TalkAbout Jazz from western Colorado

Sheep Producer Meeting

August 15, 2008
Livingston Ranch

Attendees:

  • Pat Sturgeon
  • Ila Sturgeon
  • Sam Robinson
  • Cheri Robinson
  • Joe Livingston
  • Barbara Livingston
  • Butch Theos
  • Tony Theos
  • Connie Theos
  • Virginia Bean
  • Dave Bean
  • Ann Franklin

Exploring New Markets/Marketing Options

Joe Livingston began the discussion with a summary of marketing tactics and how producers can build markets in order to set prices. Joe supplied 4 handouts including a SYSCO Purchase Order Report for lamb cut prices, a Denver Business Journal article about Leprino Foods Co., a description of 3 lamb markets (Mountain States Rosen, Iowa Lamb, Country Meadow Austral-American Lamb), an article about a sheep cheese producer, and an article from The Furrow magazine describing direct marketing of meat by Thundering Hooves in Washington state.

Rio Blanco County is experiencing growth in many areas. How can livestock producers take advantage of the changes? Niche markets might be one viable option to explore.

Points to ponder:

  • Marketing smaller lambs might be an option.
  • Fresh, frozen lamb might be an option.
  • 10,000 – 15,000 lambs are produced in Rio Blanco County each year
  • Not every lamb comes off the range ready to be marketed.
  • There is a 6-week window of opportunity from August 20 – October 1 to market approximately 7,000 lambs (50-60 pound carcasses) direct from pasture to consumer.
  • Where do the remaining lambs go?
  • Should the producer keep ownership through the feedlot?
  • Should the producer own the feedlot?

Some niches available locally (on the Western Slope):

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  • Grocery stores (Whole Foods is interested in purchasing “natural” lamb – per Butch)
  • Ethnic markets (good place to market less popular cuts)
  • Restaurants (ski towns offer a unique “vacation” market)
  • Direct sales
  • Meat markets
  • Discount food stores

Pricing

Identify costs -

Cost of production (including fixed and variable costs) must be built into the price of the product. You, the producer, should receive a salary…this is a fixed cost! Sales and marketing should be kept separate from the ranch business. Base your sales price on costs plus a margin.

Essential Knowledge

  • Know your margin so you know how much of a discount you can handle (build the sales end first).
  • Study sales reports on a weekly basis to stay on top of marketing and outreach.
  • Knowledge of product quality is essential (carcass grading).
  • Know what your consumers want!
  • Points to ponder:

    • Which market do you want to pursue? How do you build demand for your product?
    • How do you capitalize on existing markets (eg. Colorado Chef School, Sheep Dog Trials)?
    • Is the goal to sell entire carcasses or individual cuts? Which market will allow you to reach that goal?
    • What is going to be the market for the non-prime cuts (eg. shoulder, neck, brisket, ribs)?
    • Do not assume you know the market.
    • What volume will the market require?
    • Labeling is very important.
    • Ground lamb is gaining in popularity.
    • Pet food market might be an option for less popular cuts.
    • Is it important to be aware of other Colorado sheep producers and avoid negatively affecting them?

      Ideas on where we go from here

      • Contact restaurants that serve lamb in ski areas.
      • Offer ticket for Sheep Dog Trails to restaurant owners and offer a lamb cook-off with new recipes for them.
      • Look for grant money opportunities.
      • Change the name of product from “lamb” to __________ in order to better market product and expand customer base?
      • Spices are an option for a value-added product.
      • Pre-seasoned products are a possibility.
      • Pre-cooked products are a possibility.
      • How will we process and deliver our product?
      • Explore packer options – Craig, Olathe, etc. – what are their requirements for volume/pricing?
      • Using one packing plant might make quality control easier.
      • Dave with Whole Foods might be able to help out with ideas, etc.
      • Insurance/liability protection is essential.

      Items to complete by next meeting:

      • Call western slope packing plants to obtain volume requirements and costs – Butch T.
      • Explore grant opportunities – Ann F.

      Questions to answer:

      • What are the markets?
      • What is the desired volume of lamb that is to be marketed?
      • How will that volume be transported and distributed?
      • What are the potential roadblocks and how can they be overcome?