Sheep, goat club helps producers market animals
GRAHAMS FORGE, Va. — A cold, bone-chilling rain did little to dampen the spirits of members of the New River Valley Sheep and Goat Club as they worked here Dec. 20 to send their animals north to a better market than locally available.
Marketing is one of the major activities of the club, which draws members from much of Southwest Virginia, Sarah Smiley, a board member, said after the busy day.
Club members and sheep and goat producers sent 1,220 animals on four livestock transport trailers, including three double-deckers, headed to New Holland, Pa., she said.
Smiley said that the club collects the animals four times a year to ship them north.
She said they average 10 cents more per pound than those sold at local auction barns.
The club, founded in 2014 to help producers in a variety of ways, works to be sure members have healthy prime livestock to send to market.
They use green club ear tags for those that meet the requirements, Smiley added.
Smiley said buyers have come to look for the green tags as a sign of quality.
The 160-member club had 60 members selling in this collection. Smiley said there were also producers from North Carolina and West Virginia selling this time.
She credited Cecil King, one of the club’s founders, with developing its marketing methods to help the sheep and goat growers produce quality animals and get good prices.
The club members breed their animals so they can send them to market for the various religious holidays when sheep and goat meat is in high demand, Smiley said.
She said this is another way to increase the profit for their members.
Those producers share the cost to transport them and the work to get them on the trucks and to New Holland.
The club member began unloading animals around noon on the Shannon Ball farm in Grahams Forge and finished at about 8 p.m., she said.
The animals were brought to the farm in many types of trailers and trucks, covered and uncovered.
Vehicles lined the road to the farm for quite a distance as they waited to struggle through the mud of a farmyard and back up to a huge barn where sheep could jump off into a safe environment.
They were herded through the barn to dry stalls and processed through a working chute to be sprayed with identifying paint marks and patterns, tagged and otherwise prepared for sale.
The big rigs bound for New Holland were backed to the barn door and the animals once again loaded to continue their trip.
Throughout the process, club members had been busy caring for the animals, keeping records and sorting as they went.
Smiley said this was an important time for the members to share with one another, talk business including buying and selling their animals, and just visiting.
Smiley said folks who are in anyway involved with sheep and goats and non necessarily growers are members.
These include those who use fibers to produce clothing and art works and those who make various items for personal care such as soaps and lotions.
The club also gives members a chance to advertise their animals on their web page helping to meet its priority of getting a profit for them.
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