Commercial market lamb show gives young producers a peek into the industry | TheFencePost.com

Commercial market lamb show gives young producers a peek into the industry

Teresa Clark
For The Fence Post

Producers brought some hair sheep to last year’s competition. The lambs performed quite well in the carcass portion of the competition.

Young producers can get a glance into the commercial sheep industry by attending the fourth annual commercial market lamb show at the Nebraska State Fair.

The show will be Aug. 29 in Grand Island, Neb. Lambs can be brought in that morning, judged in the afternoon and shipped that night. It's a one-day opportunity for anyone who wants to exhibit.

"This contest started from a discussion between me and Roy Gerkins, who is a producer near Randolph, about how to incorporate commercial considerations into sheep shows," said Kiley Hammond, president of the Nebraska Sheep and Goat Producers Association. "This competition is a way for us to show young and new producers the commercial side of the business, by showcasing good commercial producers and how they manage their operations."

Hammond said this contest will provide a stepping stone for young people who have shown 4-H and FFA lambs see how the commercial industry differs from showing lambs.

"It has always bothered me that a young person who has shown sheep most of their life and then is finished showing really knows nothing about the commercial side of the business. We use this feeder show as a teaching tool," he said.

Brad Anderson, manager of lamb procurement at Mountain States Rosen in Greeley, Colo., and an event sponsor, will hold a discussion for producers to ask questions about various parts of the commercial business. He also will evaluated set of lambs in the ring.

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There will be a segment on feed rations and practices.

"It is very informal, but highly educational," Hammond said. "It is a great opportunity for producers to learn more about the business and ask questions directly to a lamb processor."

FILLING A NEED

Hammond saw a need for more producers to raise commercial sheep. There also is a need for more lamb feeders, he said. Currently, U.S. sheep producers only produce half the lambs consumed in the U.S. The rest are imported.

"The timing is good for people wanting to get into this business," he said. "It is a fairly low-input business, although the labor can be a little more intensive."

The commercial market lamb show will be a pen-of-three contest with the pens of lambs judged and placed live, then shipped to Mountain States Rosen in Greeley, Colo., where the lambs will be graded on carcass. The judges for the contest will be actual lamb buyers, so they can look for commercial industry desires.

"The owner doesn't have to get in there and show them," Hammond said. "In this show, the emphasis is on the lamb itself, not how the owner represents them."

The contest is open to anyone, from any state. The 2016 contest had 22 pens, and Hammond hopes to see the show grow this year. Producers can bring any breed or crossbred market lambs. In the past, Hammond said, producers have brought hair sheep, which performed well in the carcass contest.

The top three producers in the live judging and the carcass contest will be awarded cash prizes provided by industry sponsors and businesses.

The judges will look for larger lambs weighing 125-150 pounds that will yield grade a two, which is where the premiums are typically paid, Hammond said. They want a good size carcass, but not overly fat.

Lambs should not be close clipped and must have a reasonable dock on the tail.

"The pelt is not worth much any more — only about $1-$5 a head," Hammond said. "So that really doesn't drive the market. Ideally, producers should aim for a 30-80 day pelt for this contest. Even if the pelt isn't worth much, producers still get other benefits from shearing, like better feed consumption and weight gain."

One of the most valuable parts of the contest will be the carcass data producers will get after the event, which is hard to obtain, Hammond said. The carcass data will include leg scores, rib-eye area, fat thickness and yield grade.

"This data comes in handy for purebred breeders who want to collect carcass data on their wethers, or show sheep people who are serious about their genetics," he said. "Some breeders just use this carcass information to improve their genetics and feeding programs."

— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at tclarklivenews@gmail.com.

To participate

Preregistration is required by Aug. 10. The entry fee is $7 per head.

To enter go to bit.ly/2uCyCNF.

For more information, Kiley Hammond, president of Nebraska Sheep and Goat Producers Associations, can be reached at (308) 390-3001.

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