|Vernon and Marsha Spykerman, Sibley, Iowa
(May 1, 2010) Marsha and Vernon Spykerman have a commercial Midwest operation, running about 425 Finn cross/Polypay-type ewes. The family shed lambs their ewes and moves the later lambing group out to farm ground that they have converted to pasture when the lambs are about one week old. The Spykermans lamb approximately 100 ewes in late February and early March to produce replacement ewes for their flock. Everything else is lambed later in the season, producing commercial lambs that will be finished on the farm and marketed by the couple.
In addition, the Spykermans also raise corn, hay and have put acreage into grass, which is in a rotational grazing system. Most all of the hay and corn will go back into the ewes and lambs on the farm.
Marsha is retiring this year from the position of executive director for the Iowa Sheep Industry Association where she was instrumental in helping the association rejoin the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), among many other accomplishments.
Why are you an ASI Guard Dog member?
“For a number of years, Iowa had not been a member of ASI, and we had always tried then to pay something on our own because we always thought it was so important for ASI to be there. We have other farm groups that represent us in Washington, D.C., like Farm Bureau, and they have done a great job, but they have a large focus. ASI’s focus is sheep; their focus is our concerns. There are so many things that someone in ASI learns and they inform us to what’s going on. They are our eyes and ears and voice in Washington, D.C.
Also we are a Guard Dog member to support our sheep industry. One of my goals when hired as executive director was to get membership back with ASI, it was so important to pursue it. It just has always been important to us to support our industry. If we don’t support our industry, how do you expect anyone else to?”
How do you think the industry has benefited from the Guard Dog funds?
“We never want to designate where our funds go because we feel that with ASI knowing what’s coming up and what’s pertinent at the time, those funds will be used to our benefit. We have benefited from it in the past, and I know ASI is out there fighting for us on issues like the Wool Trust funds, the LDP payment for wool and the program for the lamb roast purchase. I do know there are a lot of political issues in the states, the West may have been more affected by some than we have. But, I think we are all going to be looking at the PETA fight and that will be really important to support ASI in those kinds of issues to be able to protect our livelihood and make sure that we are still able to go ahead and care for our animals.”
What do you think are the industry’s biggest needs for the future?
“I think that we need to look at preserving our infrastructure, our packing plants and so on. If we lose those, it will be more difficult. We also need to look at ways to increase our numbers and ways to get younger producers involved. There have been some programs in the industry that have focused on ways to raise sheep with reducing labor, I think that will be really important as we look to increase our numbers. Also, we are big supporters of the check off, and it is important for us to continue to maintain it and support it. I see a lot of things on chefs’ shows, and there are a lot of lamb things coming up. Our sons love to cook, and I think there a lot of people that age that look to those things. We do need to keep supporting our check off in order to maintain our presence of the meat supply chain.”
Established in 2001, the Guard Dog Program utilizes the recommendations and donations of dedicated industry individuals to address a variety of issues. We hope you enjoy learning about these individuals, their business and their foresight for the U.S. sheep industry. If you would like to become a member of the Guard Dog Program, contact the American Sheep Industry Association at 303-771-3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.