BROOKINGS, S.D. - Three families were named as 2019 South Dakota Master Lamb Producers during the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association awards program luncheon on September 28 in Spearfish. The luncheon took place as part of the 82nd Annual South Dakota Sheep Growers Association convention.
The 2019 South Dakota Master Lamb Producers include the Craig and Deb Kukuchka Family of Belle Fourche, Van Dyke Suffolks – Jim Van Dyke Family of Wessington Springs, and Van Well Sheep LLC – Trevor and Travis Van Well and Family of Watertown.
Craig and Deb Kukuchka Family – Belle Fourche, SD
The Kukuchka family operates a livestock enterprise known as the “Bar 69 Ranch” consisting of 1,200 commercial Targhee ewes and an outstanding registered Angus cow herd. Their commercial range sheep flock has been developed over the past 25 years to excel in maternal traits and wool production. Genetic improvement for these economically important traits is attributed to ram selection based on EBV data. At auction, premium feeder lambs and replacement females offered by the “Bar 69 Ranch” frequently top the market.
Van Dyke Suffolks – Jim Van Dyke Family – Wessington Springs, SD
Over the past 30 years, the Van Dyke Suffolk flock has become a nationally-recognized source of superior Suffolk sheep genetics for both seedstock flocks and the commercial sheep industry. Currently their registered Suffolk sheep program consists of 180 mature ewes with the production focus on post-weaning growth performance, carcass merit and structural soundness. More than 100 Suffolk rams are sold annually. Elite Van Dyke stud rams can be found in purebred Suffolk breeding programs across the United States, yet the majority of the rams serve as a terminal cross in commercial sheep flocks located in the Midwest and western states.
Van Well Sheep, LLC – Trevor and Travis Van Well – Watertown, SD
Over the past 25 years, Van Well Sheep, LLC has evolved into one of the largest sheep enterprises in the country. There are three primary components: a 7,000-head commercial white-faced ewe flock, lamb finishing and a public sheep buying station. Annually they handle more than 150,000 head of finished lambs representing nearly five percent of the domestic lamb harvest. Although the Van Well Sheep, LLC headquarters is located just a few miles from Watertown, the ewes graze in western South Dakota and North Dakota during the summer. Partnerships in lamb finishing can include producers throughout the region. Their unique large-scale sheep production and marketing model was created by the late Dion Van Well in the early 1990’s. After his passing in 2014, his sons, Trevor and Travis Van Well, have built on the original model resulting in even greater flock production efficiencies, improved facility utilization and expanded marketing options for finished lambs.
Program sponsors include: Agri Tech of Brookings, Big Gain Feed Inc., Center of the Nation Wool, Inc. of Belle Fourche, Farm Credit Services of America of Pierre, Hamlin County Farmers Cooperative of Hayti, Hubbard Feeds, Menno Livestock, South Dakota Livestock Foundation, South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, Sioux Falls Regional Livestock of Worthing, Sisseton Livestock Auction, Inc., Sydell, Inc., St. Onge Livestock and Newell Sheep Yards, and Van Well Livestock, LLC.
To learn more about the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association contact Dr. Jeff Held, Executive Secretary of the South Dakota Master Lamb Producers Association, Professor and SDSU Extension Sheep Specialist by email.