WWGA focuses on sheep industry challengesWritten by Saige Albert
Sun Valley, Idaho – From Nov. 16-20 , the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) joined forces with Idaho, Nevada and Utah for the West Central States Wool Growers Convention in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“It was a fantastic meeting,” said Kay Neves, WWGA interim president. “We had very interesting topics that went from H-2A to Bighorn sheep and more. We covered almost every topic.”
While attendance from Wyoming was down from prior years, WWGA Executive Director Amy Hendrickson noted that the meeting was a great opportunity for sheep producers to get together.
Never said, “We had people from Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Idaho, of course, but we also had attendees from Colorado, Montana and Oregon.
Neves said that discussions between producers on economic and production practices were very valuable.
“On the afternoon of Nov. 19, I hosted the discussion, and that was really fun,” she noted. “Bridger Feuz from the University of Wyoming started telling us about our economics. He told us we really need to look at what we’re doing and start looking at our margins.”
Whit Stewart from Montana State University also spoke during the convention on minerals, and Neves explained, “Whit showed us a map that is available online that shows where minerals are high or low and what minerals are in our area.”
A lambing best practices panel included two producers from each state, including Peter John Camino of Kaycee and Laura Pearson of Rock Springs.
“There were good ideas from everyone on that panel,” Neves continued. “Everybody does some things the same and some things different, but there were lots of good ideas to pick up on and use.”
She continued, “Probably the most important thing from the meeting is getting to see people I’ve met in past years and catch up. We never see people any other time, and it’s always fun to meet new people and broaden our network.”
Hendrickson also noted that several speakers from Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Ill. were also present, and they provided a good chance to visit about tough issues facing the sheep industry.
“As usual, we had our natural resources panel where we talked about grazing,” she said. “Allan Riley from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) came and talked about what they’re trying to do.”
Riley talked about the negative impact that fire has on USFS lands across the West.
“Someone in the audience asked why grazing hasn’t been incorporated as a tool, and Allan said they are beginning to look at use of targeted grazing in areas to help reduce fuel load,” Hendrickson explained. “In some areas, for instance with 15-foot-tall trees, grazing isn’t useful, but it can be used in areas with smaller shrubs.”
Additionally, Riley discussed risk of contact modeling, which is controversial in the sheep industry.
“At the national level, their opinion is that they don’t prescribe, but rather use a suite of tools,” Hendrickson said. “We were really grateful to have him at our meeting.”
Neves said sheep producers appreciated the opportunity to network with federal officials.
“It was nice to get federal employees in from Washington and Chicago,” she said. “They had the chance to meet real people and understand our issues. They were also really interested in what we had to say.”
Hendrickson echoed, “We had a good dialogue. Woolgrowers throughout the West are genuinely interested in figuring out how to comply with federal rules. That does not mean we like them, though. We are often frustrated with the regulations, but we want to try to comply. It’s good to have those discussions.”