Ohio sheep producers recently came together in Wooster for the 2015 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium. Attendees came away from the meeting with industry updates on state and national issues.
“We had an excellent day and had a lot of very positive comments about it. We had over 200 sheep producers here that got to hear a variety of topics,” said Roger High, executive director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, the organization in charge of the event. “It was just a very diverse day and I think everybody enjoyed it.
“Not only have I said over the years that these type of programs are good from an education standpoint, but they’re good from the social aspect of the industry for sheep producers to get together and visit and learn from one another. They not only learn from the speakers that we have, but also learn from what other people are doing on their farms — what’s successful not successful — and it’s one of the largest sheep social events in the state as well.”
Attendees were able to take time to learn about the state of the sheep industry as leaders looked back over 2015 and what’s ahead for 2016 and beyond.
“The sheep industry in Ohio is strong,” High said. “As Burton Pfliger, the president of the American Sheep Industry, and I have been saying, Ohio now has the third largest membership in the American Sheep Industry, which is the national association, so we’re seeing growth within our industry and sheep producers are joining our association and learning the benefits of being a member of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association.”
Involvement helps Ohio’s sheep producers have a voice on legislative matters, including the highly controversial Clean Water Act, otherwise known as Waters of the United States or WOTUS.
“We continue as agriculture to oppose the Waters of the United States rule, and so we’re working with our other agriculture organizations in the state — the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and some of the other commodity organizations — to work with our legislators to continue opposing the Waters of the United States rule and just work through the legislative and political process to make sure that doesn’t happen,” High said.
Educational speakers throughout the event covered topics including improving lambing numbers and succession planning on the farm. One of the featured presenters was American Sheep Industry President Burton Pfliger. He said that, looking back on the year, 2015 was very good to sheep.
“Prices were good for most of the year. Outside of the California drought, most producers experienced some favorable conditions for forage as well as for pastures and for crops. Sheep enjoyed those as well. California struggled with that, as did Texas a few years ago,” Pfliger said. “For the most part, it’s been a good year. We’ve seen a recent decline in prices for lambs and that’s simply due to a supply issue again as we see towards the end of the year an overabundance in supply.”
He also spoke to several matters of legislation on the horizon that will affect sheep and agriculture in general. An overview of the changes to Lamb Price Reporting was one of the more notable topics.
“In the Lamb Price Reporting, we’ve always had the 3-70-20 rule, which protected the confidentialities of those peoples that reported the mandatory price reporting data. With the continued consolidation in the lamb meat industry, we had to readdress those issues and reduce the limits in terms of the number of pounds that they had to deal with to be reporting,” he said. “We also had to change the wording in the law so groups like the co-op, which were considered owners of their product, could report. This was all to improve the amount of data we had before discovery, as well as protect the identity of that and we did that through an introduction into the Farm Bill and that was very successful.”
Elsewhere in the outlook for animal agriculture legislation, the Veterinary Feed Directive is expected to be implemented by 2017, something Pfliger said producers need to be watching. In a statement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule final rule is described as, “an important part of the agency’s overall strategy to ensure the judicious use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals.”
“The VFD has the potential to impact a larger percentage of the industry including the folks here in Ohio. What it essentially says is if the product isn’t labeled for sheep, it will no longer be allowed to be used,” Pfliger said. “We’ve developed a relationship with Zoetis and are putting together a working group with the goal in my mind of creating a pharmaceutical that would be therapeutic for respiratory disease in sheep, and we hope that partnership can go forward and get more drugs that are labeled and workable in sheep. We’re certainly going to address it in the 2016 convention. It’ll be fully implemented by 2017 so we’ve got some opportunity to put some input in and we’re hoping that producers get involved and let their needs and worries be known.”
Nutritionist Kevin Burgoon with Purina Animal Nutrition took time out of his presentation to speak on the topic from a feed point of view, the primary area of the livestock industry the VFD will impact.
“The FDA wants to do away with growth promotants because they’ve been over utilized at times. Therapeutic medications will still be available at therapeutic levels. Not every feed medication is going to require VFD, or a script from the veterinarian, but some of them will,” Burgoon said. “The thing that determines that is whether they have similar counterparts in human nutrition like Tylan in pigs. If you want to get to the crust of it, they want to prevent resistance to drugs in human medicine, which is a good thing. So, some drugs and some feed medications will require VFD, some will not.”
Burgoon said sheep producers would likely not see as big of a hit from the VFD as those in the swine world.
“All new drugs and all new feed medications are subject to VFDs. The last few new ones, there’s two or three, have required them for 15 or 20 years already. So hog people are more in tune with it, but they’re going to have more medications they routinely use that they’re going to have to go get VFDs for commercial guys,” Burgoon said. “Large producers already know about it, they don’t have a problem with it. It’s maybe the smaller commercial guys that are going to have a little shock. It’s just a steep learning curve and like everything else, the fear is greater than the impact, and once it’s here, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.”