Moffat County shows off sheep industry to regional CSU Extension Agents |

Moffat County shows off sheep industry to regional CSU Extension Agents

Lauren Blair
Moffat County rancher Steve Raftopoulos talks with Colorado State University Extension Agents about his sheep ranching operation after showing them through the shearing barn Thursday morning. The Extension Agency held its Western Regional Meeting in Craig for the first time this year, and local agent JD Sexton arranged a tour of Moffat County's sheep and wool industry for the visiting agents.
Lauren Blair

— Sheep, sunshine and green pastures created a warm welcome for 40 members of the Colorado State University Extension Agency who gathered in Craig this week for their Western Regional Meeting.

County extension agents traveled to Craig from as far as Montezuma County in southwestern Colorado, in addition to agency staff from Fort Collins, to talk business and to learn about Moffat County.

This was the first time the Western Regional Meeting has been held in Craig, and Moffat County Extension Agent JD Sexton took the opportunity to showcase Northwest Colorado’s sheep industry.

“That’s one of the things that makes us special here in Moffat County is we have about 100,000 head of sheep,” JD said. “It makes us different than other counties.”

The Extension State Sheep and Wool Specialist Steve LeValley added that Moffat County is home to the highest number of breeding sheep of any county in the state.

Following administrative sessions on Wednesday, participants loaded onto a bus Thursday to tour two Moffat County sheep operations, the neighboring Raftopoulos and Nottingham ranches near Sunbeam, followed by a visit to the wool warehouse in Craig and Yampa Valley Fiberworks.

“That’s the fun part of these Western regional meetings is getting out to see what extension agents are working on,” said Judy Barth, operations and human resources director for the agency, based in Fort Collins.

Steve Raftopoulos offered the team a tour of his shearing barn, giving the agents insight into how wool is sheared from up to 1,500 sheep per day in the spring and sent off to be made into usable fiber and knit products. He is one of many local sheep ranchers that pool their wool so that producers with amounts too small to sell can find a market for it.

Participants also learned about Raftopoulos’ grazing and branding methods, herders, sheepwagons and water conservation efforts.

The Extension Agency’s mission is to provide research-based information to improve quality of life throughout the state. As a land grant university, CSU is charged with providing extension and outreach statewide, in addition to its more traditional role of teaching and researching. The land grant program dates back to the 19th century.

Though some extension agents are heavily focused on agriculture, others specialize in natural resources, water, cottage industries, horticulture and consumer sciences, such as personal finance, nutrition, health and food safety. The agency also runs 4-H, a youth development program with agricultural roots.

“We’re all unconventional educators,” said Summit County Extension Agent Dan Schroder. “We teach the public at large.”

The regional meeting is in part intended to help educate the educators by immersing them in various programs and industries throughout the area.

“Certainly the next time someone mentions sheep, they’ll have a much clearer idea what JD does and what it looks like out here,” LeValley said.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or

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