Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course.
At the beginning of the semester, we were assigned to the sheep group. The five of us began to brainstorm about all of the wonderful things we could potentially teach our community. Our first task as a group was to create a fun and interesting name for our group. We came up with “A New Fleece on Life”.
After naming our group, we sat down with Ms. Jennifer Prather of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership to discuss our target audiences and learn about some of the marketing strategies. In class, we developed more on our ideas and narrowed in on the few ideas we thought would be the most engaging. One of our main topics throughout all of our ideas was to try to disprove many of the myths that plague the sheep industry. One of the biggest myths is that sheep have to be slaughtered whenever they are shorn – the process of removing wool. To disprove this, our group used a diagram that showed the process of carefully removing the wool so that it all comes off as one piece. Many of our guests asked how often a sheep has to be shorn to which we answered once yearly as the weather starts to become consistently hot.
One of the most exciting events for our younger community members to do was to pet the sheep, which we dubbed Sassy. Many of the guests had never been close to a sheep, much less touched it and felt the wool and the greasy lanolin. Many of our older guests were surprised to learn that lanolin came solely from sheep. They assumed that it was a plant based product or did not ever really wonder where it came from. People were very interested to know how the lanolin was extracted from the wool. We also provided an interactive poster for people to learn the differences in sheep and goats. We had several pictures of sheep and goats with shaggy or wool-like coats as well as sheep and goats with and without horns. Initially, no one was able to tell us which were sheep and which were goats with any degree of certainty. Some guessed the easy ones, but were stumped by the hair sheep.
Overall, even with the challenge of fighting with rainstorms and having to move inside the barn. Our group had a good time and was really glad we got to help educate our community on what sheep farmers do and why we do certain things within the industry that outsiders may not understand.