Gary Saylor (left), Larry Mead, and Greg and Deb Deakin were awarded the distinguished service honor at the Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium, held Saturday, Dec. 11 in Wooster, Ohio.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Sheep and goat producers continue to enjoy favorable markets in what is the largest sheep producing state east of the Mississippi River.
“It is an exciting time to be in the sheep and goat business,” said Susan Schoenian, sheep and goat specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.
She presented the keynote address at the annual Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium, held Dec. 11 at the Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.
Schoenian said times are good, and will likely continue that way with a number of positive indicators: A growing population, a growing number of immigrants who eat lamb and goat, and more focus on healthy diets.
You just can’t raise one or the other, she said, adding “sheep and goats are like cheese and crackers.”
Although both are promising markets, meat goats are particularly so, as the meat is very low in fat and used heavily for religious meals.
While the average American may eat little lamb or goat meat, Muslims and Hispanics eat quite a bit. Schoenian said immigrants are more prone to eat at home, cook from scratch, and perhaps most importantly — their income is increasing faster than white Americans.
This, in theory, should lead to more lamb and goat buying. She estimated Hispanics spend nearly 20 percent of their disposable income on food — much higher than white Americans.
But perhaps the biggest reason for the good demand is religious tradition.
“God loves sheep,” she said. “Every major religion, lamb and goat are their choices to celebrate the holidays.”
Schoenian’s comments kicked off a daylong celebration of Ohio sheep accomplishments, comprised of a half-dozen marketing seminars and an awards luncheon.
Curt Cline of Cline Farms in Albany, helped narrate a session on feeder lamb production and marketing — alongside Don Hawk of Skyline Farms of Danville, and Rick Reynolds of United Producers in Mount Vernon.
He challenged producers to try new practices, but in a way that is sustainable and results in what the market demands.
“We want to raise a lamb that the market wants,” he said. “The packer is ultimately looking for how many pounds of meat he gets.”
Next door, producers were learning about ethnic marketing of sheep and lambs.
Katherine Harrison, of Canal Winchester, said the U.S. is well positioned to serve the ethnic market, with a large population of Muslims and Somalis. She encouraged producers to be mindful of the different ethnic holidays, so they can market profitably.
During the feeder lamb session, speakers predicted the lamb market will remain strong at least through June, with the long-term market still uncertain.
The 200-plus in attendance took part in a lamb lunch, which preceded the awarding of Ohio’s top sheep honors.
The 4-H Sheep Achievement award went to Becca Goodman, of Fairfield County, and Linsey Howell took the FFA sheep proficiency honor, and was a national proficiency finalist.
Isaac Kauffman, of Wayne County, and Emily Shellhouse, of Delaware County, were awarded Ralph Grimshaw Memorial Scholarships.
Bob Hendershot was awarded the Charles Boyle Ohio Master Shepherd award. Robert Taylor was named the newly created honor Friend of Ohio Sheep Industry.
The Shawn Ray family, of Noble County, was awarded the Ohio Livestock Coalition and Sheep Improvement Association Environmental Stewardship award.
Distinguished Service awards were presented to Gary Saylor of Saylor Sale Management, Larry Mead of Mead Livestock Services, and Greg and Deb Deakin of Banner Sale Management.
Outgoing president Susan Shultz was recognized with a large, scenic picture. She encouraged producers to “stay good to each other and enjoy these wonderful prices.”
New officers for 2011 are president, Jim Percival; vice president, Daryl Clark; secretary/treasurer, Shawn Ray.