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Survey aims at better marketing for sheep

JONESVILLE, MI -- Aimee Buckley of Jonesville, MI is a very busy person. She has a small flock of pure and crossbred sheep that are appreciated for whole animal use. Buckley and her husband Dan purchased a 30-acre piece of land and they are developing a working property with wooded pasture as well as grass. She is a  research assistant at Michigan State University and is preparing for her doctoral dissertation there. She is also an experienced shearer who has traveled around the world and sheared a variety of sheep breeds.

Buckley has a lot on her plate but a primary focus these days is helping other sheep producers find ways to market the animals and products from their farms. Through her many connections, she has found that this is difficult for many who are looking to make a living off their farms.

“They don’t know where to sell anything from their farms,” Buckley said. “It can be difficult to find a market and so I decided to do my dissertation based on market access for sheep producers.”

She has prepared a survey for those who raise sheep in Michigan in order to evaluate the demographics of sheep farms, market access, genetics, and any production barriers. Buckley is conducting her research survey through 2019 and wants to hear from those who have sheep within the state.

Buckley is also extremely interested in the variety of sheep raised in the state. It has been said that Michigan has more sheep farms than any other state in the nation. While it hasn’t been proven, this survey will be recorded for future comparison to other state’s demographics and breeds raised.

The survey requires very little from the participant other than a few minutes and information about their operation. Buckley suggests having the following data before beginning the survey: “live head count of all breeds of sheep on site, clear identification of all breeds and cross-breeds on site, expected lamb count for the year, list of all states and countries you have purchased or sold sheep within 10 years, average annual revenue from lamb, wool, and/or breeding stock, a narrative description of why you produce sheep, and a narrative description of why you produce the breeds that you have on site.”

The survey includes eight sections for the participant to fill out. The first one shares information concerning the logistics of the survey, purpose, and those who are assisting Buckley in the administration of the data. The second section asks for household information while the third requests the explanation of the duties of the “primary responsible person.” Flock demographics and breeding is asked in the fourth section as the fifth would like to know about the producer’s flock production choices. How the person cares for and supports their flock is covered in the sixth section and barriers, or difficulties within the management of the sheep, are asked in the seventh portion of the survey. The final section is a request from the administrator for more possible involvement.

While the results will be made public, each survey will be anonymous unless the producer is willing to share their contact information in order to further participate in Buckley’s research in the form of interviews, assisting in the production of a documentary, or to receive a completed report of the results from the survey.

Buckley has a website concerning the survey and information about the document at Additional options for participation include emailing at or personally contacting Buckley at 517-250-0731. The deadline for participating in the survey is the end of the 2019.