Recap: 2021 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

With much excitement of being able to gather in person, the 2021 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium held on December 3-4, 2021 in Wooster, Ohio at the OARDC Shisler Conference Center was a success. Thanks to the support of The Ohio State University departments of Extension and Animal Sciences as well as the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, shepherds in person and online were provided with a diverse program covering topics of reproduction and record keeping efficiencies. Per usual, this years event featured a Friday afternoon season, full Saturday program, and opportunity for the industries youth to gather and connect through the Young Shepherd’s Assembly program.

Starting with the Friday session, the program featured a panel of diverse sheep operations that well represented our unique industry. Speakers for this portion of the program featured Mike Stitzlein, Isabel Richards, and Leroy Kuhns. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, local commercial Dorset producer Leroy Kuhns was unable to attend the event. In lieu of Leroy’s absence, a PowerPoint presentation highlighting his operation was featured and can be viewed here. Mike Stitzlein is a club lamb producer from Ashland, Ohio where he and his family raises 300 crossbred, show type ewes. Isabel Richards is a Katahdin breeder from New York where she and her husband focus on producing purebred Katahdin sheep that are managed in a grass-based system. One of the panel discussion pieces revolved around placing value on their operation. For Mike, following trends and matching his sheep to the industry wants helps him stay ahead of the game. Conversely, for the Richards, data is the name of the game and using NSIP values aids in the sustainability of their flock.

For the remainder of the general program on Friday, I was asked to give a presentation on record keeping. The basis of my presentation revolved around improving the profitability of an operation through accurate and efficient record keeping. My presentation covered three main topics: 1) Record keeping tools, 2) what data to collect, and 3) how to interpret said data. To my surprise, of those that were in attendance, the majority of attendees preferred method of recording keeping was pen and paper. As I have often heard it stated before, “a short pencil is more dependable than a long memory.” I was pleased to note that data was being collected on many farms, however, in many cases the buck stops there. Unfortunately, after data is collect, many don’t know how to interpret it to better their operation. Over the course of the next year, it is my goal to both produce a publication on the economics of record keeping systems as well develop small producer focus groups to help improve on-farm production efficiencies through basic production analyses. For those interested in participating in the producer focus groups, please send me an email at and I’ll put you on my list!

To conclude the Friday portion of the event, young shepherds, ages 18-40, were invited to stay afterwards for one-on-one discussion with Isabel Richards and others within the group. For me, meeting with this group of passionate producers was the highlight of the event. Our young shepherds have a different mind set. They are constantly hungry for information, especially that related to innovative approaches and management techniques in modern production. Participating in these conversations assures me that the future of our industry is strong and bright. We as a planning committee plan to continue offering this program and many others like it in the future. If you have interest in joining us in the future or have an idea of what our next event should be, please contact either myself at or Christine Gelley at

For the Saturday portion of the program, the day started off with a discussion from Ohio producers who are currently or have previous served with with the American Lamb Board. Panelist included Don Hawk, Jim Percival, and Nick Forest. Each panelist had the opportunity to share their experience while serving on a national level as well as addressed questions and comments from the audience regarding lamb production in the United States. We are very fortunate to have a great support system from Ohio being represented at the national level. For those interested in details about the latest happenings and statistics of lamb production and consumption, I encourage you to take a quick look at these slides.

Returning from her Friday discussion, Isabel Richards joined our group again to further discuss the in’s and out’s of her operation. The Richards main focus is on data driven information. For them, using NSIP data and setting thresholds as a means for culling criteria are a must. When selecting for new breeding stock, the Richards look for animals that tick the most boxes rather than selecting an individual that is superior in a single trait. Think back to your genetic courses you would have taken in school – single trait selection allows for you to greatly improve on a single parameter, but as a result quality is lost on other important production factors.

Per usual, the OSU Sheep Research update was presented prior to our lamb meal. For those interested in seeing what we have been up to at OSU over the past year, check our our video on our homepage or by using this link.

For those that either attended or read the Recap of the 2021 Ohio Sheep Day event, you are probably pretty familiar with Jacci Smith and her work with the lambing simulators. Because of both it’s importance and timeliness, Jacci as back with us again with a discussion on different lambing challenges and provided tips and tricks with how to successfully assist in delivering a newborn lamb. After her presentation, Jacci had her lambing simulators at the ready for participants to practice with. For those that are interested in learning more about how to appropriately correct dystocia issues, take a quick look at this video.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Dr. Eric Gordon, from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Marysville location ended the event with a discussion on preparing the flock for the breeding season. A majority of his focus was ram preparation and ensuring that they were in breeding condition. A simple breeding soundness exam is relatively inexpensive when compared with a flock of open ewes. For those struggling to find a local veterinarian to conduct a breeding soundness exam on their rams, Dr. Gordon noted that he would be happy to assist with either conducting the exam or connecting you another veterinarian in your local area that can. As for the ewes, ensuring that the body condition score of your flock is in optimal condition (2.5-3.5) for breeding will greatly increase your lambing success.