ASI celebrates long-standing history, recognizes membersWritten by Saige Albert
Reno, Nev. – From Jan. 28-31, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) gathered producers, buyers and agency officials together for a monumental milestone – the 150th year of the organization.
“It was a really good convention,” mentioned Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Director Amy Hendrickson. “There were a record number of people there, and we had about 15 members from Wyoming.”
During the convention, while ASI was celebrating its achievement of reaching 150 years as an organization, they also discussed the ongoing policy challenges seen in the sheep industry.
“From a policy perspective, public lands grazing and Bighorn sheep are always important,” Hendrickson noted. “For the industry itself, the Roadmap was a big topic.”
ASI is currently implementing its Roadmap for the industry to continue to develop sheep production across the U.S.
“They also looked at improvements in both wool and lamb,” she continued. “It was a really good meeting, and we hit a lot of topics.”
Larry Prager of Center of the Nation Wool also commented that the 150th convention was well-attended event.
“Every year at ASI convention is a good time,” he said. “The convention is a good place for the wool trade to get together. We can visit casually and get a sense of what the issues are for each entity in the industry.”
He also said that the event set the stage for the spring trading and shearing season.
“There are a lot of positives for the wool industry right now,” Prager continued, “but we are being killed with the strength of the U.S. dollar.”
For world supply, no large stocks of wool are available anywhere, which is a positive for the industry, but Australia’s product is cheaper than U.S. wools because of the value of the dollar.
At the same time, an increasing interest in wool from the outdoor recreation industry bodes well for markets.
At the convention, Wyoming producers were recognized for their hard work and achievements, most notably Wyoming rancher Don Meike.
Meike earned ASI’s “Distinguished Producer Award,” an award created in 2014 and designed to honor a member of the sheep community with long-standing involvement in the industry’s history and development.
“Meike, along with his brother Peto, have made an impact on the ranching industry and their community in Johnson County,” said ASI. “Meike made waves in the ranching industry when he and Peto developed an intensive shed lambing program that drastically increases lamb production over years by pairing ewes with lambs based on milk production. They developed the program after noticing some ewes could only raise a single lamb, while others could support twins and even triplets.”
“We tried a lot of different things over the years to improve our operation. Some work, and some don’t, but I couldn’t imagine making a living any other way,” said Meike, who is retired. “It’s not an easy business, but it’s a very rewarding business.”
“Each recipient of this year’s ASI awards represents some of the best and most dedicated the sheep industry has to offer, and they have each had a positive impact on our business,” said Clint Krebs, president of the ASI Board of Directors. “ASI celebrated its 150th anniversary during this year’s convention, and each of the award winners symbolizes the dedication of sheep producers and the entire sheep industry.”
In the National Make-It-With-Wool (MIWW) contest, Wyoming contestants also competed well.
Michelle Elser of Casper was chosen as the second place winner in the Adult Division.
Her outfit consisted of a hand-knitted teal sweater and beige herringbone-patterned skirt trimmed with knitted teal lace on the lower edge. She submitted her outfit, photos and modeling video to the national judging committee, and winners were announced in late December.
Kylee Gaukel of Keeline and Makiya Johnson of Encampment represented Wyoming in the Senior and Junior Divisions, respectively. While they didn’t place in the top, Wyoming MIWW State Director Lynda Jordan commented, “These young ladies represented Wyoming extremely well.”
With 150 years as an organization, Krebs commented, “In the last 150 years, a lot has happened and a lot has changed.”
From the beginning of the industry when sheep moved west with people traveling in wagon trains to today when they are transported across the U.S., Krebs noted that the industry has developed and expanded.
“Some of the major changes we have seen have been in the genetics and the breeds we have developed in the United States,” he said. “We have made a lot of changes to make breeds of sheep dual – or even triple – purpose.”
“We have a fantastic opportunity to celebrate what no other organization in the livestock business has done nationally, and that is to celebrate the 150th anniversary,” commented ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “That is something we take pride in.”
“There have been a lot of changes, and we’ve adapted to a lot of changes,” he continued. “It wasn’t easy, but we’ve made it work. We’ve become an effective voice for the American sheepman and woman.”