Brady Campbell from Washington County is the editor of the Feb. 12, 2018 Growing our Generation, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Howdy y’all! My name is Brady Campbell and I am a 4th generation sheep and swine producer from Waterford, Ohio, in Washington County. My brother, Blake, and I have teamed up as Campbell Brothers 2 and farm alongside our dad and grandfather on the family farm. Our farm is around 200 acres and we have 225 ewes (purebred Texel, Lincoln, and crossbred sheep) and 130 sows (purebred Berkshire, Hereford, Poland China, Spotted, Tamworth, and crossbred pigs). Yes, I realize that I raise some unique breeds of livestock, but that uniqueness is what makes our story and sets us apart from the rest and we use it to our advantage in our niche marketing strategy. Be sure to check us out on Facebook at Campbell Farms for all of your unique sheep and swine breeds needs.
I am a 2015 Ohio State University graduate majoring in animal sciences, bio-sciences specialization and recently earned my master’s degree in animal sciences also from Ohio State. My master’s research focused on the effects of alternative weaning strategies on the health and performance of pasture raised lambs. An additional aspect of my research investigated the carry over effects of moxidectin to nursing lambs when administered to lactating ewes.
Currently, I am serving as the program coordinator of the OSU Sheep Team. My role is to manage the OSU Sheep Team webpage which provides producers with timely and timeless information which can be applied on-farm to help improve production efficiencies. An additional goal of the site is to highlight sheep research that has been conducted at Ohio State and demonstrate its importance on-farm by providing it to producers in an easy to read format.
Once my position as program coordinator is complete, I plan to pursue a doctorate at Ohio State focusing on ruminant production systems. I plan to survey small ruminant producers to determine how the university and Extension programs can help provide producers with information and tools to increase profits and efficiency through alternative management strategies as well as how to increase livestock performance and production in pasture-based systems.
If you don’t think that all of this keeps me busy enough, I am also currently a co-instructor for Small Ruminant Production at Ohio State and serve on both the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and Texel Sheep Breeders Society board of directors. Therefore, if you catch me in person, be careful what you ask me. If it’s anything related to sheep, trust me, I could talk you ear off all day!
Let me take a quick poll. How many of you knew that within the Department of Animal Sciences at Ohio State there is a lot of livestock production research conducted on a yearly basis? Probably most of you right? Okay, let me try this one. How many of you knew that in the past 20 years, Ohio State has conducted over 100 livestock production research trials and did I mention that these trials specifically focused on sheep? I probably got you on that one!
With Ohio being the largest sheep producing state east of the Mississippi River, it’s no surprise that sheep research is important to the Buckeye State. According to the most recent USDA report regarding livestock inventory in Ohio, total sheep numbers are up 2 percent totaling 119,000 head. I don’t know about you, but this kind of information is exciting because it shows that the small ruminant industry is on the rise! This data also demonstrates the importance of the continued support of our land grant university through research in supporting Ohio’s shepherds.
With all of this being said, there is still one piece that is missing. Where can Ohio shepherds find the latest information on sheep production, research findings, daily management and links to other universities that were supporting sheep production? Why is there still such a disconnect between university research with those that need it the most, our producers? That is where my role on the OSU Sheep Team comes into play.
I manage all of the content that is posted on both the OSU Sheep Team page and Facebook page. Information that can be found on the page includes small ruminant production practices, a list of current sheep events and programs offering industry outreach and education, research summaries of manuscripts published from Ohio State sheep research, a library of resources, and a contact list of Sheep Team members who are passionate about sustaining Ohio’s sheep industry.
Although I have only been in this position for five months, I have really enjoyed every aspect of it. Not only do I manage the web page, but I also help in many Extension programs and outreach events across the state by providing information and expertise in the area of sheep production. Over the course of the next year, I hope to become more involved in the sustainability of Ohio’s sheep industry by being a source of information for Ohio’s shepherds. I hope to also continue working in OSU Extension and continue being a resource for sheep production information.
I love the thought of being able to tell your story and connecting with your customer at the same time. This is what has really driven my family and me into niche marketing of our livestock. There is typically a reason behind why you raise and sell a specific product. However, it’s more than just the product. It’s the history, the uniqueness, and your passion that drives you.
In today’s society, both in the agricultural and nonagricultural worlds, more and more people want to know where their food came from, how were the animals treated, and who was the producer raising the product. If you think about it, you more than likely wouldn’t buy a new breeding animal for your herd or flock without knowing some of this same information such as farm background and the farm’s health history. Therefore, when marketing your own livestock, why not share your story? Who knows, maybe somewhere down the road it will pay off for you.
When I mentioned earlier that I was a 4th generation farmer, I could have told you that I am a 4th generation shepherd and a 3rd generation hog producer. You see, my great-grandad did not have a purpose for hogs on the farm, however, my grandad did. My grandad had an old chicken coop and that’s where his first four sows were housed. From there, our operation continued to expand. Once my father was old enough, he too became heavily involved in the pig operation. After his involvement, they expanded by adding several barns including a finishing barn, however, they never conformed to today’s commercial operations in the fact that all of our pigs are group housed. Our sows to this day are still bedded with with straw.
I just had one of my sheep production students this past week ask me at what age was I exposed to livestock. I think she was surprised when I told her that I was about a month old when I went out to the farm with my dad. The story I always like to tell is the one about the farrowing barn grocery cart. If this cart could talk, I could only imagine the stories it could tell.
When I was younger and my dad was in charge of watching me for the evening, we would go out to the farm and he would push me down the farrowing barn isle in the old grocery cart and it was my job to hand him piglets as he processed the litter (vaccinating and identifying (ear notching) all piglets). I guess you could say that’s where my story begins. From there, I would follow him through the barns at night watching him care for the pigs while he did the evening feedings. Although I don’t remember it much, he still reminds me to this day that he not only fed the hogs at night, but also fed me. I guess I was quite fond of starter pig pellets and they could be found in my pockets after an evening of chores….
Anyway, from there I began to have responsibilities in the hog houses such as “pig patrol” and cleaning the aisle ways. Pig patrol meant looking over and caring for all the pigs. I would walk up and down the aisle ways checking on pigs and identifying ones that needed to be examined further (perhaps as a result of injury or illness). I was always on the look out for animals that may have needed further attention. As I became old enough, you better believe that I was in the show ring at the community fairs with a market hog each year throughout my 4-H and FFA careers. Through my showing career, I was really interested in breeding my own pigs and taking my own pigs to the fair. These opportunities sparked an interest in me and I was determined that I would have my own set of sows to go along with my ewes that my brother and I had already owned. With that burning interest, my brother and I sought out ways to accomplish this goal. Interestingly, it was yet again another unique experience where my brother and I were able to accomplish this dream by writing an essay to the Ohio Berkshire Association explaining why we wanted to get into the Berkshire business. To our surprise, we were both called and notified that we had been selected to receive two free gilts. From that day forward, we have been hooked.
With this unique story, our operation has been able to be quite successful. In addition, with the inclusion of Berkshire pigs into our operation, our business has seen an increase in sales and interest. Being within 20 miles of the Ohio River, one of our biggest markets is in West Virginia. From word of mouth due to our story and quality of pigs, we have seen an increase in the number of pigs sold to West Virginia for market projects, ham and bacon hogs, and finishing hogs. We are also working on some specialty niche markets here in the state focusing on raising purebred Berkshire hogs. I realize that the story I chose to tell here was about our hog operation and it seems a bit weird due to the fact that I’m heavily involved in the sheep world. The same situation applies to the sheep side of things for us as our journey into the sheep world was just as unique. Like I said before, if you’re interested in hearing that story, give me a shout. I never turn down the opportunity to talk sheep.
For those that are interested in niche marketing and are looking for additional stories to consider, take a look at Saddleberk. This company is an interesting group that specializes in raising and selling purebred Berkshire pork in central Ohio. I encourage you all to take a look at their page to see how they are working on closing the communication gap between the producer and the consumer. They are a great set of farmers and also have a very special story to tell.
With that, I’ll leave you with three points that I have learned along the way in the world of niche marketing.
- Make yourself unique.
- Tell your story.
- Love what you do.
There are many life lessons that you learn growing up on a farm and it’s surprising how many of them can be applied to your everyday life and beyond. As I continue to further my education and become more involved in the sustainability of the Ohio and American sheep industries, I can’t help but to think about all of the people who have supported me along the way. Yes, I have received a great amount of support from my fellow colleagues at Ohio State, but I want to take it back further to where it all began in Waterford.
By far my biggest support system and my greatest fans are my parents. They certainly played a huge role in supporting my journey through life and I owe a lot of where I am today to them. In addition to my family, my second support system from Waterford would be my community and the Waterford FFA chapter.
The first year of high school meant that you finally had the opportunity to be in ag class and FFA. Being a shy youngster, I was excited for the opportunity, but was unsure of how I would become involved. Long story short, my FFA chapter and adviser supported me in more ways than just one. By the time my senior year came around, I had been involved in countless leadership opportunities, participated on several CDEs including Waterford’s first state winning parliamentary procedure team, as well as serving as chapter president. I also had the great opportunity to represent our chapter as being the first member in our chapter’s history to apply for a state proficiency award, win both the swine and diversified livestock entrepreneurship proficiency awards, and become the 2011 Star State Farmer. Opportunities like this are not just given to you, they require a great amount of work and a large support system. I certainly would not be in the position I am today without these experiences as well.
Each year during FFA Week, the Waterford FFA hosts the community to join them in the annual hog roast. The hog roast is a way for the chapter to thank the community for all of their support over the course of the year. The hog roast has been a long lived tradition, going on for 35 years, and the chapter serves around 700 community members and local businesses.
Of course no hog roast can be complete without a couple of hogs, right? Ever since my freshman year (2008), our family has been donating the hogs to this annual event. I believe that this is a small donation that I can give to my FFA chapter as a thank you for all that it did for me during my high school years.
In my opinion, we should never lose track of who we are and where we came from no matter where life takes us. To me, donating a few hogs every year to a great event reminds me of the little things in life and allows me to reflect on my life’s experiences. Without the support of my FFA chapter and community, who knows where I would be. My hopes are that I am able to make a positive influence on some of the current FFA members that allow them to follow their dreams and then one day when they are able to do so, remember their community and help pay it forward to the newest generation of agriculturalists.