|Sheep and Goat Conference a Successful Event
By BECKY TALLEY
Sheep Industry News Associate Editor
(January 1, 2009) The first Mountain-Plains Sheep and Goat Conference was held Nov. 14-15, in Greeley, Colo., to good reviews and an excitement for future years of this event.
The two-day conference offered attendees an opportunity to learn about the latest information and management techniques available in both the sheep and goat industries.
In all, approximately 106 participants representing the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio and North Dakota, as well as one reservation, the Winnebago Agency, registered for the conference.
These attendees were treated to a unique format that brought both sheep and goat interests together on the first day, featuring workshops on topics such as targeted grazing, using co-product feedstuffs, scrapie updates and infectious causes of reproductive loss in sheep and goats. The second day of the workshop split the sheep and goat sessions, so attendees could get more in-depth and tailored information on their chosen industry.
This format was tailored after an annual range cow symposium, which is held every other year and rotated between host states. That conference has been a great success, so using it as a model, a group of researchers and extension agents formed a planning committee to create a similar type of event focusing on sheep and goats. The committee consisted of Jeff Held, Ph.D., South Dakota State University; Doug Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension; Chris Schauer, Ph.D., North Dakota State University, Hettinger Research Center; Lisa Surber, Ph.D., Montana State University, Montana Sheep Institute; Matthew McClellan, Montana State University Extension; Nathan Long, Ph.D., University of Wyoming; Steve LeValley, Ph.D., Colorado State University; Roger Ellis, DVM, Colorado State University; Mike Jarosz, Ph.D., Colorado State University Extension; Tom McBride, Colorado State University Extension; and Michael Fisher, Colorado State University Extension.
“We felt there wasn’t enough education in the sheep and goat industry,” says Fisher, area livestock agent for the Golden Plains of Colorado and the conference’s coordinator.
According to Fisher, the conference was well attended for its first year, and provided information on topics that seemed to be on the forefront of attendees’ minds.
“I thought it was excellent for the fist year. Like all industries, it appeared to me that people were looking at feed costs, and looking at what to do to lower feed costs,” he says, adding that in addition a reproductive loss workshop, given by Roger Ellis, DVM, of Colorado State University, drew a large audience as well.
“It floored me how many people made comments about his talk. It was probably the big one for the sheep folks,” he relates.
According to conference attendee Heidi Hamlin, DVM, Santa Fe, N.M, workshops like the one on reproductive loss and other animal diseases were of highest interest to her.
Hamlin is looking to start a sheep and goat veterinary clinic in her area, and decided to attend the conference to pick up new and helpful information.
“Part of my business plan was going to have a look (at the conference). I met with producers and was able to chat with them. It was a great forum,” she relates.
According to Hamlin, who attends many veterinary conferences, she gets more out of the ones like the Mountain-Plains Sheep and Goat Conference that are more producer-oriented, practical and gives insight into the industry.
“Whenever you can get people together to share ideas and problem solve, I think there is nowhere to go but positive. Whenever you mix veterinarians with producers, it’s always great,” she says.
Club lamb and range ram producer, Daryl Tiltrum, of Wheatland, Wyo., agrees that the format, which encouraged attendees to interact with each other, was just one positive aspect of the conference.
“It was valuable to hear how people did things from other places,” he says.
Tiltrum was able to take advantage of both aspects of the workshop, as he attended to learn more about the sheep industry, his current industry, as well as gain more knowledge about goats, an industry he is gaining interest in.
“There was so much knowledge in so little time. It was fabulous,” he says.
“If they have that caliber of speakers next time, everybody should go. I highly recommend it to anybody. People were so nice and they would bend over backwards to answer your questions.”
In addition to the information sessions, attendees were given a chance to learn about industry products during a conference trade show and were treated to a banquet featuring leg of lamb and keynote speaker, Peter Orwick, executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association, who discussed the state of the industry. They were also given an opportunity to attend hands-on demonstrations of management practices including wool grading and reproductive ultrasound on the second day of the conference.
Surber, who helped with the conference planning and gave a presentation on targeted grazing, said that the interest was high during her talk and the other sessions throughout the event.
She says that there will be more discussion as to future conferences, which could follow the every-other-year, rotating-state format, and they have hopes it will only get more popular with subsequent years.
“It’s very encouraging to have new education programs being developed for sheep producers. It would be excellent if they were able to set this conference up as an ongoing opportunity for sheep producers,” Orwick adds.