Sheep checkoff funds show significant progress in 2019

Erin Robinstine
Farmers Advance

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- After a year of successful checkoff-funded projects and events, the Indiana Sheep and Wool Market Development Council (IN S&W) is accepting new funding requests at its Nov. 19 meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

In collaboration with the Indiana Sheep Association (ISA), IN S&W made successful marketing efforts and events possible this year to support Indiana’s sheep industry. Most notably among the projects was a shearing school, a workshop addressing the National Sheep Improvement Project (NSIP), multiple Indiana State Fair competitions, a producer education symposium and vendor participation in USA Today’s Wine and Food Experience Festival.

“The opportunities the checkoff has provided in the past year has fit our goals to promote the consumption of Indiana lamb and the use of Indiana wool, and to provide educational opportunities for producers and consumers alike,” said Ken McMichael, IN S&W Council president.

All slots allotted for participation in the shearing school held in February were filled, and attendees left the workshop more confident in their ability to shear their animals. Later in the spring, a group of producers were educated on NSIP basics and how to enroll their flocks in the program, which produces genetics-based estimated breeding values for producers to make informed breeding decisions. Glen Jones, who spearhead the NSIP activities, said the checkoff funds were a great help.

“I really appreciate the support from the checkoff in funding the NSIP promotional activities,” he said. “There is a great need in Indiana to improve the quality of breeding animals available to commercial lamb producers, and NSIP is essential in identifying superior genetics.”

At this year’s Indiana State Fair, the checkoff supported the Wool and Ewe Room, which sold Indiana-grown wool products and hosted the youth and open wool competitions. Additionally, Indiana S&W and ISA funded the, Make it Yourself With Wool sheep shearing competition and the Sheep to Shawl competition. In particular, the Sheep to Shawl competition had more participating teams this year than any other in recent memory, and one of the winning shawls sold for a record $7,000.

“I think this year, the teams seemed really prepared, thanks to the generosity of the ISA and other donations,” said Sue Payne, director of Conner Prairie’s Youth Spinning Program. “Because of them, I could offer more time for the youth to come and practice and work with their captains.”

During this past school year, students of Scottsburg High School enrolled in the home economics course got to cook with, taste and learn about lamb, with all the lamb provided to them by S&W checkoff funding. The council hopes to set up similar programs with other schools. 

This year’s Hoosier Sheep Symposium, which was hosted at the Southern Indiana Purdue Agricultural Center, was packed with informative and engaging speakers. In late September, with major support from Indiana S&W and Spectrum Catering, ISA participated in the USA Today Wine and Food Experience. The half-day event attracted consumers from around the state to sample cuisine from Indiana restaurants, caterers and, this year, Hoosier-grown lamb. ISA volunteers distributed more than 600 lamb meatballs to many consumers.

“The Wine and Food Festival allowed ISA and Indiana S&W to zero in on our target market and expose those consumers to the benefits of Indiana lamb,” said ISA president Larry Hopkins.

This month, at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Indiana S&W will be reviewing funding request applications for projects to be implemented in the coming year.  To submit your proposal, download the form at the Indiana S&W website: and email it to