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North Dakota brothers become shepherds through starter flock program

For 14 years, NDSU Extension and the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Association have teamed up to help North Dakota youth get more involved within the sheep industry.

Moser brothers
Josh and Jared Moser are both recipients of the starter flock program. Photo taken October 5, 2022 in Medina, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek
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MEDINA, N.D. — Cattle may dominate North Dakota's livestock industry, but North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Association are looking to add some diversity to the four-legged creatures in the state's pastures and barns.

For 14 years, NDSU Extension and the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Association have teamed up to help North Dakota youth get more involved in the sheep industry. They offer a starter flock program to youth ages 10 to 18 that acts as a loan to help recipients purchase 10 open Rambouillet ewes each. The recipient is responsible for paying back some of the loan, though not the full price.

“So the foundation of our North Dakota Lamb and Wool producers Starter Flock is truthfully getting young people involved and inspired in our industry. So first thing is we are able to provide that chance with repayment back of 70% of the value of those animals over a three year period,” explained Travis Hoffman, NDSU Extension sheep specialist.

This program allows those who may not have seen a future in the sheep industry to get an inside perspective and a chance to raise a flock of their own. Josh Moser was a 2022 starter flock recipient and said this was the perfect opportunity for him to get started in the industry.

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Josh Moser was able to combine his starter flock with his brother's starter flock. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2022, in Medina, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

“It was a really good way of starting off to have sheep,” he said. “It's a really good opportunity for a young person to be able to get started at a pretty cheap price in this market and you really learn a lot in all the classes you take in the program. They're always open for questions if you ever need to talk to them. So it's a pretty easy learning process and it's a great program to go through.”

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The recipients are paired with a mentor to help them with any questions or issues they may have with their new flock. Classes are also offered about the species.

While this may have been Josh Moser’s first year in the program, he is no stranger to it. His brother, Jared Moser, received his own starter flock from the program a year prior. Now the pair have a flock of twenty-eight Rambouillet ewes which they breed to their cousin’s ram. They then sell some of the offspring right out of their barn.

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Brothers Jared and Josh Moser breed their ewes to their cousin's ram and sell some of their offspring. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2022, in Medina, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

“I had a few friends who were in the sheep industry, and it's been two years ago, I guess, since we got into it. The sheep market was pretty high and good; it was something to make money off of,” Jared Moser said.

Both brothers are in high school; Josh Moser is a senior and Jared Moser is a sophomore. The pair said they have learned lifelong lessons through the program, including time management skills, record keeping and money management.

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Josh and Jared Moser's flock now encompasses 28 Rambouillet ewes. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2022, in Medina, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

It also opened up a new area of interest for Jared Moser: sheep shearing. He will be attending a sheep shearing seminar at Hettinger Research Center next month. While he isn’t sure he will be the one shearing his sheep next year, he thinks it is an important skill to learn now that he and his brother have their own flock.

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Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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