Fall 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW4

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Making Your New Program Successful


Hans E. Nel
Sheep and Wool Extension Specialist
University of Wyoming-Laramie

Question: How can you implement a new program successfully into an agricultural community?

Answer: When you can demonstrate on producers' farms and ranches that they can make money by adopting the program.

The University of Wyoming's sheep ked (external parasite) eradication program is a good example of how this can be done. The sheep ked, Melophagus ovinus, is a blood-sucking insect that only lives on sheep. It reduces body weight (especially in market lambs), the weight of clean wool in ewes, and the value of the pelt, thereby causing heavy financial losses to sheep producers. It's estimated the sheep ked can cost the U.S. sheep industry between four and five million dollars a year.

Can this pest be controlled? Yes, easily. Up to now, sheep producers haven't realized how much damage the ked causes, and how easily it can be controlled or even eradicated. So, in 1984, the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Wool Growers Association decided to start a five-year program to make Wyoming the first ked-free state in the nation.

How does the program work? First of all, a committee was formed representing producers, researchers, and Extension specialists. Then, two sheep producers were selected as cooperators in each of the 23 counties in Wyoming. Local agricultural Extension agents assisted in the nomination of these producers from their clientele. One big producer (range operation) and one small producer (farm flock operation) were selected from each county.

Next, the university sheep specialist visited the producers to determine the degree of ked infestation in his flock and treat the sheep with the prescribed chemical by spraying or pouring it on. (The sheep were then re-inspected within four to six weeks after treatment.) Educational meetings for sheep producers were scheduled, wherever possible, to coincide with the ked treatments.

During 1986, about 32,000 sheep of the 47 cooperators were treated for keds. Re-inspections convinced the cooperators that the treatments, which cost less than 10 cents per sheep, were from 99.5% to 100% effective in eliminating the keds from the sheep flock.

The next step in the program used the results of these successful demonstrations to convince the rest of the producers in the county of the practical, possible, and cost-effective ways to control keds in their own flocks. This information was disseminated through educational meetings at county and state level, radio talks, newspaper articles, university news releases, Extension agent newsletters, and personal testimony of cooperators.

As a result, about 80% of all sheep in Wyoming were treated for keds in 1986. Producers treated their sheep because they were convinced they could make money by doing so.

The success of the Wyoming program is spilling over into neighboring states. The Wool Growers Associations of Montana, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah have all adopted resolutions to follow the Wyoming example.