Spring 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW4

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Mark L. Wahlberg
Extension Animal Scientist, 4-H Livestock
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Blacksburg

Steven H. Umberger
Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Blacksburg

Program Components

In 1980, a new program was initiated by the 4-H livestock specialist in the Animal Science Department. The program, called "Lamb-A-Rama," was offered to multicounty groups in various parts of the state. It emphasized promoting the market lamb project for young people with no livestock experience. The following components were included:

  1. Promoting the advantages of a market lamb project-short project durations, small dollar investment, small land area, limited facilities and equipment, and small animal size.
  2. Selecting feeder lambs-weight, age, source, and type of lamb.
  3. Preventive health care-vaccinations and parasite control.
  4. Feeding market lambs-type and amount of feed, and how to start and keep a lamb on feed.
  5. The facilities and equipment needed for small-scale projects of one or two lambs.
  6. Demonstrating shearing, washing, and fitting lambs for a show.
  7. Demonstrating proper showmanship techniques, followed by hands-on opportunities for newcomers to the project.

Program support sessions describing the Lamb-A-Ramas were conducted in the six Extension districts in Virginia for Extension agents and volunteer leaders. Extension agents were responsible for arranging facilities, acquiring demonstration animals, promoting the school, and doing a portion of the instruction. Initially, the 4-H livestock specialist and/or the sheep specialist had major roles in program delivery. In all cases, multicounty meetings were conducted, normally involving counties participating in the same established multicounty livestock show.

From 1980-86, 15 of these programs were delivered on either a Saturday or weekday afternoon-evening schedule. Sheep farmers willing to host the events were first-choice sites for the programs.

Written and visual materials were prepared to support the educational effort. Eight handouts were developed and distributed, including "From Lamb to Chops" and a "4-H Market Lamb Calendar." A 12-page Market Lamb Project Guide was produced in 1983, and a 20-page Ewe Flock Project Guide was printed in 1985. A set of slides outlining the Market Lamb Project was developed. Several Lamb-A-Ramas were conducted by county Extension agents and volunteer leaders with the use of the slides, handouts, and publications produced by the specialists.

What Were the Results?

From 1979 to 1986, sheep project enrollment in Virginia increased from 367 to 621 members (69% increase), while other animal projects saw a drop in enrollment of 6%-38% for the same time period. Over the time period studied (see Table 1), one show was discontinued, and 10 shows were created or added lambs to the livestock exhibited, for a net gain of nine shows. Nineteen of the 26 shows had sales for the livestock exhibited. These sales represented an increase from 1979 to 1986 of 55,050 pounds of live lamb and $96,919. These sales resulted in positive financial returns for the exhibitors and their families as a result of being involved in the Market Lamb Project.

This promotion demonstrates the effectiveness of making members aware of project opportunities. The big increase in member enrollment and additional lamb shows occurred in non-sheep producing areas of the state, many of which are also no longer farming areas. The combined efforts of the 4-H livestock specialist, sheep specialist, and many Extension 4-H and agriculture agents generated a big boost in project activity, and a substantial economic benefit to the youth and families involved.

Table 1. Selected junior market lamb show statistics.

No. 4-H
sheep members

No. shows

No. lambs
lamb sold
Gross sales
1979 367 17 749 41,108 26,211.41
1986 621 26 1778 96,158 123,130.42