SMITHVILLE, Ohio — -The adoption of a new mission statement for the Ohio Heartland Sheep Improvement Association reflects the objectives of the group to generate enthusiasm for the sheep industry in Ohio, according to Kathy Bielek, president of the group.
Members adopted their new mission statement — “To encourage the knowledge, growth and profitability of local shepherds by providing educational, networking and marketing opportunities — ” during their annual meeting April 12 at the Schoolhouse Restaurant at the Wayne County Schools Career Center.
Highlights for the year included the annual banquet, a series of marketing meetings the group hosted and educational displays the group provided at the Family Farm Field Day and the Wayne County Fair. Some of the goals of the group are to provide educational programs on sheep management and marketing, promote the local lamb and wool industry and develop ways to improve the profitability of local lamb and wool producers.
Statewide events of interest to shepherds include the Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Festival, May 28-29 in Wooster, Ohio; Sheep Day July 16 at Blue Herron Farm, Lisbon, Ohio; and the Ohio Sheep Symposium, Dec. 10 at OSU-ATI in Wooster.
The Ohio Heartland Sheep Improvement Association will hold a series of meetings on parasite control and basic sheep husbandry in August and a meeting on ration balancing. It is also planning a bred ewe sale for the fall of 2011. The group will also be participating in the annual Scarlet and Grey Ag Day at Ohio State University to promote the sheep industry in Ohio.
Bob Hendershot, grasslands management systems specialist was guest speaker for the meeting. Hendershot was one of several representatives of Ohio’s sheep industry who took part in a study trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2010 to learn about the sheep industry in those countries.
“We wanted to see how these folks handled their sheep, because we need more lamb in the U.S.” Hendershot said. “A majority of Australian lamb is exported to Saudi Arabia and countries in the Pacific rim.”
He said lamb is sold through a broker to meet the market demand. Brokers find out what the buyers want and work with the farmers to provide the sheep for the buyers.
Agriculture is the number one industry in Australia, according to Hendershot, and sheep and cattle play a major role in the country’s economy.
Other products include wheat, barley, canola, alfalfa and sunflowers. Alfalfa is grown under irrigation, and stored feed is managed very well, according to Hendershot.
“Australia is moving away from a wool industry to a meat industry, but wool genetics still provide a strong background in the industry,” he said. “Fleece is important and shearers are important.”
Australian producers feed very little grain; most of the lamb is grass-fed. They rely heavily on grass-based genetics for their flocks.
“They push genetics,” he said. “They look at lamb performance as well as fleece.”
New Zealand differs somewhat from Australia in that the farms are smaller , the climate is wetter and the market is more practical for wool, and New Zealand probably has more sheep than people.
“New Zealand grows good grass,” he said. “They manage their pastures more intensely than they do in Australia.”
Officers will be Russ Johnson, president; Kathy Bielek, vice president; and Suzie Gortner, secretary/treasurer.