Sheep project shines
Casper – Moving from a handful of ranch sheep nine years ago to a group of 110 high-quality ewes today, Jimmy Owens of the Casper FFA Chapter will this year attend the National FFA Convention as a finalist for the National FFA Proficiency Award in sheep production.
A group of 17 students and parents, led by Natrona County High School ag teacher and chapter advisor Brock Burch, are preparing to attend the convention in Indianapolis, Ind. Oct. 22 through 25.
Burch says Owens is the only national finalist from Wyoming this year, the first one in the Casper FFA Chapter’s history and the first from Wyoming in quite some time. There are 47 proficiency areas available and every year four national finalists are chosen within each.
“We’ve talked about the Proficiency Award since I started my freshman year of high school, so I’ve aimed for it and have kept good records,” says Owens of the project, giving Burch credit for helping him along the way.
“This award all starts with record keeping and business management, and we’ve worked on record books every month, updating financial records and doing inventory twice a year,” says Burch.
“Through good records you have to tell the story of where you’re been and where you’re going,” he adds. “In the ag classes we try to make this program more than just a high school job, but something career-oriented. With where Jimmy’s at now, he could very easily make this a career through the things he knows and the things he does.”
Burch says winning the Proficiency Award in Wyoming, in addition to the plaque and $500, opens the potential opportunity for Owens to travel internationally to Costa Rica. The national Sheep Proficiency winner will receive an additional $500 during a special ceremony at the National FFA Convention.
Owens says he’s lived his whole life on a cow and sheep ranch near Teapot Dome outside of Casper, and that his family has always raised sheep. “The first year I showed sheep in 4-H I had ranch sheep that weren’t very good, and I didn’t like losing too much,” he says. Because of that, he soon visited the ag advisor in Laramie, buying a group of 40. “Every since then I’ve raised show sheep,” he says.
Owens is also a member of the Casper College Livestock Judging Team, in which he most enjoys evaluating beef. “Livestock judging has been the most fun part of FFA for me,” he says.
Now a freshman in ag business at Casper College, Owens says he returns to the ranch when there’s work to be done, and he’d like to return full-time after college. In addition to the sheep, he and his brother partner on a group of cows.
Meanwhile, he and his chapter prepare to leave for the national convention. “I like all of the people at convention, and it’s fun with all the people you meet there,” he says of the trip.
In addition to Owens’ Proficiency Award, this year the Casper FFA Chapter has three members receiving the American FFA Degree, a Sales and Service team, an agri-science competitor and a livestock judging team. Burch says the only areas in which they’re not participating are the National Band and National Chorus and Talent.
“As a teacher and advisor of the program, that’s something I’m very proud of – the accomplishments of the kids because they’ve set us apart,” says Burch.
As for the management of Owens’ sheep while he’s in college and off the ranch, Owens says he’ll lamb in May next spring, a decision made to enable him to attend to his ewes himself when school is over.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.