The sheep industry is something that runs deep in my blood, two generations on both sides of my family to be exact. It has been what I have grown up with and all that I have known for as long as I could remember. It all started in a small town in Ohio where my family I and raised around 100 registered Hampshire and Rambouillet breeding sheep. Now I am co-owner of HC Show Stock where we run around 85 Southdown and crossbred sheep. As a young kid, I spent most of my time in the barn or on the road traveling to shows all over the country to show competitively, and to this day that hasn’t changed. It amazes me how the sheep industry has had a direct impact on the person I am today and the tendencies and connections I have gained from it is what will allow me to be successful in life. If I were to name off all that I have gained from being involved with the sheep then it would take all day so I am going to focus on the main three: mentors, opportunities, and family.
1. Mentors to most kids are athletes or famous people. For me it was industry leaders and I was lucky enough to live close to Mike Stitzlein. Mike is the owner of Stitzlein club lambs and he runs around 300 ewes and has been a family friend since we started showing sheep. He has played a huge role in my success as an exhibitor as well as young producer looking to start a flock and pursue a dream. The valuable knowledge Mike has shared with me I will remember forever and apply it to day to day sheep production. If you’re new to the sheep industry and looking to get started I highly recommend searching out an industry leader to see if they will take you under their wing.
2. The opportunities that I have gained from the sheep industry have without a doubt led me to where I am today. My junior and senior year of high school I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for Sloan Club Lambs out of Shelby, Ohio. The first winter we lambed out around 125 ewes and that was the best experience I could have asked for. In my opinion hands on experience is best and the more ewes I could lamb out the better sheep producer I could become. Sloan’s also played a huge role in my success as an exhibitor and it was through them that I got to meet Craig Beckmier who would later become my livestock judging coach at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois. I attended Lincoln Land for two years where I received my degree in Ag Business and was a member of the nationally competitive livestock team. Over these two years I spent a lot of time and rode many miles with Craig and have made many memories and became a better evaluator. After leaving Lincoln Land in the spring of 2015 I went on to attend Western Illinois University to get my Bachelors in Ag Business and compete on the judging team under Mark Hoge. The experiences and knowledge I have gained from Mark and Western Illinois will last a lifetime. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to learn from two of the most sought out judges in the nation who without a doubt focus on winning judging contests but more importantly making sure you can evaluate more than just four animals in a ring and go on and be viable within an industry.
3. The most valuable asset the sheep industry has given me is a family and more than just blood relation. At a young age I went through the tragedy of losing my father and that was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through in my life. Luckily the people I have met through showing and raising sheep, as well as my immediate family, were there for me and helped me get through that difficult time. I am truly spoiled with the amount of close friends that I have gained over the years and I know that if I were stranded somewhere alongside the road or was in a bad spot and needed help, I have a long list of people I could call all over the country. That’s the greatest thing about all livestock industries the people you get to meet and the friendships you gain that will truly last a life time.
No words will ever describe how thankful I am for being raised in the sheep industry. It has made me into the person I am today and it will continue to play a big role in the success I hope to have in my life. I hope to give back to the youth just as the people listed above have done for me. As you have read this I’m sure you can tell my experience’s have been mainly associated with sheep, however I hope you know mentors, opportunities, and family are abundant in every aspect of the livestock industry.
Hello, I am Adam Heffelfinger and I am a senior at Western Illinois Univeristy. I’m originally from Ashland, Ohio, where I grew up raising and showing sheep. I am an active member of the Hoof ‘n’ Horn Club and also a member of the Livestock Judging team.