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Council offers funding opportunities to drive support of sheep and wool industries.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

March 26, 2021

3 Min Read
lamb kabobs on plate
START RIGHT: The Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council has funded lamb in classrooms across the state for more than a decade. The program is designed to give the next generation the opportunity to prepare and taste lamb early.Alexandra Grablewski/Getty Images

Missouri is home to sheep production with sales topping $9.5 million. Still, the Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council continues to look for ways to increase that value by putting more lamb on the dinner table and wool in the closet.

Missouri has more than 3,100 sheep operations which house more than 111,600 sheep and lambs, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. The state ranks in the top 10 for sheep operations in the nation. And while the number of sheep farms pales in comparison to Texas at over 14,000 sheep operations, there is a small group of producers looking at ways to boost production and add value for its farmers.

Putting lamb on the table

“The purpose of the Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council is to conduct a campaign of market development through research, education and promotion of lamb and lamb products, wool and wool products,” says Joyce Milligan, a sheep breeder from Novelty, Mo., and assistant secretary for the Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council. “The focus and intent of this program is to increase demand for lamb and wool for the benefit of the sheep industry, and thus producers.”

She says the Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council develops a budget based on producers’ checkoff funds, and oversees management of projects aimed at increasing lamb consumption and wool use. Requests are made to the council for funds, and council members determine if it meets the objectives of the sheep industry, Milligan explains.

One such project has been ongoing in the state for decades.

Opportunities for next-gen

For the past 17 years, students have been getting a taste for lamb with help from the Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council. High school and college organizations received funds to purchase American lamb through the Missouri American Lamb Program.

“We have had some very good and educational programs using American Lamb,” Milligan says. “MSMC would like Missouri sheep producers to encourage their local FFA and FCCLA chapters, Pro Start Chapters or postsecondary programs to participate to help promote lamb meat.” She urges those groups funded to work with local producers and retailers when possible.

Top 10 states for sheep farms chart

There are still funds available for the 2020-21 school year, and the council also approved funding for the 2021-22 Missouri American Lamb Program.

Investing in the future

Milligan says there are other funding options for individuals or organizations outside of school. While these requests are presented to the sheep council usually on the first Saturday in February, she notes that if someone has a project later in 2021 that might qualify, there is some possible funding available this year.

Below are some of the activities for which MSMC has granted funding over the years:

• Taste of Missouri Lamb Promotion, Missouri Livestock Symposium and Missouri State Fair
• Fiber Workshop, Lincoln University
• Ozark Fiber Fling
• Freedom Fest donation
• Midwest Junior Preview Sheep Show donation
• Youth Livestock Grading and Judging Clinic
• Missouri State FFA Sheep Proficiency Award plaques
• Missouri State Fair Missouri Club Lamb Breeders’ Youth Lamb Bar-B-Q
• Missouri State Fair Youth in Agriculture donation
• Missouri Sheep Producers sheep lead line
* Missouri Sheep Producers FFA Sheep Public Speaking Contest

For more information and a funding request form for any of the programs, contact Milligan at [email protected], or call 660-739-4050 or 816-284-3205.

Sheep producers willing to serve

The Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council is a place where producers can be actively involved in promoting their own product.

Currently, the council will have available board positions for District 1, 6 and 7 in September; only registered sheep producers will vote in September. “If you did not receive a ballot to vote for the At Large position on the Missouri Sheep Merchandising Council last year,” says Milligan, “chances are you are not registered to vote, or you have not voted in the past three years and have been marked inactive.”

Nonregistered producers or those who may have become inactive may register at their local Farm Service Agency or online at MSMC Voter Registration.


About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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