Expanding Profits for Sheep Production through Intensive Pasture Management
Chet Parsons, Sarah Flack, Kate Duesterberg, and Rick Wackernagel
Vermont researchers and sheep producers have collaborated on an investigation of the financial viability of pasture-based sheep production using a cooperative learning and outreach model. The project documented case studies of Vermont sheep producers currently experimenting with pasture-based systems. Production methods and financial data was and is being collected and analyzed to begin to answer the following questions.
Can producers make a profit by more effectively utilizing the pasture resource? What management and/or planning tools are effective for meeting economic and lifestyle goals of sheep producers? Does a cooperatively managed research and outreach program produce more readily usable information for agricultural producers?
The number of participating farms increased from 6 to 10 in 1997, and in
1998 included 620 breeding ewes on 10 farms in Vermont and New Hampshire. On each
farm we measured pasture species composition, soil fertility, and forage quality at least
once each year. We weighed lambs at least twice each year on each farm in order to
measure average daily gains, and we collected flock production and financial information
on an annual basis using the SPA (Standardized Performance Analysis) program.
In the final printed case study report we will have 3 years of data on 4 farms and 5 years
of data on 6 farms.