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Sheep Update

Livestock Update, February 2005

Dr. Scott P. Greiner Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech

Virginia Commercial Ewe Lamb Development Program Results 2004-05
The 5th Annual Virginia Commercial Ewe Lamb Development Program concluded with a sale held in conjunction with the Virginia-North Carolina Shepherds' Symposium at the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA on January 8, 2005. The goal of the commercial ewe lamb development and marketing program is to provide a source of quality bred replacement ewe lambs with documented health, management, and genetics for Virginia commercial flocks. In early September, crossbred ewe lambs were delivered to the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station located at the Virginia Tech Shenandoah Valley Agriculture Research and Extension Center located near Steeles Tavern. Ewe lambs were developed on forage with supplemental grain mix provided to optimize growth and reproductive performance during the development program and breeding season. The ewes were mated to either Suffolk or Dorset ram lambs, which were selected from the 2004 Virginia Performance Ram Lamb Test. In late December, pregnancy diagnosis was conducted via ultrasound. Of the 81 ewe lambs exposed, 65 were confirmed pregnant. These bred ewe lambs were sold in consignor groups of two to four head based on breed, service sire, and expected lambing date (ranging from early March to mid April). Sale results for the bred ewe lambs and the performance tested rams used as service sires were as follows:

  Sale Average ($/head)
64 Bred Commercial Ewe Lambs $192
3 Performance Tested Rams $302

Ewe prices ranged from $165 to $255 per head. Rules and regulations, as well as consignment and entry information for the program in 2005 will be available late spring. The program is sponsored by the Virginia Sheep Producers Association. For more information, contact Scott Greiner at (540) 231-9159.

Redwine and Mewbourne Receive Roy A. Meek Outstanding Sheep Producer Awards
Dr. David Redwine of Gate City and Martha Mewbourne of Nickelsville were recipients of the Roy A. Meek Outstanding Sheep Producer Award presented January 8, 2005 at the Virginia-North Carolina Shepherd's Symposium held in Blacksburg, VA. The award is presented annually by the Virginia Sheep Producers Association (VSPA) to recognize individuals which have made outstanding contributions to the sheep industry in Virginia.

Redwine and Mewbourne hail from Scott County, Virginia- a large mostly rural county located in extreme southwest Virginia only a few miles from the borders of Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It is in the heart of the Appalachian mountain range, with most farmland consisting of rolling hills or steep ridge land with many limestone outcroppings. Much of the land is not suitable for grain production, and as a result, most farming is centered on grazing livestock which made the area very suitable to sheep production. Sheep were a popular enterprise until the early 1990's when depressed market prices, parasites, and predators left less than 100 head of sheep in the county. In recent years, the region has witnessed a boom in the sheep industry largely as the result of the efforts of David Redwine and Martha Mewbourne.

In 1997, Redwine and his uncle brought the first Katahdin ewes to the county from Lexington, Kentucky. The Katahdins were selected for their reputation as low maintenance- easy care sheep, with resistance to parasites and other diseases. As word spread about these trouble free sheep, neighbors and other producers began requesting ewe lambs and the demand soon outgrew supply. Currently, Redwine and his family and partners maintain a flock of approximately 175 ewes.

Soon thereafter, Martha Mewbourne and her husband Tom moved to Scott County from Philadelphia. With no previous experience, Mewbourne began raising sheep with a single bottle lamb. She too was impressed with the Katahdin sheep, and quickly developed a flock of her own which today is comprised of 130 brood ewes.

Under the leadership of Redwine and Mewbourne, the Scott County Katahdin Coop was formed in 2000. The cooperative started with 25 members and was initiated out of the need for education, as many of the producers getting started in the business had very little experience with sheep. Quarterly meetings were held on topics related to production, health, and direct marketing. From the start, the group has focused their efforts on marketing with a concerted effort to produce a product that fits the marketplace. Initially, lambs were cooperatively marketed to New Holland, Pennsylvania. The rise in popularity of Katahdin sheep provided an opportunity to market large groups of breeding stock across the nation by the Coop.

In 2002, the Scott County group hosted its first Hair Sheep Faire, which was established to showcase the cooperative's efforts. In 2004, the sale held in conjunction with the Faire resulted in a $240 per head average on Katahdin ewe and ram lambs.

In November 2003 the Scott County Coop was approached by Food City, a large regional grocery chain, regarding their interest in supplying locally grown lamb to be marketed in their stores. Through the assistance of many, including Congressman Rick Boucher, the Scott County Coop and Food City entered into a value-added business partnership. The first lamb product furnished by Scott County producers was made available through Food City in January, 2004. The response and acceptance of the product has been overwhelming, and plans are in the works to expand the program.

The Scott County Katahdin Co-op currently has over 100 members representing approximately 3,000 breeding age sheep. The success of the group and its individual producers has largely been the result of the vision, leadership, and hard work of David Redwine and Martha Mewbourne. VSPA is proud to honor David and Martha with the Outstanding Sheep Producer Award for the impact they have had and their contributions toward the advancement of the sheep industry in the state of Virginia.

Lamb Referendum Dates Set
The voting period for the lamb referendum will begin January 31, 2005 and end on February 28, 2005, according to the notice published in the December 27, 2004, Federal Register.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) also announced the final referendum rules under the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Order, more commonly known as the American Lamb Board or Lamb Checkoff Program.

The referendum will be conducted at USDA's county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. To be eligible to participate, you must provide documentation, such as a sales receipt, that shows that you were engaged in the production, feeding or slaughtering of lambs during the period of Jan. 1, 2004, through Dec. 31, 2004.

The Lamb Checkoff Program is authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. This program provides for assessments on the sale of lamb and lamb products and for an industry board to carry out promotion, research and information programs designed to increase the demand for lamb and lamb products. For the program to continue, it must be approved by a majority of voters who also represent a majority of the volume voting in the referendum.

The Referendum Final Rules, the Notice of Opportunity to Participate or a sample copy of the ballot (LS-86) are available at: For more information about the referendum, please contact Kenneth R. Payne, Chief, Marketing Programs Branch, Livestock and Seed Program, AMS, USDA at 202/720.1115, or by e-mail at Or you may contact Linda Cronin; DAFO, USDA, FSA at 202/690.8034, or by e-mail at For more information about the American Lamb board contact Bo Donegan at 303/217.7045, or by e-mail at

More information can also be obtained at: .

Source: ASI

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