Dakota Farmer

The Kukuchka, Van Dyke and Van Well families are the 2019 Master Lamb Producers.

December 9, 2019

3 Min Read
Kukuchka family named Master Lamb Producers
KUKUCHKA FAMILY: Jeff Held (left), SDSU Extension sheep specialist and executive secretary of the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association, presents the Master Lamb Producer award to Callie, Deb, Craig, Ellie, Chase, Cora and Ashton Kukuchka.

Three South Dakota families recently received Master Lamb Producer awards. They are the Craig and Deb Kukuchka family of Belle Fourche, the Jim Van Dyke family of Wessington Springs, and the Trevor and Travis Van Well families of Watertown.

Kukuchka Targhees

The Kukuchka family operates a livestock enterprise known as the “Bar 69 Ranch.” It consists of 1,200 commercial Targhee ewes and a registered Angus cow herd. Their commercial range sheep flock has been developed over the past 25 years to excel in maternal traits and wool production.

Genetic improvement for these economically important traits is attributed to ram selection based on Estimated Breeding Values data. At auction, premium feeder lambs and replacement females offered by the “Bar 69 Ranch” frequently top the market.

Van Dyke Suffolks

Over the past 30 years, the Van Dyke Suffolk flock has become a nationally-recognized source of superior Suffolk sheep genetics for both seedstock flocks and the commercial sheep industry.

Currently, the Van Dyke’s registered Suffolk sheep program consists of 180 mature ewes with the production focus on post-weaning growth performance, carcass merit and structural soundness.

Van Dyke family named Master Lamb Producers
VAN DYKE FAMILY: Amy Linke (left), Caleb Van Dyke, Wesley Linke, Jim Van Dyke and Dalen Van Dyke pose with with Jeff Held, SDSU Extension sheep specialist and executive secretary of the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association.

More than 100 Suffolk rams are sold annually. Elite Van Dyke stud rams can be found in purebred Suffolk breeding programs across the U.S., yet the majority of the rams serve as a terminal cross in commercial sheep flocks located in the Midwest and western states.

Van Well Sheep

Van Well Sheep LLC has evolved into one of the largest sheep enterprises in the country. It has three primary components: a 7,000-head commercial white-faced ewe flock, a lamb-finishing operation and a public sheep buying station. They handle more than 150,000 head of finished lambs, which represents nearly 5% of the domestic lamb harvest.

Although the Van Well Sheep headquarters is located just a few miles from Watertown, the ewes graze in western South Dakota and North Dakota during the summer.

Partnerships in lamb finishing can include producers throughout the region.

Van Well family named Master Lamb Producers
VAN WELL FAMILY: Trevor (left) and Mallory Van Well display their 2019 Master Lamb Producer awards with their children, Cooper and Camden, and Stephanie and Travis Van Well.

Their unique large-scale sheep production and marketing model was created by the late Dion Van Well in the early 1990s. After his passing in 2014, his sons, Trevor and Travis Van Well, have built on the original model resulting in even greater flock production efficiencies, improved facility utilization and expanded marketing options for finished lambs.


Master Lamb Producer program sponsors include: Agri Tech, Big Gain Feed, Center of the Nation Wool, Farm Credit Services of America — Pierre, Hamlin County Farmers Cooperative, Hubbard Feeds, Menno Livestock, South Dakota Livestock Foundation, South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, Sioux Falls Regional Livestock Auction, Sisseton Livestock Auction, Sydell Inc., St. Onge Livestock, Newell Sheep Yards and Van Well Livestock.

Source: SDSU, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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