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Young shepherd expands her flock

Elizabeth Meyer wins Kansas Sheep Association award

Staff writer

Marion High School junior Elizabeth Meyer has a busy life.

When she isn’t hanging out with friends, doing homework, participating in sports, 4-H, FFA, school plays, or other extracurricular activities, she’s tending to her flock.

No, “flock” isn’t a clever name for some social media craze. Elizabeth is a shepherd who watches over about 22 sheep.

“I love working with animals,” she said. “It’s taught me how to be responsible and I’ve just learned a lot about ag in general.”

In an entrepreneurial move, Elizabeth decided last year to try increasing her flock without spending a dime.

“She applied to the Kansas Sheep Association Starter Flock Program and received an award to expand her flock,” her father, Mark Meyer, said. “She’s had a sheep project for a couple of years.”

The Starter Flock Program was initiated with the intent to encourage and assist young people to enter sheep and wool industries and to help sustain this important food and fiber industry.

Among other things in her application, Elizabeth had to demonstrate a desire to be involved in the sheep industry by discussing her long and short-term goals in the sheep industry, describe her flock and flock preference, and explain what she would do to promote the KSA program.

The judges liked her answers and she won — big.

“I was really excited and surprised when I got the award,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve won ribbons at the county fair in 4-H, but I have never won an award of this size. It gave me a great kick-start into the industry.”

Although her award was equal to about $1,500, no cash actually changed hands.

She could’ve collected up to 10 ewes as part of her prize, but she prefers raising more expensive club ewes, which she said are “a more showy type, bred for muscle and competition” compared to the less expensive commercial type that are bred just for meat.

With her award came more responsibility. She bred the ewes last August and, as nature took its course, there were more lambs in January — a pair of which were actually twins, Elizabeth said.

“Last year was difficult on the herd because of the lack of moisture we had,” Elizabeth said. “I lost one last year to the cold weather in Kansas.”

She said when she was younger she used to get more attached the sheep she raised for shows and it made her sad to know they all would end up going to market even if they won, but now she understands it’s all part of the circle of life.

As part of the award, she also agreed to donate two ewes to future winners of the KSA to help perpetuate the Starter Flock Program.

The award application process also made Elizabeth think about her and her flock’s future.

“I can keep doing this until I am 19, but when I go to college I will probably scale down the flock a little,” she said. “When I grow up and have kids I’d like for them to be able to have sheep too.”

Last modified March 12, 2015

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