Annual convention also addresses issues of lamb pools, bighorn interaction

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Clint Krebs said he refuses to believe the negativity.

"There are some people who want to say nobody wants to pursue a career in ag," he said. "There may be some truth to that, but I believe we have talented young people that are really interested in pursuing ag careers and careers in the sheep industry."

The Ione, Ore.-based secretary-treasurer of the American Sheep Industry spoke about the lack of sheep to supply the wool processors and packing companies during the Washington State Sheep Producers annual convention Oct. 30 in Spokane Valley, Wash.

"It's like all of agriculture," Krebs said. "One of our goals is to find out why they are going down -- the aging, the difficulty in transitioning agricultural operations. Is it profitability? Is it predators? We don't know where the answers are going to be."

Mark Martinez, president of the Washington State Sheep Producers, said outside influences impact the number of sheep producers, such as larger operations and the need to utilize public lands being considered for bighorn sheep habitat. Bighorn and domestic sheep must be kept separate.

"It's going to be a huge impact on range operations if they're going to be able to continue grazing on public lands," Martinez said.

Processors and packers are asking what can be done to encourage sheep producers to increase their sheep numbers, up to 110 from 100 or 1,100 from 1,000, for example, Krebs said.

"It's more than getting youth to come in," he said. "It's also getting existing producers to think, 'Maybe I can run more.'"

Dave Dashiell said he is trying to figure out how to get more lambs for his monthly lamb pools, run by Spokane Area Sheep Producers. Producers call in a week prior with numbers and approximate weight, information he puts out to buyers, who in turn call him with a bid.

"The more you have, the better," Dashiell said. "These pools with 123 or 140 lambs, that's a long ways from a truckload. You have to be pretty creative on trying to get them sold."

It's harder to sell a smaller pool at market price because the cost of freight is the same whether there is a truckload or less, Dashiell said.

Krebs said the association hopes to find and encourage people to enter or return to the industry. "There isn't as high a profit margin in production agriculture as these people can make in an outside industry, so they have to be willing to take rewards in other areas," he said.

The American Sheep Industry organization held its first meeting of a committee to address declining sheep numbers the week of Nov. 2, Krebs said.

Dashiell said there's more opportunity for more money to be made in the sheep business than any other venture.

"The sheep business isn't for everybody, but money is," he said.

Matthew Weaver is based in Spokane, Wash. E-mail: mweaver@capitalpress.com.

Online

American Sheep Industry: www.sheepusa.org

Washington State Sheep Producers: www.wssp.org

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