Lamb production and wholesale marketing field day – June 7, near Williams

For Release: May 22, 2015

WILLIAMS, Iowa — At the farm of Ortrude Dial, sheep and row crops are both central elements of her operation. Ortrude runs Three Sisters Farm on 700 acres near Williams, raising 500 Polypay lambs a year that she sells wholesale to Superior Farms, a national distributor of American lamb. She rotationally grazes her sheep and feeds them home-grown hay and non-GMO grain raised on the farm using a four-year rotation of corn, soybeans, oats and legumes. She also employs various conservation practices, including cover crops.

Ortrude invites farmers and the public to learn more about sheep production, marketing strategies and her diversified farm at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day she is hosting on Sunday, June 7, from 3-8 p.m., near Williams. The event – “Lamb Production and Wholesale Marketing” – is free to attend, and will end with a potluck dinner and barn dance led by David and Mary Losure of Flying Pig Fiddle and Banjo. The potluck will include pork donated by Trubridge Foods and lamb burgers from Three Sisters Farm. Guests are asked to bring a side dish or dessert to share. Three Sisters Farm is located at 2990 260th Ave., about 6.5 miles south of Williams. The field day is sponsored by Superior Farms.

Attendees will learn about sheep health, lamb production and marketing, and how Ortrude has grown her flock by retaining 75 to 100 replacement and expansion ewe lambs each year. Mark Tjernagel, an Iowa-based lamb buyer for Superior Farms, will speak on lamb supply and demand for national markets. Guests will also learn about organic and non-GMO row crop production, small grains and extended rotations, pasture management and on-farm conservation practices. Ortrude will discuss her future plans to seek non-GMO certification and expand her lamb marketing beyond wholesale to include new markets.

“Wholesale marketing is basically selling live animals, and it’s the easiest way to market sheep if you like raising animals but not marketing,” Ortrude says. “But I’m now starting to look for other ways to retail them, like certifying non-GMO and selling to places like Whole Foods Market.”

In addition to expanding her marketing strategy, Ortrude says she’s also planning to start adding other sheep breeds to her flock. Polypay sheep comprise the bulk of her flock, but she now also has a small flock of Coopworth sheep, a New Zealand breed she describes as “a hardy, dual-purpose breed with beautiful wool that does well on grass.”

“I really like them, but they’re slower growing,” she adds. “That’s one reason I keep Polypays: I’ve been trying to build my herd, and they’re very prolific with really good maternal instincts.”

Three Sisters Farm was started in 2003 with 25 Polypay ewes. The Dials now have 400 ewes and 700 acres at the headwaters of the Skunk River, including 330 acres in row crops and the remainder in pasture.

Directions: From I-35, take Exit 139, then take County Road D41 west for one-half mile and turn right on Underwood Road (the first gravel road on the right). Travel north for 1 mile, then turn left on 260th Avenue. You’ll go down a hill and up the next hill; the farm is the first driveway on the left.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.


Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit


Ortrude Dial | Three Sisters Farm | (515) 708-1911 |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |