As you all are very aware, November 2020 is a presidential election month. Almost everything we saw, read, or heard about revolved around this event. Most elections are dominated by two candidates from different political parties and on the surface, it seems that we as voters are always picking between individuals with significantly contrasting viewpoints of the world.
Political platforms tend to focus on issues that are polarizing for most Americans. From longstanding disagreements to hot topics of today, we all have our motivations for which candidate or party we support, and regularly can regurgitate the reasons why the “other side” is wrong. But I don’t think we take time to think about the vast number of things we agree upon.
I have had the opportunity to interact with a lot of people from varying walks of life. In my assessment, the general public agree on more issues than those for which we disagree. Unfortunately, this is not newsworthy and thus is rarely discussed.
As I look at the sheep and goat producers of Texas, I see a very diverse group of people. Yes, we all love raising livestock, but we go about it in a lot of different ways. Sheep and goat are raised on native rangeland, improved pastures, farmland, dry lots, and backyards. They are sold at a variety of ages to an assorted group of consumers who have a litany of ways they plan to manage, harvest, and utilize that animal.
To satisfy all the markets and niches within the small ruminant industry, Texas sheep and goats cover the entire spectrum of “type and kind.” Some we shear and some we don’t, some we show, and some we have just to keep the weeds down. Some have names and some don’t even have an ear tag. Regardless, Texas producers are proud of their animals and like to promote what they do. And we like to promote our products as better than the rest.
Unfortunately, we tend to act like politicians and explain why our fellow ranchers, who do things differently, are wrong or misinformed. When in reality, our goals and management plans are like our general population. We are actually more similar than we are different. Where we are different, “better” is in the eye of the beholder. The general population (our consumers!) have different expectations and preferences and likely don’t understand producer-on-producer animosity.
For instance, the lightweight slaughter lamb market has grown strong here in Texas due to sufficient supply of hair sheep breeds for the non-traditional market. Undoubtedly, the traditional industry was not very welcoming to the hair sheep breeds, when they first arrived. The trailblazers who promoted these breeds were heavily chastised for their efforts. Today, hair sheep breeds are the dominant commercial sheep flock in Texas and the sheep industry appears to be growing due to their popularity.
Now that the tables have turned, hair sheep producers are “returning the favor” so to speak. For instance, I see advertising from hair sheep breeder/marketers claiming that wool breeds produce lamb products that have flavor quality issues. To my knowledge, there are no research publications to substantiate these claims. Moreover, over half of all the lamb eaten in the US is imported from countries where wool sheep are the main breeds. If wool sheep produced a truly inferior product, I doubt that imported lamb would be taking market share at the rate that it has been.
Goat raisers (Angora, Boer, Dairy, Spanish, Myotonic, etc) have acted the same way towards each other as the goat industry has evolved to meet the demands of the consumer.
While, the aforementioned topics may resemble a political debate, that was not my intention. It is my belief that there is a tremendous domestic market for all sheep and goat products. Yes, our products are different but that is a good thing.
I believe our industry needs to share the good stories of what we have in common. We are all hard-working people who care deeply about the health and wellbeing of the land, livestock and communities we live in. If we act like politicians, our consumers may only see debate and controversy within the sheep and goat community.
The American consumer of domestic sheep and goat products have the option to not cast their vote for either candidate. To be honest, it is easier for them to purchase a less expensive imported lamb or goat product, another animal protein, or a non-animal derived protein altogether.
I appreciate friendly banter within the industry on who has the best animals or management system. It is fun to have a little friendly competition with our friends and colleagues. But let’s be careful to not take a mudslinging debate to the public, they may not see things in the same way. We as a whole industry may suffer as a result. So, let’s STAND TOGETHER as united sheep and goat producers for all the people involved in the industry.
Oh, I can’t forget; “This advertisement was paid for and approved by …”
To provide feedback on this article or request topics for future articles, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 325-657-7324. For general questions about sheep and goats, contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county office. If they can’t answer your question, they have access to someone who can.