North Dakota sheep producers overcome marketing obstacle
Brent and Barb Stroh work with a Wisconsin based marketing company to market not only their lambs, but fellow producers as well.
TAPPEN, N.D. — For producers of any livestock, besides cattle, marketing their herd can be an issue in North Dakota. That’s why Brent and Barb Stroh have taken the matters into their own hands.
The Strohs lamb out around 750 ewes on their farm outside of Tappen, North Dakota. Their flock primarily consists of Dorsets, Hampshires and Suffolks. They farm small grains and corn on their acres. Along with their sheep, they calve out around 300 head of cattle. While they don’t have an issue marketing their cow herd, they work with a marketer company based in Wisconsin to market their lambs.
“Years ago we started doing it, there's just not a lot of places to market lambs and stuff like that, finish lambs. So we started working with this company back in the '80s,” Brent Stroh said. “To us, right now, in the sheep industry, the biggest thing is just marketing.”
The Strohs begin their lambing season in January. Not only do they market their own lambs, but they help market other sheep producer’s flocks as well. They have farmers come from all over the region. The Strohs ship off a load of lambs every two to three weeks. They’re typically finished out around 140-150 pounds.
“We pull lambs here, so we’ll probably market 3,000 to 4,000 lambs here a year,” Brent Stroh said.
Besides marketing, the Strohs have a hard time finding more ewes to add to their flock and oftentimes make the trek to Wyoming or southern South Dakota to bring up their numbers
“It’s hard to find the numbers, so you gotta go west to get those numbers,” Brent Stroh said.
While sheep may not be as popular as other species of livestock in the upper Midwest, the Strohs have seen an uptick with sheep popularity, especially in young people. Between starter flock programs, 4-H projects and FFA projects, the sheep population in the state is slowly rising.
Barb Stroh enjoys spending her time with the sheep, as she says it is easier for her to handle them compared to the cattle. She has also grown to love connecting with other sheep producers when they drop off their lambs at the Strohs' farm.
"You get a pretty good group. I like it because they're all living that same thing that you are. They understand everything that you're going through, whether it's good or bad. A fun group of people, it's kind of like a little sheep family I guess,” Barb Stroh said.