U.S. Sheep Industry Ambassadors Participate in New Zealand Leadership Program

U.S. Sheep Industry Ambassadors Participate in New Zealand Leadership Program

Russell Nemetz
Russell Nemetz
The American Lamb Board (ALB) believes the education of young producers and industry professionals is of utmost importance for the long-term viability of the US sheep industry. As demand for lamb grows in the US market, we need progressive and innovative producers working to increase our efficiencies and ability to deliver high-quality lamb.

Last month, ALB sponsored three sheep industry extension educators to participate in the 2019 Sheep Industry Ambassador Program in New Zealand. Hosted by Beef and Lamb New Zealand, ambassadors from the US, Australia and New Zealand learned about innovative farm management practices, extension and research programs. Reid Redden, PhD, Texas A & M, Whit Stewart, PhD, University of Wyoming, and Laurie Johnson, Pipestone Lamb & Wool Program, were the three US ambassadors.

Ambassadors visited the International Sheep Research Centre, Hopkirk Research Institute, Progressive Meats, Merino NZ and several progressive sheep farms and stations. The program offered valuable networking and opportunities to exchange ideas with other young sheep producers and professionals.

The US ambassadors agreed that the program provided an amazing opportunity to increase their knowledge of sheep production on a global level and to identify tools to help US producers increase their productivity. Additional take-aways from the program:

-The program inspired the US ambassadors to look at ways their extension efforts can be guided by outcomes (not just outputs) and to develop more programs focused on improving producers' bottom line.

-It's imperative for the US sheep industry to better understand our competitors' production systems and learn from what they're doing.

-Leadership development programs are important and building the next generation of sheep producers should be a critical priority.

-As a result of attending the program, the ambassadors have a renewed appreciated for how special the US sheep industry is and are excited about the outstanding potential for American Lamb.

Dr. Stewart was specifically interested in understanding how the NZ sheep industry coordinates nation-wide extension efforts to address specific industry challenges and collaboration across multiple institutions. According to Dr. Stewart, "This was a premier opportunity to see different production systems, facilities, data collection systems and extension programs that I can share with my growers to benefit their operation and the US sheep industry as a whole."

Laurie Johnson was particularly impressed with New Zealand's land use, the industry's commitment to measuring production efficiencies and continuously work towards improving the product quality. Laurie told the ALB: "I wanted to go to see how we can improve our communication within the industry to help the entire community, from researchers to producers to packers, to understand what is going on and become a more unified industry."

Dr. Redden found the trip to be a life-changing experience and he is anxious to use what he learned for the betterment of the US sheep industry. He was impressed by NZ farmers use of key performance indicators to measure production efficiencies. "I was able to gain a lot of insight into programs and technologies that are used in New Zealand that can help our American sheep farms and ranches be more efficient and competitive," Redden said.

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