Diversifying the Face of Shepherds in the U.S.

Raising sheep is challenging and requires knowledge of the land and animals. Regarding land, a shepherd must know water sources available, which plants are poisonous, and be mindful of rotational grazing strategies to prevent overgrazing. Intimate knowledge of sheep’s behavior throughout seasons, breeding patterns, lambing, and individual characteristics like personality are also essential to manage the sheep successfully.

Shepherds are essential to farms year round since there are always things to do from feeding sheep to shearing. However, there is a limited amount of people willing to take on shepherd occupations in the United States.

Peruvian shepherds; Photo by Sheridan Little in Tri-State LIvestock News, 2013
Peruvian shepherds; Photo by Sheridan Little in Tri-State Livestock News, 2013

U.S. legislation like the H2-A Temporary Agricultural Program, and proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 aim to fill in the workforce gap and supports immigrant labor. This legislation is inadvertently supporting diversification of shepherd demographics in the United States. This can be beneficial in the long term considering the growing minority majority demographic population in the United States.

The following is an excerpt from Tri-State Livestock News by Loretta Sorensen:

“Most immigrant workers who come to the U.S. to herd sheep learned the occupation in their home country…Over 500 sheep operations, representing one-third of the nation’s sheep production, depend on foreign sheepherders for their operation. Over 2,500 herders, mostly coming from Peru, Chile and Mexico, work in the United States continuously.”

These workers come to the United States will a strong skill set in shepherding that can take a lifetime to learn. It is important to acknowledge their intellectual value, and contributions to the continued economic development of the U.S. sheep industry.

Full article: http://www.tsln.com/news/8196908-113/sheep-industry-immigration-orwick

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