Raising sheep and teaching the flock

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest As the OSU State Sheep Extension Program specialist, the Executive Director the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and Ohio Sheep and Wool Program, Livestock Director for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, OSU Animal Sciences small ruminant and pseudo-ruminant Instructor, sheep shearer, and livestock judge, Roger High has built his career around sheep.His job has taken him to sheep farms around Ohio, across the United States and around the world, but though his duties occasionally require a suit and tie in an office setting, he is still most comfortable in the barn wearing his work boots. Running his sheep operation on his home Indian Summer Farm in Union County with his wife, Holly, and their son, Adam, is where his passion lies and serves as the driving force behind the extensive work he has done in Ohio’s sheep industry.Managing his own flock of sheep keeps him grounded in the basics and innovating for the future of lamb production in Ohio.“On the farm I try to do a lot of the things that I am asking producers to do. We moved here in ‘94 where we could raise a family. I have been able to use a lot of the things I do here as examples for other producers for what I am doing through Extension and for teaching production classes at OSU. If I expect producers to being doing it, then I think I should be doing it here on my farm. I try to bring a lot of the things I have learned over the years to my small flock,” he said. “I grew up with sheep and have been around them all my life. It is my job, hobby and passion. Most of my friends are sheep people. It is just what I do. It wasn’t very long after we moved here that we got started with our sheep flock. I grew up with primarily with Shropshires, but we also had Hampshires and Targhees on my parents farm. We started out our farm with Hampshires, then we got the Polled Dorsets, and also had some Dorpers for a little bit of time before we settled entirely on the Polled Dorsets.”The start of the current Polled Dorset flock was facilitated by Holly’s parents.“They bought five Dorset ewes for us so that Adam could one day raise them for 4-H and FFA projects and we went from there,” Holly said. “Once we had the Polled Dorsets we really enjoyed them in comparison to the other breeds that we had. The Dorsets fit in with our lifestyle. It has been a family activity for us. Some people have boats. We have livestock. And on Sunday afternoons when other people go to the beach, we go to the field and move fence.”The Highs’ sheep flock reached its peak when Adam was heavily involved with the FFA program.“When our son Adam was heavily involved in FFA, we were feeding out several feeder lambs each year, had a brood ewe flock of approximately 50 head and Adam was successfully showing market lambs at the county and state fair levels,” Roger said. “Adam won the state proficiency award as a junior. His FFA Sheep Production SAE was a very diversified sheep operation when he was heavily involved in the FFA program. Now we are lambing about 30 ewes and feeding out several feeders lambs each year — just enough to keep me busy on the farm.”Now that Adam has finished his FFA career, the flock is smaller, but still very closely managed.“We don’t keep a bunch of rams here. The ram lambs are castrated and sold to the non-traditional (ethnic) market or the traditional market as finished feeder lambs. I have in my mind a goal for each ewe to generate so many dollars and replace herself every year. The number fluctuates depending on the market but we make sure they are generating a little income,” Roger said. “We have eight acres of pasture on the 30-acre farm. We have 18 acres in hay production and produce all of our own hay for the sheep and for the two horses and one llama on the farm. We buy all of our grain and straw. We have also done several fencing improvements and water development, part of it through the EQIP program.”The fence and water have been important components in the intensive grazing practiced on the farm.“I try to get the ewe flock out onto the pasture as soon as I can in spring. I usually try to get them out in late March, but we were later than that this year due to the extreme cold weather,” he said. “I give them about three days to graze before I let them go to the next area. They get trained to the electric fence pretty quickly. The ewes will be standing there waiting for the fence to be taken down when I arrive for the next move. We have enough pasture that we can move them around enough to have grass for them all summer. I have grazed up to seven months of the year.”The rotation of the pastures maximizes the pasture resources, improves pasture quality and helps control parasites.“With the Management intensive Grazing I don’t find my flock running into parasite problems. The parasite cycle is 21 days and we don’t have ewes going back to the same grazing area at least 21 days. If I need to I can put them in the barn and feed hay as necessary to break up the parasite problem or during a period of drought,” he said. “I am really pretty strict on the vaccination programs, especially for the abortive diseases that we talk about a lot in the sheep industry. Anything we think a producer should be doing to make their flock more productive I try to do here.”The operation — lambing in particular — is set up for ease and efficiency.“When I am gone, which is frequently, everything has to be set up here so Holly and our neighbor Nevin Smith can do the chores without me,” Roger said. “I lamb in January and February only. I try to concentrate my lambing time so I can manage groups in a tight time frame because it has to work around my work schedule.”If problem ewes are identified, they are culled.“There is strict culling based on early lambing and I get rid of ewes that have problems,” Roger said. “I don’t have time for problem ewes around here. I rarely see a lamb born here at the farm. I am too busy to be here all the time and if there are problems with lambing, then they will not be problems the next year. I manage to make sure problems do not stay here.”Traditional breeding methods are most common on the farm, though there has been some work done with artificial insemination.“I think that if you have a female you have determined is really valuable to the flock and you want more offspring out of her, artificial insemination and embryo transfer is the way to go. We did some embryo transfer work a few years ago,” Roger said. “If you are working with purebred sheep, it had better be a really good ewe to justify the expense. Club lamb flocks are the ones that can really benefit from AI and ET, though.”Though coyotes and black vultures have been problems for sheep producers in some areas, predators have not been a problem on the farm.“All my fence is electric. I want to keep the sheep in and the predators out,” Roger said. “We keep a guard llama for protection too. We have never had a coyote loss here at the farm.”The Highs employ a fairly diverse marketing plan for their flock.“I sell some breeding stock. I sell a ram or two per year, mostly commercial. If they are the right size I will sell them for the Easter market. I have sold some club lambs for 4-H and FFA members projects. I sell to the non-traditional ethnic markets and traditional markets as well. We also sell some at finished lambs through the Ohio State Fair Commercial Lamb Sale,” Roger said. “I am trying to get more muscling into my sheep. We are transitioning from larger framed sheep to heavier muscled, shorter framed sheep — something that will be good for market lambs and for club lambs. I believe that the industry needs to produce more meat more efficiently on grass and they need to be efficient on grain. We don’t feed as much grain to the ewes as we did with some of the larger framed sheep that we had on the farm.”The time spent working with sheep together has been a great benefit to the High family and it has also really paid off in Roger’s career.“Taking lessons from my sheep farm to the classroom or educational programs has been valuable for me and hopefully the industry as well,” Roger said. “I am also contributing to the state and national checkoff programs, and I believe that these check-off programs are valuable to the industry.“I get to be the Ohio sheep industry spokesperson, but I get to live it as well.”last_img read more

Strong finish for 2016 meat exports

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest U.S. pork and beef exports wrapped up an excellent 2016 performance with very strong December results, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).Pork export volume reached a record 2.31 million metric tons (mt) in 2016, up 8% year-over-year and 2% above the previous high in 2012. Export value increased 7% from a year ago to $5.94 billion. December pork exports totaled 222,635 mt, up 18% year-over-year, valued at $564.2 million, up 20%.Exports accounted for 25.8% of total 2016 pork production and 21.5% for muscle cuts — up from 24.2% and 20.8%, respectively, in 2015. December ratios were 28% for total production and 23% for muscle cuts only — up significantly from December 2015. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.20 in 2016, up 4% from the previous year. The December average was $56.06, up 24%.Beef exports increased 11% in volume (1.19 million mt) and 1% in value ($6.34 billion) from 2015. December exports totaled 116,847 mt, up 24% year-over-year. This was the largest monthly volume since July 2013 and the largest ever for December. Export value was $619.1 million in December, up 22%.Exports accounted for 13.7% of total beef production in 2016 and 10.5% for muscle cuts – up from 13.1% and 10%, respectively, in 2015. December exports accounted for 15.6% of total December beef production and 12.1% for muscle cuts only — each up more than 2%age points from a year ago and the highest since 2011. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $262.17, down 6% from 2015, but the December average was $301.97 – up 14% and the highest in nearly two years. Pork to Mexico sets fifth straight volume recordA remarkable second half pushed 2016 pork export volume to Mexico to its fifth consecutive record at 730,316 mt – breaking the previous record by 2%. Export value to Mexico totaled $1.36 billion, up 7% year-over-year and the second-highest on record, trailing only the $1.56 billion mark reached in 2014.“At this time of record-large pork production, it would be hard to overstate the importance of Mexican demand to the U.S. industry,” said Philip Seng, USMEF President and CEO. “This is especially true for hams, as we are locked out of Russia — once a large destination for U.S. hams — and China’s demand for imported hams has moderated in recent months. So now more than ever, we need strong demand from our key customers in Mexico, and they have responded with extraordinary results. December exports to Mexico accounted for nearly $16 per head, and that’s absolutely critical to the entire U.S. pork supply chain.”Though down from the high levels seen earlier in the year, December pork exports to China/Hong Kong were still up 40% year-over-year in volume (47,242 mt) and 42% higher in value ($96 million). For the full year, exports to China/Hong set a new volume record of 544,943 mt (up 61%) and broke the $1 billion mark for the first time ($1.07 billion, up 53%).Other 2016 highlights for U.S. pork exports include: Japan remained the leading value destination for U.S. pork, though exports fell 5% in volume (387,712 mt) and 2% in value ($1.56 billion) compared to 2015. However, chilled exports to Japan set a new record of 218,211 mt, up 8%.Led by a record performance in Central America and a fourth-quarter surge in Colombia and Chile, exports to the Central/South America region increased 11% in volume (135,954 mt) and 9% in value ($334.5 million).Pork shipments increased to both Australia and New Zealand, as export volume to Oceania reached 69,963 mt (up 10%) valued at $197.3 million (up 3%).Exports to the Dominican Republic set another record in 2016, topping the previous year’s totals by 10% in volume (25,591 mt) and 6% in value ($56.4 million).Fueled by increases in China/Hong Kong and Canada and steady exports to Mexico, pork variety meat exports jumped 20% in volume to 523,199 mt and 24% in value to $999 million – just short of the record levels reached in 2014. Asian markets drive strong beef export growthDriven by strong demand for higher-value chilled cuts, beef exports achieved new value records in South Korea and Taiwan in 2016, and rebounded strongly in Japan.In Korea, December beef exports soared by 81% in volume (20,333 mt) and 88% in value ($130 million) from a year ago, capping a remarkable year in which exports totaled 179,280 mt (up 42%) valued at $1.06 billion — up 31% from a year ago and breaking the previous value record by more than 20%. Korea’s per capita beef consumption set a new record in 2016 of 34 pounds (carcass weight) – so the U.S. not only gained market share, but also capitalized on the market’s overall growth.Beef exports to Taiwan were also strong in December, with export value ($43.3 million) hitting its highest level ever. Full-year exports to Taiwan were up 25% in volume to 44,053 mt and 14% in value to $362.8 million.2016 exports to Japan were the largest of the post-BSE era at 258,653 mt, up 26% year-over-year. Export value totaled $1.51 billion, up 18%. Chilled beef exports to Japan totaled 112,334 mt, up 44% from 2015.“In addition to the strength of the U.S. dollar, U.S. beef overcame other severe challenges in these north Asian markets and achieved remarkable results,” Seng said. “Despite facing higher tariff rates in Japan compared to Australian beef, U.S. beef displaced its competition and won back significant market share. And the investment the U.S. industry made to rebuild consumer confidence in Korea is paying tremendous dividends, especially in the retail sector. We’re seeing U.S. beef featured regularly by retailers who were once reluctant to carry the product.”Other 2016 highlights for U.S. beef included:Beef exports to Mexico increased 7% year-over-year in volume to 242,373 mt, though value fell 11% to $974.9 million. While challenged by a weak peso, Mexico remains a key destination for muscle cuts such as shoulder clods and rounds, as well as for beef variety meat.Led by strong growth in Chile and a doubling of exports to Colombia, beef exports to South America increased 6% in volume to 22,810 mt, valued at $92.7 million (down 2%). The region should see further growth in 2017 with the reopening of Brazil.Exports to Central America were up 7% in volume (12,745 mt) with top market Guatemala up 1% and exports to Honduras nearly doubling. Export value was $71.8 million, up 1%.Fueled by a resurgence in Indonesia and solid growth in Vietnam, beef exports to the ASEAN region were up 41% in volume (29,920 mt) and 15% in value ($156.9 million). Indonesia expanded access for U.S. beef in early August. Despite being closed to many products through the first seven months of the year, U.S. exports to Indonesia set a new value record of $39.4 million.Beef variety meat exports increased 10% in volume (341,433 mt) and 4% in value ($902.2 million) in 2016. Liver exports increased 12% to 81,727 and reached a broader range of markets. While liver exports to Egypt – the largest destination for U.S. livers – increased 4%, further growth was achieved in Central and South America and with the reopening of South Africa to U.S. beef. Lamb muscle cut exports continue upward trendAlthough U.S. lamb exports were down in 2016, this was largely due to a sharp decline in variety meat exports. While total exports fell 11% in volume (8,248 mt) and 4% in value ($18.4 million), muscle cut exports increased 26% (2,239 mt) and 16% ($12.3 million) respectively. Leading market Mexico followed a similar pattern, as variety meat exports declined significantly, but muscle cut exports increased 9% in volume (965 mt) and 1% in value ($2.8 million). Emerging markets showing promise in 2016 included Bermuda, the Philippines, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates.last_img read more

Making Room for a PV Array

first_img Sign up for a free trial and get instant access to this article as well as GBA’s complete library of premium articles and construction details. This article is only available to GBA Prime Members Start Free Trial Already a member? Log incenter_img UPDATED on December 4, 2016 with PV system production data for the first year of system operation.Compared to a photovoltaic system, a solar hot water system yields very little energy per dollar invested. I presented that argument in a 2012 article called “Solar Thermal Is Dead.” Two years later, in 2014, an economic comparison between these two solar technologies showed a stronger tilt than ever before in favor of PV, leading me to write a follow-up article called “Solar Thermal Is Really, Really Dead.”According to the latest available (2009) data from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), the average U.S. household’s energy expenditure for domestic hot water is $280 per year. Since a solar hot water system can be expected to provide about 63% of a home’s hot water — the rest being produced by a backup system during cloudy weather — it’s hard for a solar hot water system to save more than $176 per year (about $15 per month). If the solar hot water system costs $9,000 — a reasonable assumption — the investment in solar equipment will yield only 2% per year. That’s less than the current yield on a U.S. 10-year bond.This analysis overstates the actual yield of an investment in a solar thermal system, however, for several reasons. First, this analysis ignores a solar thermal system’s ongoing maintenance costs; and second, when a U.S. bond matures, you still have your capital — whereas when a solar thermal system wears out, it’s headed to the landfill or scrap heap. High repair costs A third article on solar thermal systems — Solar Hot Water System Maintenance Costs — discussed the trials and tribulations experienced by my brother Peter and his wife Elana in Massachusetts. Over the past… last_img read more