2019 Symposium

Idaho Falls, Idaho November 7-10

This year’s Symposium features presentation sessions focusing on Nutrition & Grazing, Milk processing & Marketing, and Labor & Farm Management, followed by a day of Farm Tours, and finishing with an optional Cheese Workshop. Scroll down to learn more!


The DSANA Dairy Sheep Symposium is the major annual event of the dairy sheep industry in North America, providing an educational environment and fostering connections among dairy sheep producers, processors, and researchers. For 25 years, dairy sheep producers from all over Canada, Mexico, Europe, Central & South America, New Zealand, and the United States have attended.

As a small but growing industry, the symposium provides a critical time for producers to meet, gain exposure to the latest in dairy research, learn from experts in the field and one another, and help guide the dairy sheep industry for the years to come.

Come join us for ...


Opportunities to meet other dairy sheep producers from the US & Canada, and around the world!


Visits to dairy sheep farms -- see how others are raising dairy sheep and marketing their milk or sheep-milk products 


Presentations from experts and producer panels, on dairy sheep production, economics, reproduction, and nutrition 


Registration is now open!

We are developing a tremendous schedule for our 2019 Dairy Sheep Symposium. Watch this page for updates on the symposium program. We will fill in details as speakers and producer panels are confirmed.

Our invited speakers and producer panels will be presenting on a diverse list of topics including farm labor, grass-based dairying, dairy sheep nutrition, milk quality for processing and dairy sheep flock health.

Between sessions you can talk with presenters, vendors, and the fellow producers you’ve just met during the morning sessions.  Half the value of the Symposium is the soulmates you meet, the friends you make, and the information you glean from other dairy sheep producers!

Presentation speakers and topics

cheese monger panel: the future of American sheep-milk cheeses

Some of our DSANA members who are producer-processors of farmstead cheeses, describe US sheep-milk cheeses as facing “headwinds” when positioning alongside European imports in the wholesale marketplace.  The “headwinds” include consumer and cheese monger perceptions of the American vs European cheeses, seasonal North American cheeses vs the year-round supply of European cheeses, and the landed cost of both groups of cheeses at the retailers’ counters.  We have invited some cheese mongers and fromageophiles from the West Coast and Intermountain West, including cheese monger Sarah Zediker of Jackson Whole Grocers, and specialty cheese distributor Greg Hessel of Portland’s Cowbell LLC, to give us their perspective on what North American farmstead cheese producers might do to make their position stronger.  We’ll ask them how they mark up or set margins, so that we can know how to set our wholesale prices to reach their target retail price.  And we’ll ask them our burning questions, such as “what is the market potential for domestic sheep-milk cheeses?” and “are blended-milk cheeses our future?”.  Pictured: Cowbell’s Greg Hessel (top), and Jackson Whole Grocer’s March Madness Wine-and-Cheese pairing brackets.

Farm Tour: Winter Winds Goat Farm & Creamery

The second stop on our Farm Tour day (Saturday November 9th) is Winter Winds Farm in Victor, Idaho, a goat dairy and creamery.  Nate and Ginny Ray will give you a tour of operations, discuss the process of setting up a new farm and creamery, and how they market their seasonal goat-milk cheeses.  They will also talk to us about their transitional buy-out process of their turn-key operation, with the young prospective buyer who is living and working on the farm with them.  Winter Winds Farm is cradled by the Grand Tetons, and rumor has it that the drive to Victor is breath-taking.  Pictured:  Winter Winds goats at the feeder.

Nutritional demands of a high-producing dairy animal

Butch Cargile is a vet specializing in dairy cow nutrition at Progressive Dairy Solutions, and who is also setting up a sheep dairy in southern Idaho.  Butch believes that his performance as his clients’ nutritionist is the “single largest factor in their economic success.  In traditional sheep flocks the rule of thumb at lambing has been to withdraw grain for a day, to give the ewe’s gut time to settle and to avoid diarrhea. However, it is starting to look like this rule of thumb is not at all a good idea for our higher-producing dairy sheep. Some producers, whose Lacaune-sired yearlings can produce close to 8 pounds of milk a day at peak, are actually seeing ketosis -- sometimes fatal -- a week or 10 days after lambing. The high-producing dairy animal clearly has unique nutritional needs.  Here in North America, most of us don’t know much about the nutritional and metabolic needs of high-producing dairy sheep, but there is certainly a lot of understanding in the cow dairy world.  We have asked Butch to speak on the metabolic and nutritional requirements of high-producing and lower-producing dairy cows, and how commercial cow dairies measure and monitor their animals’ metabolic status.  This can help us understand the very different metabolism of the high-producing dairy ewe.

Hiring H-2A Agricultural Workers

What is the most challenging aspect of operating a seasonal sheep dairy?  Most of us would answer “LABOR!!”:  can’t find it, can’t depend on it, doesn’t seem to have a work ethic, etc.  This year a Texas agency called Head Honchos LLC helped a US sheep dairy get approved for the US Department of Labor’s H-2A visa program, for “temporary agricultural labor”.  As a result, two Mexican fellows arrived on that sheep dairy in early February to work for the season.  The farm manager, asked to describe these two guys at mid-season, said “they’re focused, they hustle, and they care.”  Overall, the producer reports that “it’s been a complete sea change in our farm’s operation.  We have labor stability after years of instability and drama and feeling vulnerable to the whims of our staff.”  Todd Miller, owner of Head Honchos, will be speaking at the 2019 Dairy Sheep Symposium at Idaho Falls in November, explaining the requirements of the H-2A program, its costs, and its pros and cons.  He will be ready to answer questions about a farm’s application process, and his experiences with farms that have successfully used the program to source reliable labor for many years.

Greg Hessel.jpg
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The effect of pasture species on flavor profiles

Cheese made from pasture-fed dairy animals has a singular flavor, unique to the farm– a strong marketing point used by many artisanal cheesemakers. But where does that uniqueness come from? Tom Pyne, partner and farm manager of Twenty Paces, a sheep dairy and creamery in Charlottesville, Virginia, will give us a little bit of forage chemistry background at the 2019 Dairy Sheep Symposium at Idaho Falls in November. Tom will explain the relationship between a ewe's diet and the sensory characteristics of her milk and the resulting cheese. Tom, who is working towards a Masters in Agronomy, specializing in Forage Science, will give us an overview of the scientific research on the influence of forage species, and feeding strategies, on cheese flavor profiles.


Selling bottled milk direct to consumers

About half of our DSANA members, in both the US and Canada, are producer-processors, meaning that they both milk sheep and then process the milk into yogurt, cheese, etc. A small number of us add value to our milk by selling bottled milk direct to the consumer for fluid consumption. At the 2019 Dairy Sheep Symposium at Idaho Falls in November, producer-processors on one of our producer panels will discuss their personal experience with bottling, selling, and marketing fluid milk direct to consumers. From these producers we’ll find out who is buying bottled milk, and what the public reaction has been. And we’ll hear about their packaging choices, and hear their opinions on the pros and cons of adding this to their product line. (Photo here: Sheep's milk for sale at Misty Meadow Farm and Sheep Dairy in Petersburg, New Jersey.)

Simmerman milk.jpg

strategies to adapt our farms to climate change

When it comes to weather these days, we all understand that abnormal is the new normal.  How do we prepare for the weather extremes that we now know are our regular future?  What strategies should we as dairy sheep farmers be planning to adapt to the effects of climate change, particularly on our primarily pasture-based grazing dairy systems? Joshua Faulkner, Associate Professor at UVM, will be speaking on climate change trends at the 2019 Dairy Sheep Symposium at Idaho Falls in November.  Joshua’s extension and research focus at UVM is on agriculture and climate change, and he talks about “climate-resilient agriculture”.  In Idaho Falls this fall, he will discuss how climate change is predicted to impact dairy production, what we can do to be proactive in preparing our businesses for these events, and what we as farmers can do to help mitigate climate change on our own farms.  It will be great to have the perspective of someone who is studying climate change and farming, and can give us some guidance and perspective on this challenging subject. 


Production Improvement Program Q&A

 8:00 pm, Wednesday November 6th: Open Q&A session for anyone participating in DSANA’s PIP, or anyone interested in participating. We’ll be in the hotel lobby, so join us after you’ve arrived and gotten yourself in you room and unpacked.

 Want to know the value of the PIP? Here’s a Pop Quiz!! At the right are four pictures of four ewes in a PIP flock.  Three of the pictures were taken during the same milking in April of this year.

  •   #1602 produced 627 lb in 184 days in 2018.

  •   #1529 produced 1,336 in 178 days in 2018.

  •   #1642 produced 904 lb in 207 days in 2018.

  •   #1545 produced 498 lb in 178 days in 2018, but her picture is from 2018, not 2019, because she was culled!

Can you guess which is which?  Your sustainability as a sheep dairy producer is linked to productivityWhose daughters would you keep?  Whose ram lamb would you like to use in your flock?  Udders don’t tell all.  Why milk 200 ewes if you could get the same amount of milk by milking 100 ewes? 

 Laurel Kieffer, PIP Project Manager, will be on hand to answer any questions about DSANA’s Production Improvement Program, on Wednesday evening, November 6th, at 8:00 pm in the hotel lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn.  It’s an open Q&A session, so that you can drop in when you arrive in Idaho Falls.  Laurel and some producers enrolled in PIP will answer any questions on * how your production can improve when you make replacement decisions based on reliable and accurate data; * how other producers are using EBVs to make breeding, selection, and culling decisions; how to interpret the genetic information you receive in the PIP; and * how to get your flock enrolled in PIP for 2020.

Answers to the Quiz: Udders, top to bottom: 1642, 1529, 1545 (culled), 1602

And here is the PIP results on the potential contribution of the three ewes that remain in the flock. If you were buying a ram, which dam would you prefer?

And here is the PIP results on the potential contribution of the three ewes that remain in the flock. If you were buying a ram, which dam would you prefer?

Above: 2018 spring flooding near Rexburg Idaho, near Lark’s Meadows Farm, the site of our Symposium Farm Tour. Below: Joshua Faulkner

Above: 2018 spring flooding near Rexburg Idaho, near Lark’s Meadows Farm, the site of our Symposium Farm Tour. Below: Joshua Faulkner

Joshua Faulkner

Presentation topics for Thursday November 7th and Friday November 8th

  • Nutritional requirements of the high-producing ewe

  • Managing a milk-supplier network

  • Pricing of sheep-milk cheeses

  • Sheep-milk component testing

  • Pricing US vs European sheep-milk cheeses

  • Selling fluid milk for retail consumption

  • The effect of pasture species on flavor profiles

  • Using manure analysis to indicate forage quality

  • Manufacturing custom pellet for dairy sheep

  • Hiring H2-A workers

  • Developing a plan for climate change and weather extremes

Thursday evening November 7th

Cheese!! and Wine!!  Our Wine-and-Cheese Reception features samples from the enormous variety of cheeses produced by our DSANA members. The Cheese Reception is included in the price of your registration.


Friday evening November 8th

Friday night is our Banquet! We have our evening of good food and good company. We present the year’s recipients of the Boylan Award for service to the dairy sheep industry and the DSANA Mentorship Award. The Banquet is included in the price of your registration.


Saturday November 9th

Hop on the bus and visit a sheep dairy farm with on-farm processing and direct sales as elements of their operations. Lark's Meadow Farms, in Rexburg, Idaho, is owned and operated by the Russell family, who milk 145 ewes, and produce award-winning cheeses each year, which they sell both wholesale and retail at the farmers' market.

Also join us for a discussion of a successful 12-hr suckling system for lambs in the 1st 30 days.  Remember the "MIX" system trialed at the Spooner Station and presented by Dave Thomas and Yves Berger so many years ago?  Many of us tried the system, and gave it up. Kendall Russell, however, successfully adapted the system, and raises lambs on their dams for the first 30 days, but also milks their mothers at the same time.  The result:  almost no lambs raised on milk replacer and <3% mortality in lambs under 30 days of age.  Kendall's system was picked up by Meadowood Farms in NY, wherethe 12-hr-suckling-system has been successfully used for the last four years.  This year Meadowood has raised 50 lambs on the system; at between 19-26 DIM, their 25 dams averaged 3.7 lb milk/hd/d in the parlor while simultaneously nursing twins.


Sunday November 10th

Cheese-making workshop.  Kendall Russell, cheesemaker at Lark's Meadow Farms will lead a cheese workshop for a maximum of 15 attendees.  Lark's Meadow produces about 23,000 lbs of sheep-milk cheese every year, with an additional 11,000 lbs of cows-milk cheeses made in the off-season.



There are several registration options for this year’s Symposium. A complete package can be purchased including all symposium events except the cheese making class. DSANA members receive a discounted package price which is available to new members as well - why not join DSANA today?

Tickets for individual days may also be purchased. The Cheesemaking course is a limited event with preference given to DSANA members. A separate ticket for this event must be added to your order at checkout. Non-members can email insertemail@dsana.org to be notified if space becomes available in the class.

Please note that this year’s Proceedings will be available in a digital format by default. A printed version of the Proceedings can be added to your registration at a cost of $25 USD, and will be given to you at the Symposium.


Student participants can receive a 20% discount on their ticket prices.  On the day of the event, a student card must be presented upon registration or the participant will have to refund the amount of the reduction. Please email kyle@milkhouse.ca before purchasing your ticket for instructions on how to apply this discount.


  • Presentations (Thursday and Friday)

  • Coffee breaks and lunch (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)

  • Wine & Cheese reception (Thursday, 6:00 to 8:00 pm)

  • Friday evening banquet

  • Farm visits (Saturday)

  • Digital version of Proceedings


Discounted ticket (20% off conference package) for additional attendees from the same DSANA member farm or family.  This ticket is available for family members or for colleagues who work for the same farm or company. One ticket at the full, DSANA member price ($185) must be purchased in order for this price to be honoured on additional tickets.

  • Presentations (Thursday and Friday)

  • Coffee breaks and lunch (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)

  • Wine & Cheese reception (Thursday, 6:00 to 8:00 pm)

  • Friday evening banquet

  • Farm visits (Saturday)

  • Digital version of Proceedings


  • Presentations (Thursday and Friday)

  • Coffee breaks and lunch (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)

  • Wine & Cheese reception (Thursday, 6:00 to 8:00 pm)

  • Friday evening banquet

  • Farm visits (Saturday)

  • Digital version of Proceedings


  • Thursday presentations

  • Coffee break and lunch

  • Wine & Cheese reception in evening

  • Digital Proceedings


  • Friday presentations

  • Coffee break and lunch(DSANA Annual Membership Meeting during lunch)

  • Digital Proceedings


  • Coffee break and lunch

  • Visit two dairy farms

  • Transportation from/to hotel


  • Cost includes all-day workshop at Lark's Meadows Farm, coffee and pastries in the morning, lunch and transportation.

  • Maximum 15 places available, on a first-register-first-serve basis, with priority given to DSANA members.  Non-members can contact us and be put on a waiting list, and will be notified if there is space.


To Register for this year’s symposium simply choose the tickets you would like to purchase and fill out the form that appears below. To purchase tickets at the special rate for DSANA members click “login” and enter your email address and password. For questions please email kyle@milkhouse.ca.

Location and Venue

The Hilton Garden Inn is located along the Snake River Greenbelt off of Lindsay Boulevard, just blocks from downtown Idaho Falls.

Hilton Garden Inn Idaho Falls

700 Lindsay Blvd, Idaho Falls, Idaho, 83402

USA TEL: +1-208-522-9500 or toll-free 866-238-4218

Hilton Garden Inn Idaho Falls Website

The room rate is$114/night plus taxes and includes free parking and wifi. If you book by October 16th this DSANA group rate is good for any night from Wednesday November 6th through Saturday night November 9th.

Booking link (Symposium attendees using the link will need to change their arrival dates and departure dates based on their plans with in the blocked dates):


Or call 866-238-4218 to make reservations by phone, and be sure to say you are attending the Dairy Sheep Association Symposium.  You must book your hotel room/s by October 16th get the DSANA group rate! 

Other Attractions in and around Southern Idaho

There's lots to do in Southern Idaho for the whole family, even in November!


Getting There


Travelling to Idaho Falls

There are four ways to get from Salt Lake City Airport to Idaho Falls: Fly, rent a car, take a shuttle, or carpool. Some details are below:


Delta operates non-stop flights from SLC to Idaho Falls.  They usually add $200-$250 return trip to the airfare.  The non-stop flights are in the air for ~ 1 hour.

Rental car from SLC

Travel time: It takes ~ 3 hours to drive from SLC airport to the Idaho Falls Garden Inn


Salt Lake Express (saltlakeexpress.com) leaves from SLC Airport about every 2 hours, starting at 8:00 am; the last shuttle leaves at ~ 10:30 pm.  Returning from Idaho Falls, the shuttle leaves every 2-3 hours, starting at 2:40 AM, and the last shuttle leaves Idaho Falls at 5:10 PM.

Cost:  You book on-line.  From SLC Airport to Idaho Falls, the cost is ~ $54 pp one-way.  Be sure to book your shuttle seat as soon as possible, so that the shuttle company can operate a bus or van that will accommodate all bookings (saltlakeexpress.com, click on “Plan a Trip”).  From Idaho Falls to SLC Airport, the cost is $37 - $56 per person, one-way, depending on the time of day.

Travel time:  The SLE Shuttle goes directly up Interstate 15, with 3 stops between SLC and Idaho Falls.  Total travel time is ~ 4 hours.  There are two stops in Idaho Falls:  the airport (2.5 miles from the hotel) and Shaka’s Sinclair gas station (where SLE Shuttle has their office, 0.9 miles from the hotel).


A number of Dairy Sheep Symposium attendees will be renting cars to drive from SLC to the hotel in Idaho Falls.  DSANA will set up an interactive post on its Facebook Discussion Group page, so that those wishing to share their rented car can make arrangements with those wishing to carpool.  We’ll send out a link to the FB page (DSANA's Dairy Sheep Discussion Group) when the first car-renters contact us.