South Dakota State University will be hosting its 30th annual Lamb Bonanza on Jan. 15.
The event brings together the South Dakota State animal science department, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association and the South Dakota State University athletics department.
The Lamb Bonanza will take place on the same day as the South Dakota State University’s men's basketball game, where the Jackrabbits will play the University of Denver. Prior to tipoff, there will be lamb sliders and lamb spread crackers served to those in attendance by the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association.
The event presents a rare opportunity to integrate both the agricultural and sports industries.
“The event is set at the basketball game, and during the halftime of the game, we will be auctioning off six lamb pelts,” Kelly Froehlich, assistant professor and South Dakota State University Extension small ruminant production specialist.
Of the six pelts, four will feature SDSU’s letters and two will feature the school mascot, the Jackrabbit. The money collected from the auction will go to support undergraduate scholarships for both student athletes and animal science students.
The event also shines a spotlight on the sheep industry within the state of South Dakota, which according to Froehlich, is often overlooked.
“The lamb industry in South Dakota is actually really strong, and most people don’t realize it because most people think of cattle,” she said. “But South Dakota ranks No. 6 in the nation for lamb and wool production. That’s part of the reason we do events like this, to have a face and show that we exist in the state and we are very strong.”
While the lamb and wool industry is prospering in South Dakota, the popularity continues to rise as the sheep population becomes more abundant in the state.
Froehlich and her colleagues put out a recent survey to determine the needs of sheep and goat producers. With that survey, they found that over 50% of the respondents were considered new to the industry, with less than 10 years of experience.
“That’s very positive seeing that and we’re very excited to start working with some of these beginning producers and helping them succeed,” Froehlich said.