Highland County Sheep Lead

Back row: Grace Matthews, Brenna Wright, Lana Grover, Emma Yochum, Kallie Posey, and Sara Newsome.
Front row: Emelia Roehm, Evelyn Roehm, Kinlee Case, Eloise Roehm, Ella Brown, and Katie Cook


Brooke Beam, PhD

Ohio State University Extension, Highland County

Agriculture and Natural Resources/Community Development Extension Educator

September 12, 2018


I want to congratulate all of the participants of the Highland County Fair. I had the pleasure of viewing many of the livestock shows and assisting with the junior fair sales. I was impressed with the professionalism and courtesy the participants showed their peers and the judges. In particular, the sheep lead sticks out in my mind because I was a multi-year participant as a youth in this contest. I participated in the sheep lead at the county, state, and national level for over ten years. Without fail, every time I participated the temperature would be the hottest of the fair, which for the sheep lead really means something.

In typical sheep lead fashion, the Highland County Sheep Lead occurred on one of the hottest days of the Fair when the high was 91°F. Why is the heat important to consider when considering the sheep lead, you ask? It is important because all of the participants must wear predominantly wool apparel for the contest.

The sheep lead is unique in the sense that it combines both a livestock and fashion show together to highlight the sheep industry. Each participant must model their outfit and show their sheep while maintaining poise and grace. Lambs must be breeding sheep or market lambs that are trained to be shown by a halter. The combination of livestock and fashion is a treat for many spectators.

The sheep industry in the United States changed after World War II. Synthetic fibers replaced the use of wool in many instances and caused a shift in the market for lambs to be driven by meat production. According to the USDA, there were only 150,000 sheep in Ohio in 2003, which was a decrease of over 50 percent of the sheep population in Ohio from 1975. Although at the Highland County Fair Sheep Lead this year there were several first-year participants in the contest.

While the sheep industry has declined in size, there are opportunities for individuals to become involved in the sheep industry. The Southeast Ohio Sheep and Goat School covers a multitude of topics for beginning and experienced herdsmen, ranging from parasites to reproduction.  For more information about the Southeast Ohio Sheep and Goat School contact Christine Gelley at gelley.2@osu.eduor 740-732-5681. Another opportunity is the Ohio Statewide Sheep Shearing School being held on Friday and Saturday, September 14-15 at the Dave Cable Farm (10491 Canal Road, Hebron, OH 43025). For more information about the Ohio Statewide Sheep Shearing School contact Roger High at 614-246-8299.

If you are interested in participating in next year’s sheep lead, the contest is open to all ages. For more information about the 2019 Highland County Fair Sheep Lead Contest contact Diane Keltner.


Upcoming Events:

Beef Quality Assurance Trainings:

  • Thursday, September 13, 2018, 6:30 P.M., Producers Stockyards, Hillsboro
  • Thursday, October 25, 2018, 6:30 P.M., Producers Stockyards, Hillsboro

Call your local Ohio State University Extension Office to register for the date and location of the BQA training of your choice. The Highland County Extension Office can be reached at 937-393-1918.

Tickets for the 2018 Farm Science Review are now available at the Highland County Extension Office. Tickets purchased at the Highland County Extension Office are $7, tickets will be $10 at the gate. Children 5 and under are free.

Ohio Cheviot Breeders Starter Flock Award

The Ohio Cheviot Breeders Association (OCBA) is seeking applicants for the Jim Cluff Memorial Starter Flock Award.

The OCBA started the contest in 1994 to award a Cheviot starter flock to an Ohio youth up to 17 years of age. The purpose of the award is to introduce the youth to the enjoyment of raising and owning a purebred Cheviot sheep, as well as encouraging the growth of new Cheviot breeders in Ohio.

The contest winner will receive the following: a one-year membership in the OCBA, one bred ewe the first year, one ram the second year and in the third year the youth will donate a lamb to continue the award.

The application deadline is September 30th. For an application and contest rules please contact Bob Hunter at (614)483-3202 or at rpkjhunter@msn.com.

Recap: 2018 Ohio Sheep Day

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As the sun rose above the hills of southeastern Ohio this past Saturday, the stage was set for the 2018 Ohio Sheep Day. Shepherds from all around gathered in Belle Valley at Ohio State’s Eastern Agriculture Research Station (EARS) to take in its unique view and to get an update on what has been happening at EARS since the last Sheep Day in 2009. In addition, Dr. CathAnn Kress, Dean of the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences as well as Dr. Dave Benfeld, Associate Vice President, AVP, Ag Admin and Dir. joined those in attendance to listen in on the current happenings and research being conducted at the research station. A unique piece of this year’s sheep day included the attendance of several OSU Animal faculty interested in the sustainability of Ohio’s sheep industry.

To begin the morning session, attendees were loaded onto the tour wagons and headed to the sheep handling facility. Here, shepherds were introduced to Dr. Steve Boyles and Dr. Tony Parker to discuss appropriate animal handling and the use of animal handling systems. Prior to entering the handling facility, Dr. Parker noted the importance of maintaining a “clean yard,” especially from toxic weeds. For those producers that may not use their working areas on a regular basis, ensuring that this area is clear of noxious weeds and debris will be of benefit when it comes to the day of working sheep. As shepherds entered the working facility, Dr. Boyles began noting the design of the handling system starting with the tub or area in which sheep enter the working system. Here, Dr. Boyles pointed out a mistake that many make when loading any handling system. When loading the tub, the rule of thumb is that a half-full tub is full. Overcrowding the tub can result in issues when you begin loading the chute. Another piece of advice that Dr. Boyles offered was the use of highly visible objects as a tool to move livestock. Using a stick or pole is less effective as sheep have poor eyesight. The use of a broom or hat will be more effective in getting an animal’s attention. At the conclusion of the handling session, Dr. Parker drew attention to the latest piece of equipment at EARS, the Te Pari auto drafting system which will be used in an upcoming research project. Stay tuned for updates on this project!

After the handling session, it was off to the lambing barn where EARS farm manager Mr. Wayne Shriver and Dr. Monique Pairis-Garcia discussed the importance of a quality lambing facility. Wayne began the conversation discussing the reasoning behind lambing indoors. He described it as simple as the farm was able to get rid of two huge risks, parasites and wildlife predators. Wayne described the feeding design in this system as well as monitoring the temperature. He noted that a barn does not have to be extremely warm for newborn lambs, simply keeping the wind off of the sheep will do the trick. Amongst this conversation, Dr. Pairis-Garcia noted the importance of stocking density in this type of system, especially during parturition or birth. When a ewe approaches parturition, she will separate herself from the rest of the flock. This will allow the ewe to devote all of her time towards the establishment of the ewe-lamb bond and develop a close maternal relationship with her offspring. These are important natural behaviors to take into consideration when determining the number of animals that will be placed in a specific area within a barn. Both Dr. Pairis-Garcia and Wayne noted the importance of learned behaviors as well. Young lambs learn a lot from their mothers. Therefore, allowing them to remain with their mother for an extended period of time will be of benefit as lambs learn to either graze or consume feed.

Once the lambing session wrapped up, attendees traveled back to the lamb feeding barn where they were introduced to Dr. Ale Relling, Dr. Lyda Garcia, and Clif Little to discuss the importance of alternative feeding systems. Dr. Relling began with discussing the basics of ruminant nutrition. Dr. Relling and Clif Little also mentioned the design of a new study that they are interested in regarding the use of soy hulls as a means to reduce the need for large amounts of harvested forages in the form of hay. Reducing the use of hay as a means of nutritional sustenance could reduce the cost of feeding lambs as well as labor involved. Taking the thought of a feeding program to the next level, Dr. Garcia concluded the session with a discussion on the effects of diet on carcass quality and variability of lamb carcasses. Feeding lambs high concentrate diets will result in fatter carcasses, whereas lambs fed a forage diet will yield leaner carcasses. Diet will also play a key role in the flavor profile of lamb. Finding the right market for the product you are producing is key to market success.

After the feeding systems session and lunch, it was off to the field to take in the pasture session of the afternoon. Several presenters including Christine Gelley, Clif Little, Wayne Shriver, Jay McElroy, Stuart Heavilin, Bob Hendershot, Rory Lewandowski, Ted Wiseman, and Dr. Jeff McCutcheon discussed the on-going pasture research, fencing and water systems, and pasture plants species. To touch on a few of the highlights from these discussions, the extension agents explained that the basis of the pasture research was to determine the optimal time period to clip pastures and when fertilizer should be applied. Clipping pastures cost an average of $18/ac, so determining the best management strategy in maintaining pasture health and viability is key in the sustainability of a pasture dependent operation. In expanding upon pasture maintenance, the design of pasture fields and allocation of water is extremely important. To make the best of a grazing area, pastures should be made as square as possible. In addition, in a pasture setting, water should be available every 800 feet. Both of these bits of advice will allow for even grazing and distribution of nutrients. In addition, with the high temperatures that we are experiencing, placing animals in pastures that are high in legumes will make for a cooler environment for grazing livestock. Legumes respire at a greater rate when compared to grasses and in turn maintain a lower temperature.

The next Ohio Sheep Day is scheduled for the summer of 2019 and will be hosted by the Jackson Agriculture Research Station in Jackson, OH. More details on the event date and scheduled speakers will be provided at a closer date.

2018 Ohio Sheep Day

The Ohio Sheep Day at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station will be held on July 14, 2018, from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. The cost to attend for Ohio Sheep Improvement Association Members is $15.00, non-OSIA members $25.00. The cost includes lunch. Topics covered during the day include sheep handling systems, lambing facilities, lamb feeding operation set-up, and a pasture walk. The Eastern Agricultural Research Station is located at 16870 Bond Ridge Rd., Caldwell, OH 43724. For more information, contact Roger High at 614-246-8299 or at rhigh@ofbf.org.


2018 Southeast Ohio Sheep & Goat School

The fourth session of the Southeast Ohio Sheep and Goat School will be held on Friday, July 13, 2018, at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station in Caldwell, Ohio. This session will focus on FAMACHA and Forages. The session begins at 8:00 A.M. and concludes with an afternoon tour of the Eastern Agricultural Research Station Farm. Contact Christine Gelley at 740-732-5681 or gelley.2@osu.edu for more information.