos are used in materials.

• Photographs can be submitted via hard copy or electronically.

• All entries must be at least 3 inches by 5 inches, color or black-and-white, high-resolution photos (larger sizes encouraged).

• Entries must be submitted in the name of the person who took the photograph.

• Entries are limited to two per category per person.

• Only photographs that have been taken in the past six years can be entered.

• Photographs submitted in previous years cannot be re-entered.

• The following needs to be included with each submission: title of photo; category (from the five listed above) into which it is being entered; photographer’s name; mailing address; phone number; email address; and approximate location/date of photo.

• If there is a particular story that goes with the photo, please include that, as well, with the entry.

Entries should be emailed to Partain at kyle@sheepusa.org with the subject line of ASI Photo Contest. Those mailing photos should send them to ASI, Attn: Photo Contest, 9785 Maroon Circle, Suite 360, Englewood, CO 80112.

Peak Mountain Offers Luxury Sheep Camps

Members of the Wheeler family readily admit they are not great salespeople. Fortunately, the high-quality sheep camps they build at Peak Mountain Camps sell themselves.

Mike Wheeler had approximately 10 years of experience designing sheep camps when he left the old Timberline company to start Peak Mountain Camps with his brother, David, and their respective sons, Weston, Kyler and Brady in 2017. Without a building in the early days of the company, the family focused on RV repair work that was performed mostly at night and on weekends while working other jobs until they were able to shed those and work for themselves full-time.

Once they had a building in place, they set about producing custom sheep camps. The first model rolled out of the workshop in 2018. It is still proudly displayed in front of the shop, except when family members borrow it for a weekend of off-grid fun.

“My brother, son and nephew had all worked for Timberline,” said David Wheeler. “I’d been in the restaurant business for 35 years, but they came to me and asked if I’d like to be a part of this. I did not really need to do this, but I looked at it and thought about how I would like to see my kids stay in this beautiful valley where they were raised. Starting this business provided an opportunity for my family to work here and stay in this valley. We love this area. We love to hunt and get outdoors here.

“It’s a lot like farmers and ranchers who want their children to be able to stay on the land they’ve grown up working. For a young kid today, they cannot afford to do that unless they inherit the land. So, we’re building something that will allow our kids to stay here.”

Admittedly, many of these camps are custom built and not what most sheep producers would purchase for their herders to live in on a mountain top all summer. They are aimed more at the producers themselves, as well as outdoors men and women who like the sheep camp concept but want more of the comforts of home from their camping experience.

“We can put in furnaces along with the traditional wood stove. We have put TVs and recliners in them, and most of our models have a bathroom,” David said. “We can do just about anything the customer wants, as long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the trailer.”

Peak Mountain Camps also builds many camps that are strictly for the agriculture industry on two styles of wagon frames. The company has produced 45 trailers since 2018 and each one was different with one notable exception. Peak Mountain produced three identical sheep camps for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho.

“Part of the deal was we had to take three old camps on trade,” David recalled. “One was a 1970 and the other two were 1988. I sold all three on the phone. We fixed a few things in them – but not much – and sold them for $11,000 to $15,000 each. They did not cost $5,000 to $6,000 brand new. Sheep camps really hold their value, more so than a standard RV.”

Peak Mountain’s camps are well insulated – with all water tanks and lines built into the camp itself – and can be used in extreme cold with only a furnace or wood stove for heat. Customers have come from across the West – from Texas to Arizona to Alaska – and have routinely put the campers to the test in all sorts of weather conditions.

With less than a half dozen companies in the United States producing sheep camps – including Western Range Camps, which is located just down the street from Peak Mountain’s location in Spring City, Utah – getting word out about the new company was not particularly challenging. Weston began producing videos for social media and the company’s following on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram grew exponentially in the first few years.

“We have a waiting list now,” David said. “We’re 14 to 15 months out on orders. The lady at the bottom of the waiting list right now won’t see her camp until July of 2023.”

That has partly been by design. The company boasts just eight employees – six of whom are related in some fashion. And a couple of them don’t work full-time. Kyler, for instance, has built a thriving business training hunting dogs that shares time with his commitment to the shop.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic might have spurred demand a bit, the ensuing supply chain problems have created new challenges for Peak Mountain Camps.

“We used to buy appliances and materials we needed a few weeks before we started on a camp,” David said. “Now, we have to inventory enough stuff for 10 camps at a time just to make sure we have what we need when we need it.”

The financial commitment for buying a Peak Mountain Camp is substantial – $40,000 to $75,000 – but the company is building camps that it believes will still be in use 100 years from now.

“And we’re often competing with an RV market where their trailers might only last five years,” David said. “Most of our customers are older folks who are tired of the RVs. They’re tired of things falling apart, so they’re ready to buy something that is going to last a long time.”

For more information, visit PeakMtnCamps.com.

Family Foundation: Utah’s Olsen Clan

It’s easy to joke that Allen Olsen hasn’t gone very far in the sheep industry given the fact that he was born just 150 feet from where he sits at the kitchen table in the home he shares with his wife, Brenda, and youngest son, Pete. But there’s so much more to the story for this fourth-generation rancher.

He took over the family operation in Fountain Green, Utah, from his father. Along the way, he introduced the inclusion of foreign labor via the H-2A program and purchased a permit to graze the family’s flock on the state’s western desert each winter. But he never lost sight of the ultimate goal: continuing an operation that allowed the family to live and work together on a daily basis. With more than a half century of life experience under his belt, he’s transitioning the operation to two of his four children.

“They aren’t really working for me these days, it’s more like I’m working for them. Kelton and Pete have been training for this their whole lives. We’ve got pictures of them in the lambing barn when they were this high,” says Allen, gesturing about a foot off the ground. “They are already very involved in the day-to-day decisions about the operation. They have the ability to make decisions, and they’re learning that they have to live with the consequences – good or bad – of those decisions.

“Going into the fifth generation now, we’ve kind of refined what works for us. It’s provided a good life and we’ve been able to raise a close family that always worked together. All the kids still live in state and we get to see the grand kids.”

Allen and Brenda’s lone daughter married a cattle rancher and settled in northern Utah, while their oldest son is a pilot for Southwest Airlines. He’s based in Dallas, but maintains a home with his wife and children in Utah. All four can be counted on to lend a hand when needed.

Family operations are common in this valley that sits just 20 minutes West of Nephi, Utah. Most are shed lambing operations – as are the Olsens – and several have lambing sheds adjacent to each other right off Highway 132 just south of town. Lambing began in earnest in late April.

“For most people in this world, the new year begins in January,” says Kelton. “For us, it starts in April. We’re not finished with our cycle until the wool comes off in early April. Two weeks later we start lambing and that’s our new year.”

And it’s rare that even a single lamb is born without a pair of Olsen eyes on it. Kelton and Pete work 12 hour shifts throughout the process – Kelton on days and Pete on nights – to make sure it runs efficiently with the help of their H-2A herders.

“Our operation is horrendously labor intensive,” Allen admits. “We touch every ewe and lamb, but that’s what works for us.”

“It’s a lot easier to keep an eye on everything in a shed lamb operation,” Kelton adds. “We can catch anything that’s going on right off the bat. I don’t know how people range lamb. There have been times when we’ve had to range lamb a small group and we’ve always had dead lambs. We just don’t have the heart for that. Every lamb counts on our operation. We dock at 175 percent around here and do everything we can to keep those lambs alive until the fall.”

“There’s really no place around here to range lamb,” says Allen, who is a past president of the Utah Wool Growers Association and a former member of ASI’s Lamb Council. “You have to get out in some space to do that where you can keep those ewes moving. We have a lot of small, 20-acre fields in this valley, and we’re sitting between these mountains.”

Most of the family’s lambs go into the Manti-La Sal Lamb Pool, which Allen started with a half dozen other producers years ago.

“It’s been a great thing for the lamb buyers,” Allen said. “They know they can come into this valley and buy a lot of lambs. We’ve sold to virtually every lamb buyer in the United States at some point through the years. It’s not like we’re selling 50,000 lambs (it’s ranged from 10,000 down to about 5,400 in 2021), but nobody in this area gets a price on their lambs until the pool sells. Once the pool sells, they start working off of that price. I think the pool probably carries a little more weight than it should, but it has been a good deal for our operation. Almost all of our lambs go through the pool.”

Some late lambs and any that don’t fit the pool’s needs have sold through video auctions in recent years.

 

The Flock

Rambouillet-Columbia crosses were once the majority of the flock, but recent breeding has taken the flock in a definitive Rambouillet direction. The Olsens also use Suffolk terminal sires to produce their market lambs.

“When I was young, we were pretty heavily involved in the Columbias because they are good, solid sheep,” recalls Kelton. “But the genetics have improved so much with the Rambouillets, so we started moving that direction. We need a good, strong range ewe to survive around here, and the Rambouillets can do that now. We’ve got them out on the desert in the winter, then up on private pasture in late spring before moving to Forest Service land in the mountains for the summer. The Rambouillet buck producers have done a good job improving their genetics to where these sheep can survive and thrive around here now. I don’t know exactly how much Columbia is still left in them, but it isn’t much.”

The shift in breeding has improved the flock’s wool clip to the point that the family is excited to see test results on the clip each season.

“I remember when our ewe lambs busted into that 19 micron range. That was amazing,” says Kelton. “It’s always tiny steps forward when you’re improving your wool clip, but we’re pretty happy with where it is now. We’ve got good, strong ewes who produce good wool, and those don’t always go hand-in-hand. We’re producing strong, heavy-boned good for the range sheep and still getting that good micron.”

 

The Operation

It’s important that each generation continues to improve the operation for the future.

“They say the first generation builds it, the second generation maintains it and the third generation sells it,” Pete says. “We’re already past that. It’s fun to see how much the farm has changed just since our grandpa had it. We didn’t use to have the desert permit and the ewes stayed in the sheds all winter. Pops picked up that permit and that has revolutionized the way we’re able to run sheep. Kelton and I want to leave our mark on the farm too when we pass it on someday. We’re always looking for ways to do things better.”

The winter permit, for example, allowed the family to sell much of its alfalfa as that commodity increased in value in recent years. Before the permit, the flock consumed it all (and more in some years). Getting a better handle on feed costs is a daily concern for the operation, and the winter permit made that possible.

But there are other advantages, as well.

“I feel like the ewes come home from the desert stronger than they would if they were spending the winter in a confined area and being fed hay,” Kelton says. “Out there, they are staying strong and active.”

While improvement is always on the agenda, the main goal for the family operation is to keep it a family operation. It’s a sentiment the Olsens share with many of their neighbors.

“You could offer some of the guys in this area anything, but the land isn’t for sale,” Pete says. “I get to walk on the same ground that my dad, grandpa and great grandfather all walked on. My old man raised us all here. He didn’t put any pressure on us to stay here. There was never an expectation for us to stay here. But he wanted it to be an option for us if that’s what we wanted. It’s not a nine to five job, but I get to work with my brother every day and have lunch with my family and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

Kelton and his wife, Hailee, are raising their children around the operation, and Pete hopes to follow in his big brother’s footsteps in that regard.

“If there’s a sheep-loving girl out there who’d like to live in a small village in central Utah,” Allen jokes, “we’d welcome her into the family.”
“I’m hoping you get some good photos of me to put in the magazine,” Pete adds. “Maybe that would help. But I’m only 22. I’ve got time.”

Pete seems content to stay on the operation. Kelton left at one point – taking a job in Hawaii – but soon returned.

“I was looking out at the ocean and I knew it wasn’t for me,” he recalls. “I was in paradise and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. I’d rather be at 10,000 feet and working with a flock of sheep any day.”

Spending his entire life in a desert climate, Allen appreciates any place with a view of water, and says he’d be happy to represent the family in Hawaii.

“I’ve been a part of a business I love and got to spend time with my high school sweetheart for the past 38 years,” he says. “Water fascinates me, and I can have a lot of peace there now because I know I don’t have to worry about what’s going on here at the ranch thanks to these boys. They’ve got it under control.”

AASRP Awards Grant to Texas Tech’s Gibbons

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners has awarded Dr. Philippa Gibbons, Texas Tech University, its first research grant for her proposed study Relationship Between Thoracic Auscultation, Thoracic Ultrasonography and Thoracic Radiographs in Small Ruminants. This award is just shy of $23,000.

“The AASRP Research Committee is excited to contribute to the AASRP’s strategic focus on supporting research that provides clinically relevant information our members can use in practice,” said AASRP Research Committee Chair Dr. Virginia Fajt. “We received 12 excellent submissions to this year’s request for proposals, which was a great showing for the first year of the grant.” Fajt adds that all 12 grants were reviewed by experts, and after consideration by the research committee, the AASRP Board of Directors made the final selection.

The project is a collaboration between the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine, Oklahoma State College of Veterinary Medicine and the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.

“The project will look at the relationship between thoracic auscultation, ultrasound and radiographs in sheep and goats,” Gibbons explained. “As veterinarians, we know that diagnosing respiratory disease in sheep and goats by auscultation alone can be challenging, so the aim of this project is to determine the sensitivity and specificity of auscultation, ultrasound and radiographs, and which combination is most helpful to diagnose respiratory disease. Clinical cases will be used and lung sounds will be recorded using a recordable stethoscope. The lung sounds, ultrasound and radiograph images will also be stored for future use for training veterinary students.”

The research committee modeled the request for proposals and review criteria off the criteria used by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Foundation for their clinical research grants. The committee would like to acknowledge the scientific reviewers who gave their valuable time to provide feedback and comments about the proposals: Oche Andrew Adogwa, Melanie Boileau, Joan Burke, Lionel Dawson, Sarah Depenbrock, Sherrill Fleming, Derek Foster, Gretchen Grissett, Jennifer Halleran, Maggie Highland, Matt Miesner, Rachel Oman, Scott Radke, Emily Reppert, Jennifer Schleining, RC Scimeca, Clifford F. Shipley, Philip Skuce, Jamie Stewart, Cindy Wolf and Amelia Woolums.

“We hope to be able to fund projects every year, and we look forward to the contributions clinical research can make to improve the health and welfare of small ruminants and elevate the standards of small ruminant practice,” Fajt said.

Source: AASRP

Wyoming WGA Hires Alison Crane

Wyoming Wool Growers Association President Regan Smith announced recently that sheep specialist Alison Crane, Ph.D., has been selected as the organization’s next executive director.

Crane’s background in small ruminant science, combined with a passion for working with sheep producers and promoting the sheep industry, will help further advance the mission of the association as it celebrates its 117th year of representing the state’s sheep and wool producers.

“The WWGA board is so thrilled to have found Alison Crane amongst the many applicants for the executive director opening,” Smith said. “Her burning personal desire to get to the Mountain West, to making the most of her education and her love of the sheep industry, is a perfect match for what we need to continue our growth in the WWGA.”

When Crane assumes the role in July, she will serve as the public face and spokesperson for the organization and will manage its day-to-day functions, including serving as WWGA’s primary contact with key partners, agency staff and governmental leaders.

“I could not be more excited to take part in the legacy of premier wool and sheep production in the state of Wyoming. It’s an honor to be chosen to work with and support the producers in this state,” Crane said.

Crane currently serves as an assistant professor and sheep and meat goat Extension specialist at Kansas State University.

Source: Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Obituaries

Richard “Dick” Boniface, 1930-2022

Richard “Dick” Lee Boniface was born Jan. 26, 1930, in Rockford, Ill., to Harry and Hulda (Olsen) Boniface. He passed away on April 19, 2022.
The family later moved near Darien, Wis., where he attended high school at Darien High School, graduating in 1947. Following high school he took a “skip year” and worked at Getzen Music and Thiele Construction before beginning his college education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dick began as a music major, and played in the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, but discovered his interests were more agriculture/business related. After completing his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1952, he began a 38-year career in marketing with North Central Wool Marketing – a regional cooperative in Minneapolis.

He began on the grading crew, and then moved to wool buyer and supervisor of field staff. Later, he was appointed public relations director, editor for the Wool Sack – the company’s membership paper – and director of field service. Under his direction, the buying operation in the fleece wool area east of Missouri River included 175 buyers, seven area supervisors, acquiring 6 to 9 million pounds of wool a year.

Dick traveled to all parts of the North Central United States recruiting, training and supervising field staff, organizing and speaking at meetings of sheep producers and association leaders. He originated the grade and yield method of marketing wool, making it possible to sell wool on the current market on a quality basis, and selling ahead on a historic profile of grades.

In implementing and operating the wool testing lab, North Central literally became a world leader in getting the American wool trade to accept micron and scoured yield results in establishing wool prices.

He helped organize the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers and continued to support the organization with their booth at the Minnesota State Fair for many years.

Through the matchmaking skills of mutual friend – Dr. Robert Jordan – Dick was introduced to Juanita (Boeckenhauer) Reed, who was to become his wife of 33 years. They were married April 26, 1989, at Hennepin Ave. United Methodist Church bringing together their blended family of seven children.

He is survived by wife, Juanita, and their blended family: children Jill Glass, Carrie (Craig) Ludetke, Tobin (Ginger) Castle, Kent (Peggy) Reed, Kelly (Kevin) Willis; numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren; sisters Mary Weis and Elizabeth Peterson.

Memorials may be directed to Richard Boniface and Juanita Reed-Boniface 4-H Endowment (2961), c/o U of MN Foundation, PO Box 860266, Minneapolis, MN 55486 or to the family.

 

C. LeRoy Johnson, 1928-2022

C. LeRoy Johnson, age 94 and long-time resident of Sheridan, Wyo., passed away on May 2, 2022. He was born Jan. 17th, 1928, in Valley City, N.D., to Leonard and Emelia “Peggy” (Gustafson) Johnson.

As a young boy, he lived on the family farm, attended country school, and later graduated from Valley City High School in 1946. He received his bachelor of science degree in animal science from North Dakota State University in 1950.

On Oct. 26, 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was promoted to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant following training in the United States and Japan. On Thanksgiving 1951, he entered the Korean War through Inchon Harbor and served on the line at the middle of the 38th Parallel with the Second Battalion of the 180th Infantry Regiment under the 45th Infantry Division. He then transferred to Yon Chon where he served as a prison guard under the Eighth Army.

On June 7, 1953, he married Inez M. Westby at Central Lutheran Church in Pelican Rapids, Minn. To this union, they welcomed Meridee, Paul, Bonnie and Mark. LeRoy’s education and career took him to many places. After working in Austin, Minn., as a Hormel Company livestock buyer, LeRoy and his family moved to Hettinger, N.D., where he was a North Dakota State University Experiment Station superintendent.

In 1967, he earned his master’s degree in animal science from the University of Wyoming, followed by a doctorate in 1972 from South Dakota State University. He then became a Professor of Animal Science at the University of Wyoming, where he worked from 1972 until his retirement in 1990.

During his time at UW, LeRoy traveled with the extension department throughout Wyoming and also served many years as advisor to the UW Wool Judging Team. His affinity for judging wool at county and state fairs throughout the country continued well into retirement.

In 1990, LeRoy and Inez settled in Sheridan.

LeRoy was preceded in death by his parents, sister Lorraine, and brother Eldon “Bud.” He is remembered and missed by his wife of 68 years, Inez; children Meridee (Kurt) Piel of Sheridan, Paul Johnson of Buffalo, Wyo., Bonnie Johnson of Pinehurst, N.C., and Mark (Lisa) Johnson of Holualoa, Hawaii; as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Sheridan Senior Center or Trinity Lutheran Church.

Watching A Wool Sale

KYLE PARTAIN
Sheep Industry News Editor

In my mind, wool buyers are like the rock stars of the American sheep industry. It seems to me that these top-level sponsors of the ASI Annual Convention each year are always flying off to foreign lands and handling transactions that easily reach into the six figures and beyond. But my trip to Utah in late April allowed a look behind the wool curtain, and I have to say that rock star image I had built in my mind took a bit of a hit.

Representatives from American Wool Services, Anodyne and Keese International were all on hand for a wool sale that month at Utah Wool Marketing, and it would be an understatement to say I didn’t get the show I had imagined. As far as I know, no private planes or personal helicopters were involved in bringing these five men to Tooele, Utah, that day. There were no limousines in the parking lot, no personal assistants or entourages to be found.

Plastic, folding tables spread around an open area in the warehouse served as the stage for the day’s festivities. Propane heaters were the sole bit of luxury on a day when it was warmer – but windier – outside than inside. Three people – Utah producer Brian Bitner, Wyoming producer Vance Broadbent and myself – were on hand to watch the sale.

With wool in the sale, Bitner had more of a personal investment in the proceedings than I did. Like me, it was his first time visiting such a sale as his wool has traditionally headed to an out-of-state warehouse. But increased shipping costs made staying close to home with a portion of his clip a better financial decision.

“It was interesting to see,” said Bitner, who was also allowed to view each of the three bids on his lots. “That was fantastic, and much appreciated. It gave me some important information on how they valued my wool.”

That audience was down to one by the time the sale day ended, and even I left for a bit in the middle to tackle some work before returning to catch the not-so-shocking conclusion as the final lot of the day sold with the same lack of fanfare as the first.

There was some action. Despite having inspected all of the wool the day before the sale, occasionally a buyer would get up from his table to inspect a sample that was coming up for bid. That was the case in this month’s cover photo featuring Darrell Keese.

For those who haven’t been, the sale involved “sealed” bids. Utah Wool Marketing Manager Will Griggs announced each lot and gave the representatives of each company two or three minutes to write their bid on a sheet of paper. He collected the bids, announced which company had the high bid and moved on to the next.

Buyers got helpful feedback at the close of the day during what Griggs referred to as the “confessional.” Griggs went lot by lot announcing what the winning company bid for each lot.

While it wasn’t quite the spectacle I had imagined, the day proved interesting and educational. My image of wool buyers as rock stars might be forever dashed, but they’re still good people to spend a day with from time to time.

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