Ranchers Innovation Pays Off


With the extended period of low prices for grains and cattle, many farmers and ranchers are looking for ways to diversify their operations. One area in which they can look for inspiration is the sheep industry. 

In the past year, the sheep industry has experienced a recovery in the lamb and wool markets. But, even so, sheep ranchers are looking for ways to add better premiums to their sheep. 

So, several Montana ranchers and putting to work a thing or two they learned from a few Wyoming ranchers during a recent sheep industry gathering. One way ranchers are getting a premium for their breeding ewes, wool and lambs, wait for it. It’s with Grandma’s ostentatious plastic jewelry! 

Dave McQueen is a sheep rancher in the Sweet Grass Hills and says, “man those Wyoming guys really are innovative in regards to creating ways to make more money in the business.” McQueen also added that it’s pretty easy to find old, plastic jewelry from garage sales, thrift stores or even at the local bingo hall lost and found box. The jewelry, when it sparkles in the sunlight or moonlight, will even scare away predators! Who knew?

Mikey Hollenfront ranches near Molt and says that his son Hank got him turned onto the idea of using jewelry to get a better return on investment. Mikey says, “one thing that is great about using grandma’s jewelry. Items like clip-on earrings are safe to use and the sheep don’t even feel a thing.” He also added, “at the end of the day you can just tell the sheep have a new confidence about themselves.”  

 Auction yards manager Bob Hook says that each time the McQueen or Hollenfront sheep go through the sale ring the bidding just starts going nuts! Hook believes that for many buyers at the sheep auction the chant of the auctioneer can put them in a trance. “Man, when those sheep with the clip-on earrings and plastic gem colored broaches come into the ring the buyers just wake up” he continued saying “sheep with the gaudy jewelry are going for 10 times higher than those that don’t have it!”