Collegiate Wool Growers grows
Laramie – With the goal of uniting students interested in the sheep industry, the University of Wyoming (UW) Collegiate Wool Growers Association is blazing a trail for organizations rooted in the commercial sheep industry.
The recently created organization aims to unite students interested in sheep and wool, allow them to network with industry professionals and teach them more about the commercial side of the business, according to the organization’s advisor and UW Extension Sheep Specialist Whit Stewart.
“This organization is unique in that its focus is on the commercial side of the industry,” says Stewart. “We hope to become more integrated with larger, nationwide industry groups such as American Sheep Industry Association (ASI).”
“We started with about 16 members,” according to Stewart. “Our members come from a variety of backgrounds. Some of them have experience on the commercial side, while other have experience on the show side. Some of our members are just simply interested in sheep.”
“We want to train leaders,” says Stewart. “These students are the future operators, board members and leaders of the sheep industry.”
“I would really like to see this organization grow and get more people involved in the commercial sheep industry,” says President Alexis Julian.
Julian is no stranger to the commercial sheep industry. The master’s student grew up on a 10,000-head operation in southwestern Wyoming.
Vice President Brady Springer shares similar goals and notes he hopes to see the organization grow. Brady will be the fifth generation to operate on his family’s ranch in Colorado.
To get students connected with industry professionals, the club invites industry professionals from across the commercial sheep business to speak to members at meetings.
Members of the organization have also had the chance to participate in regional and national events, such as the West Central States Wool Growers meeting and the American Sheep Industry convention.
“We brought our members to the West Central States Wool Growers meeting,” Stewart says. “They had the chance to network and also moderate sessions, tour feedlots and visit packing plants.”
Stewart noted students were also able to attend the American Sheep Industry Convention in New Orleans, La. The event featured speakers and representatives from American Lamb Board, American Goat Federation, ASI Women, Make It With Wool, National Lamb Feeders Association, National Livestock Producers Association, National Sheep Improvement Program, National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, Sheep Heritage Foundation, Sheep Venture Company and Western Range Association.
“Students will have the chance to assist at the Laramie wool pool,” says Stewart. “In the wool pool, students assist in packing and grading wool.”
The organization has also allowed members the opportunity to participate in competitively.
“The University hasn’t had a wool judging team in a long time,” Stewart says. “The team competed at the National Western Stock Show this year, and we hope to compete even more in the future.”
“A lot of people just don’t understand the sheep industry,” Springer noted. “Even others in agriculture, such as cattle producers, don’t understand the things that go on in commercial sheep operations.”
Springer notes his favorite part of being involved with the organization is simply being surrounded by people who understand the ins and outs of the commercial sheep industry.
“The industry has to elevate engagement as a whole,” says Stewart. “Young people have to want to get involved, and the industry needs them.”
Stewart comments despite widespread participation in showing sheep, there are still very few avenues for students who are interested in the commercial sheep industry to get involved, learn and network.
“My favorite part of this organization is being able to teach people about our industry,” says Julian. “Seeing new people come into the sheep industry and getting to share my knowledge with them is great.”
Springer pointed out, despite the healthy nature of lamb, it often falls in the shadow of more popular products such as chicken and beef.
Springer jokes, “At the end of the day, we really just need people to eat more lamb and wear more wool.”
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.