The South Dakota Sheep Growers Association will hold its annual convention Sept. 24-25 in Pierre, South Dakota.

The Convention is held in the western part of the state for two consecutive years, then switches to the eastern part of the state for two years. This year’s convention is the first year of the state’s western location years.

The South Dakota Sheep Growers Association is the only state sheep organization in South Dakota, making the convention a prime place for sheep producers to come together and learn and discuss the sheep industry. About 100 to 150 people will be in attendance at the convention.

“Each year we try to find timely topics or themes that really represent what is going on in the industry. This year we have an ethnic lamb marketing focus keynote speaker,” said Lisa Suber, executive secretary of the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association.

The keynote speaker will help sheep producers with marketing strategies on selling their product to those who may not be their typical consumer and help them find their stride in the niche market.

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Due to the stay at home order in many states and implementation of social distancing, knitting, crocheting and needle point all became more popular during the pandemic. Due to this, there was a direct increase in consumers purchasing wool.

“It was always popular, but during COVID, the needle art really really expanded and exploded. So we’re trying to encourage people to use wool because it is a renewable and sustainable fiber that is a product of ours,” Suber said.

The sheep industry in South Dakota has stabilized, according to Suber, coming up after a sharp decline in the state’s sheep population in the 1990s. In addition, eastern South Dakota has seen a substantial growth in small sheep producers marketing lambs into more niche opportunities.

“In the last five to 10 years we’ve somewhat stabilized. We do see slight fluctuations, like this year because of the drought we’ll probably lose some sheep numbers because of that,” Suber said. “Sheep are a very profitable segment of agriculture.”