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All-American Sheep Day at BHSS attempts to educate the public about sheep and wool

Written by Saige

apid City, S.D. – Sheep producers educated the public about what they do during the All-American Sheep Day at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo (BHSS) in Rapid City, S.D. this year. The event, which started with the North American Stock Dog Trials several years ago, was expanded to include the National Sheep Shearing Championships in 2009. 

This year, these two events were moved to the James Kjerstad Events Center at the Central States Fairgrounds, and educational events like wool spinning, consumer education, and sheep management were added.

“The goal of Sheep Day is to provide a total sheep industry experience for all attendees, whether or not they are sheep producers,” explains Dave Ollila. South Dakota State University Extension sheep field specialist. “The northern prairie states South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska make up 20 percent of all the sheep raised in the U.S.” 

“There is a long tradition of sheep production among ranchers in this region, and a lot of the sheep industry’s infrastructure can be found in these states,” Ollila notes.

Educational events

Among many activities available, the public had the opportunity to visit the trade show area, where retailers promoted and sold wool and lamb products, while other vendors set up educational displays. Three different lamb entrees were also served in the concessionaire’s area.

There were also opportunities to learn about wool during several presentations held throughout the day on topics like optical fiber diameter analysis technology and its application in the wool industry, classing wool and wool value as a textile fiber. 

A circle of wool spinners from the Black Hills Spinner’s Circle, demonstrated how to spin wool and allowed spectators to give it a try. 

Claudia Randall, one of the spinners, said that the event was a good way to educate people about how clothing and other items can be made from wool.

Hand spinning lessons, wool weaving and wool combing demonstrations were also offered. 

Heidi Carroll with South Dakota State University Extension gave presentations on sheep management topics like safety and quality assurance programs, as well as lambing protocol discussions and lambing equipment. 

Evening events

Events taking place that evening, along with the final heat of the North American Sheep Dog Trials, were a sheep teepeeing contest and youth mutton bustin’. 

The sheep teepeeing competition, which is in its second year, features a team of two people who wrestle and secure a ewe, then place a homemade canvas teepee over it. Then, they hope she stays put until they can cross a finish line. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the tradition of sheep herding and use of teepees in South Dakota,” Ollila explains of the contest.

The youth mutton bustin’ featured 20 young cowboys and cowgirls from three to six years old who rode a sheep for six seconds, as judges score the ride. 

“South Dakota has a thriving sheep industry that many people aren’t familiar with,” explains Ron Jeffries, Black Hills Stock Show general manager. “The All-American Sheep Day is an opportunity for us to educate the general public about the impact of our great sheep producers,” he says. 

Make-A-Wish dog

During the evening of the All-American Sheep Day, a special dog was auctioned as a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

Kelly Jackson of the South Dakota Stock Dog Association has trained a Border Collie each of the last few years to auction off prior to the final competition of the North American Sheep Dog Trials. Jackson, who has trained stock dogs for more than 25 years, trained Sis, who was a well-trained Border Collie stock dog that was auctioned this year. 

This is the sixth dog the South Dakota Stock Dog Association has trained and donated for auction to raise money for the foundation, so they can grant more wishes. The sale of Sis generated $2,100 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

“One hundred percent of what we do goes to Make-A-Wish, and there’s no charge,” Jackson explains. “The dogs are fully donated. Every penny people spend goes to Make-A-Wish.”

Shearing 

  The winner of the 2018 National Sheep Shearing contest was Alex Moser of Iowa. The second place winner was Davin Perrin, and Clint Hahn was third. 

Moser is no new-comer to sheep shearing. He has been shearing since the age of 13, and, in addition to making a living as a professional shearer, he currently helps instruct a nationally recognized sheep shearing school at North Dakota State University.  

“The professionals who earn a living shearing make it look easy because they’ve done it a lot,” says Ollila. “They are like fine-tuned athletes.” 

Shearers competing in the contest were scored on speed and the quality of their shearing. The goal was to end up with a ewe that has a clean, even cut.

Intermediate winners in the event were Ben Fitzpatrick in first, Levi McTaggart in second and Joe Schwartz in third. Beginner winners were Tyler Opstedahl in first, Braden Kopren in second and Rowdy Thompson in third. 

Wool handlers were also judged and awarded prizes based on how well they sorted wool by size, texture and quality. In this competition, Leann Brimmer was first, followed by Amelia Seifert as second and Terrance Pelle in third. 

“My job is to work with the shearer to make his job easier,” Brimmer says of the wool handling contest. “At the same time, I am trying to get the producer a better price for his product. By sorting off the inferior parts of the fleece, that fleece can go into a higher price valued line.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..