|Burton Pfliger, Bismarck, N.D.
(January 1, 2010) Burton Pfliger along with his wife, Pattie, own and operate 260 commercial western white-face ewes that are crossed with terminal sire Hampshire, Suffolk and meat-type Dorset rams. Additionally, 100 purebred Hampshire and Suffolk ewes are used to produce home-raised terminal sires and to sell commercial range rams in the region. Lambing takes place in February for Hampshire and Suffolk ewes, while the commercial ewes lamb the later part of March and into early April. All lambs are reared and fed to 135 to 140 pound live weight and marketed through a cooperative direct to packing plants. The rams and replacement ewe lambs are all marketed to repeat customers and reputation sales. All of the forage used in the sheep operation is produced on the farm with additional forage sold to neighboring operations. Long ago, Pfliger learned that he could buy large amounts of poor-quality forage for less than his cost of production. However, he could not purchase high-quality forage for less than what his cost of production is. Grain used in lamb-finishing rations is purchased; this too, is an economic decision with local purchase prices less than local production costs.
Why are you an ASI Guard Dog Member?
“I believe the Guard Dog fund is necessary and essential to the sheep industry. The funds that our industry receives through the Wool Trust and the Lamb Checkoff Programs are not available to be used in political arenas or in the defense of industry. With the ever-increasing number and scope of special interest groups and lawsuits seeking to remove and disenfranchise livestock producers (the true conservationists/environmentalists) from federal and state lands, this fund will see a much larger and more frequent demand placed upon it. Consequently, Guard Dog funds and future donations to the program will have an ever-increasing importance and role in sheep production in the United States.”
How do you think our industry has benefited from the Guard Dog funds?
“Most recently, a good sum of money was committed from Guard Dog funds in successful defense of sheep producers who were facing eviction notices on long-standing allotments of federal and state lands. Had Guard Dog funds not been contributed to the coalition of affected parties, the outcome may have not been the same. The additional funds allowed the affected parties and the industry to mount a vigorous defense. Many in our industry feared had this first attempt been successful; precedence may have been set to remove other producers from public lands. Additionally, Guard Dog funds have been used in the political arena to better inform public policy makers about issues beneficial to the sheep industry. Examples include the Wool Trust, Scrapie Eradication Program, the Lamb Checkoff Program and the 201 legislation of a few years ago, which included payments for the ewe lamb retention program.”
What do you think are the industry’s biggest needs for the future?
“I am not sure that I could identify the biggest need for the future. I believe we have numerous challenges ahead of us. One of the biggest is the maintenance and growth of both sheep numbers and the infrastructure that utilizes the raw commodities we produce. I believe we need a credible platform from which to educate the non-agriculture public not only about the necessity of food production in this country but to also show the world unprecedented safe and humane food-production practices used to produce the bounty of food enjoyed by all people. Currently, we are at a disadvantage in this arena. Some organizations and groups prejudice the opinions of many uninformed consumers who only hear one side of the story. All this is done under the canopy of credibility provided by junk science, falsehoods and personal agendas. I believe that more should be done and explored in this arena with the land-grant university systems. I have recently spoken about this with some leaders in the land-grant university system. Reciprocity guest speaker programs between university systems and departments may provide a much-needed platform to restore balance. I am concerned as more and more groups push for the de-legitimization of animal agriculture what species will be offered up next. The horse industry is struggling with the issue of an outlet for unwanted over production right now. Finally, for the purposes of this editorial, I believe a permanent self-sustaining funding source for the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) should be paramount in every producer’s mind. Pound for pound, ASI has more positive impact on the sheep industry through coalition building between industry partners, legislative and public policy partnerships and direct economic benefits to its producers than any organization I have ever witnessed.”
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 businesses 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.