Livestock producers feel their isn’t much of a market for sheep in North Dakota, but an event held in Dunn County may have changed some producers’ minds.
Corey Eberhart has been a sheep producer for four years, and he said finding a market for his livestock isn’t easy.
“We are looking to expand our sheep program, and looking for a new market. . . and a way to market better”.
On Thursday, Eberhart attended a Sheep Field Day at the Manning Ranch in Dunn County, North Dakota hosted by the Dickinson NDSU Research Extension Center.
The research center has been working on pilot program for two years with long haired Dorper sheep, dedicated to helping producers diversify their operation.
Dorper are a lower maintenance sheep who shed their hair and are capable of co-mingling with cattle while grazing.
Vladamir Kutka, a Dickinson NDSU Research Extension Center intern, said the sheep will eat the forage that cattle won’t, like weeds.
The event was attended by both in-state and out-of-state producers who were interested in diversifying their operation with sheep or marketing their sheep better.
“Traditionally there is a fear at the producer level that there isn’t going to be a market(sheep) available, ” said Kutka.
He also said there is a place for sheep producers to make money, and its not at the auction market.
“There is not a lot of awareness of local lamb availability at the restaurant level, ” said Kutka
Kutka said many fine dining restaurants buy their lamb out-of- state or out of the country.
“Texas, Colorado or New Zealand”.
Kortni Ringwall, who is currently a chef in Minneapolis, Minn. but use to work at the Brickhouse Grille in Dickinson, North Dakota, said rack of lamb is a very popular dish in restaurants.
“Really popular. . . on a Friday night we (Brickhouse Grille) would go through 7 to 10 racks a night”.
She also said the Brickhouse Grille purchased a lot of its lamb meat from out-of-state, and many restaurants prefer to get their meat locally.
“. . . because you get a more intimate feel for how they were raised. . . what they were fed,” said Ringwall.
After the day’s events, Eberhart said he feels a little better about his sheep operation now.
“I’m really interested in pursuing the direct marketing side of this business”.
The NDSU Research Extension Center said there are about 66,000 sheep in the state of North Dakota- which ranks 16 in the nation.