Buckeye Shepherd Symposium notes positive year, exciting future

Ohio’s sheep industry convened in Wooster this past weekend for the annual Buckeye Shepherd Symposium. Education, awards, food, and fellowship all highlighted this year’s event.

“We have a lot of new people here today that we haven’t seen before and that is exciting for our industry,” said Roger High, executive director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association. “Programming was excellent. The food we had today was excellent for our participants and we just thought it was a great day with well over 200 people here in attendance.”

This year’s program revolved around three different specializations, including labor-saving technology, health and nutrition, and genetics.

“The awards program again went tremendous,” he said. “We recognized some of our youth winners here today. Our Lamb and Wool Queen Autumn Miller, some of our scholarship recipients — Nick Fowler who won the Dr. Jack Judy Scholarship and Delanie Wiseman who won the Ralph Grimshaw Scholarship. As far as the Distinguished Service Award, we recognized Daryl Clark — who is going off of our boards — and Rory Lewandowski who works in Extension here in Wayne County, going off of our board. And then Mt. Hope Auction, we recognized them for their marketing of sheep and lambs.”

Also recognized was Friend of the Industry Ron Cramer, lab manager of the OSU Meat Lab. The Environmental Stewardship went to Kayla Cline through her work in FFA. Larry Shroyer of DeGraff was name the Charles Boyles Master Shepherd of the Year. Shawn Ray received the President’s Award for his last two years of service as the leader of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association Board.

The renowned lunch brought in leg of lamb from the OSU Animal Sciences Department through the Meat Science Club.

High commented on the state of the Ohio sheep industry.

“We feel it’s pretty strong. We feel we’re growing,” High said. “We’re seeing a lot of growth areas, especially in the Amish populations in areas where markets are strong. You talk to anybody from across the United States and they look at the Ohio markets and the eastern markets, they can see that we’ve got as strong of markets as any place across the country.

“Most of us are getting into lambing season. We need to make sure our ewes are nutritionally sound so we have good strong lambs and good milking ewes.”

High also noted the importance of the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) set to take effect Jan. 1. Producers will need vet approval for use of antibiotics in feed and water. This impacts some parts of the livestock industry more than others, though sheep are not immune to the VFD.

“You need to work with everybody involved to make sure that everybody’s doing the right thing because it’s going to be a huge for the animal industry,” High said.

Symposium attendees also heard from Dr. Mark Lyons of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on the status of scrapie across American flocks the past 12 months.

“We had a decent year with fiscal year 2016, which wrapped up Sept. 30,” Lyons said. “We’ve only had a few cases pop up across the country so we’re kind of at the tail end of the scrapie program — getting it eradicated and getting it certified to go overseas with exports. It will still be a few more years for that program to continue. We are expecting maybe a few cases to pop up every once in a while, but hopefully we’ve got a good handle on this.

“We continually see those numbers drop off. As that continues, we do plan to propose to the world possibly opening those markets back up to the sheep and goat industry and allow those exports overseas.”

Lyons said the peak scrapie across the United States was in the early 2000s, a time when new meat surveillance programs were being introduced. Today’s numbers in the single digits in only a handful of states is a major contrast to just 11 years before when scrapie was at a tipping point. Could this mean more of an influence on the international market, instead of just those American flocks certified individually? Only time will tell, he said.

As scrapie control becomes less of a focus for USDA APHIS, Lyons shared other focuses of their department, including biosecurity emergency preparedness, sharing of concerns by producers, and more.

The event was held at the OARDC campus in Wooster.

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