Supporting sheep MSLC continues support of sheep industry across U.S.Written by Saige Albert
Sheridan – Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC) held their annual meeting this year in Sheridan. The meeting hosted over 100 members from across 12 states – ranging from California and Oregon to Iowa and Montana to Arizona.
“We have had a really good meeting,” said Frank Moore, chair of MSLC, “and we had a really good turnout of our membership.”
The MSLC event started with a variety of topics during their business meeting.
“We gave everyone an update from last year for the Co-op, including what we have marketed for the year and how things are going,” Moore noted, adding that this year has been important for MSLC. “We celebrated delivery of our 3 millionth lamb since our start in December 2002 when we delivered our first lambs.”
Double J Feeders delivered the Co-op’s 3 millionth lamb and received a wool pelt recognizing the milestone.
MSLC membership also heard from Dennis Stiffler, the CEO of Mountain States Rosen, the organization’s meat company in New York, on the sale of both lamb and veal.
Moore said, “MSLC is a success story.”
With nearly 140 members from 15 states delivering over 250,000 lambs each year, he continued, “Things are going well. Our membership is happy, and we are getting along well.”
“We hope to continue to make MSLC stronger and make the lamb industry stronger,” Moore comments.
During the annual meeting, members also toured local sheep operations and listened to stories about the rich history of the industry in Wyoming.
On July 16, Jw and Thea Nuckolls of Hulett and Don and Peto Meike of Kaycee detailed the history of their operations.
“Jw and Thea and Don and Peto gave a history of their families coming to the country and starting in the sheep business,” Moore said. “It was really great.”
The following day, MSLC meeting attendees toured sheep allotments belonging to Regan and Wendy Smith, Kay and Dave Neves and Keith and Linda Hamilton and their families in the Bighorn Mountains.
Each operation brought a long history of a variety of challenges, as well as a history of working together to accomplish the mutual goals of the industry.
“Things have changed quite a bit,” said Regan Smith on running sheep in the Bighorn Mountains.
With challenges ranging from high recreation use on the areas surrounding their allotments to decreasing sheep numbers, the producers talked about how their operations have changed over time.
In particular, Smith and Kay Neves noted that the number of sheep has decreased dramatically. Neves said that at one time, there were 22 bands, but today there are only five.
They also looked at a variety of issues, including those related to running on Forest Service allotments and the use of guard dogs.
“People who are recreating up here often think these dogs are abandoned, so they try to take them to Sheridan. We put tags on them that say to leave the dogs with the sheep,” explained Neves as one example of an issue in dealing with people using the area for recreation.
Forest Service representatives were present on the tour and discussed the process of issuing and maintaining allotments, as well as the composition of the native range.
After a full day on the Bighorn Mountains at 9,500 feet elevation, the event concluded on the evening of July 17 back in Sheridan with a dinner celebrating the achievements of MSLC over the last year.
Though more than 50 percent of its membership is in Wyoming, MSLC makes a strong impact on the sheep industry in the U.S. as a whole, and Moore noted that the sheep industry continues to survive.
“The sheep industry is doing ok right now,” he said. “When we have times like right now where the dollar is high, we see impacts from imported products. The sheep industry has to recognize and adjust for that.”
The global nature of the sheep industry has created some additional challenges for producers.
Look for more information on the sheep industry in two weeks after the Wyoming Wool Growers Association Mid-Year Meeting.