“Whoa. They’re all black.” That is the initial response when young kids enter our sheep barn and take one look at the baby lambs. Immediately, we can tell they are puzzled.
These are not the white lambs with pink noses portrayed in many children’s books. They are also not those from the nursery rhyme “Baa, Baa Black Sheep.” Our lambs arrive in the world pure black, but later become like their mothers grazing in the nearby pasture — black-headed and black-hooved, with white wool all over their bodies.
In that moment, our education of the future consumer starts. We share how our sheep industry is diverse. There are lambs born in many colors — white, black, red and even those with spots. Some will grow wool, others just hair. Some sheep breeds produce meat for a gyro, while others yield fiber for coats and mittens.
There are more than 88,000 sheep farms and ranches across our nation, each one unique. Out West, ranchers nurture lambs grazing green grass while roaming pastures. In the Midwest, farmers care for lambs in a confined building by feeding grain and providing water. Some sheep producers use conventional breeding methods, while others embrace technology through artificial insemination. Each farm has its own production technique to suit its individual farm needs. There is no “better” or “worse” method, just different.
It is time we celebrate agriculture diversity. Take time to tell your ag story to the next generation. They need to know that America’s farmers and ranchers don’t allow our differences to divide us. Ultimately, we all work together to produce food and fiber for our world.