It was quite a change from serving as SEMSPA’s Secretary/Treasurer to chairing the Lamb & Wool Promotion Committee, but I was enjoying it. We had such an enthusiastic group of people that pitched in and made everything come together, so even though it meant more late night trips to Rochester to plan promotions, it was fun!
Our committee members were: Hugh & Pat Kramer, Zumbro Falls; Jim & Randi Peterson, Dover; Gerry & Carol Ring, Byron; Dennis & Bonnie Bosma, Wykoff; Dennis & Diane Nelson, Waltham; Francis & Mary Schnorenberg, Kasson; Ed & Carol Thornton, Lake City; Walter & Alice Field, Zumbrota; Jack & Cindy Stamschror, Kellogg; Terry Carter, Hayfield; Gene & Gail Christian, Waltham; Ron & Connie Hayes, Austin; Laverne & Cindy Martin, Albert Lea; Debbie Stegman, Kellogg; and last but not least, Jeanann Warner, Elgin, who eventually co-chaired with me, and was a tremendous asset to the committee!
Many plans were made during January and February. First off, I got in contact with ASI, (American Sheep Industry) in Denver, and then made connection with ASPC, the promotional arm. They soon sent me heaps of promotional items, posters. brochures, lamb recipes, and helpful advice. They also had available attractive displays to add to a booth, and would ship them to us free of charge for promotions.
Some of our members who lived the closest to Rochester were making contact with various markets that might be interested in doing lamb taste sampling events in their stores in the future And at our committee meetings, ideas were flying fast and furious, and the pros and cons debated!
We were going to have to do everything on a shoestring, as SEMSPA’s Board of Directors was not going to hand us a bunch of money to experiment with, at least not until we proved our worth.
March 1st, lambing began – two weeks early! In the fall of 1981, Ram #196 jumped out of his pen prior to the intended breeding season, while the ewes were still being “flushed,” and Heather ran off to the back pasture with him. Hence, the early lambs, a pair of healthy twin rams.
Mid March, the real lambing season began in earnest! It was one very busy time with 60 mature ewes giving birth to 102 lambs, and not one was lost! Our lambing average had reached 170%, our highest so far, which meant the introduction of the 1/4 Finn blood into the ewe flock was starting to pay off.
The ewe lambs were not due to lamb until the middle of April, so during the break in lambing, I took the opportunity to check on the Bluebird Trail. During the early years on our farm we had gradually set up a trail of 10 bluebird houses scattered in various pastures, and each spring before the bluebirds returned we would check all the houses, clean out old nests, and make needed repairs.
By now, almost every house had a resident bluebird pair every year, although occasionally a house would be taken over by tree swallows or a woodpecker would enlarge the entry hole and move in. Largely the trail was a big success and we were happy to have the beautiful bluebirds around with their sweet song.
Some years back, just after the lambing was over, I was looking after my 4-year old nephew while his mom, my sister, was running some errands. While Scotty was happily playing in the yard with his tractors, I made a quick trip to check on things in the barn.
When I came back to the yard, Scotty said, “Aunt Lea, I saw a really pretty bird, it was ‘Ford’ on the back, and ‘Allis Chalmers’ on the front.” A perfect description of a bluebird! Scotty did not know the names of colors yet, but being a little farm boy, he sure knew his tractors! This was, of course, during a time when the “Fords” were blue, and “Allis Chalmars” were orange — which they still are. Out of the mouths of babes!
April 15, the 19 ewe lambs began lambing, 2 were open, and the remaining 17 produced 19 lambs, giving us a flock total of 121 lambs.All were saved!
My first year with NO LAMBS LOST, a milestone!! I was ecstatic! And it was worth all the hard work and sleepless nights!
Late April,the Lamb & Wool Promotion Committee was given a free complimentary booth at the Agri-News Show (after we offered to hand out free samples of “lamb” sausage to the public). The sausage was actually made from a 3 year old ewe by a local locker, and was donated by Jim and Randi Peterson.
Approximately 4000 samples were given out during the 3-day show, along with lamb recipes and brochures. We had an attractive booth with the attention getting background display furnished us by the ASPC, Denver. We also held drawings for a tanned lamb pelt, a sheepskin pillow (courtesy of The Company Store, La Crosse, WI), and five $10 Lamb Gift Certificates, (courtesy of Erdman’s Market, Rochester). Hand made woolen articles and a Wool Science Fair Project were also displayed.
Our booth was one of the busiest at the show. The sausage was extremely well received and we had many queries as to where it could be purchased, which led us to decide we should try selling it at the next year’s Agri-News Show.
September, I began hauling 5 lambs a week to my Hesper, IA, locker to be processed for my freezer lamb customers, this year I sold 18 freezer lambs. In late September, 50 of this year’s ewe lambs were sold as a starter flock to a young farmer in the Spring Grove, MN, area, 10 ewe lambs were retained to add to the flock, and several ram lambs were sold to other producers.
All the remaining male lambs were sold on the the Lamb Tele-Auction, which was an ongoing activity all year, and very successful.
Photo credit: Bluebird – kcarver (used with permission under Creative Commons license)