Here is what she has to say about the current state of the Sheep Industry:
They say the only constant thing in life is change; the sheep industry has seen more than its fair share of change over the last couple of years. First, drought conditions in Australia and New Zealand increased demand for domestic product, driving prices to historic highs – as much as $2/lb. for fat lambs. When production began to rebound abroad, somewhat decreasing domestic demand, dry weather also pushed the California Springers (fall-born lambs that usually graze in the valleys of California and are market-ready in the spring in time for Easter) to feedlots in Colorado, causing an excess of lamb in the domestic supply chain. The result has been an overload of heavy lambs. The 2011 lamb crop is just now finishing being harvested, while the 2012 crop, also posting heavier than ideal carcasses, is following directly behind.
The record high prices within the last year have resulted in a market correct in the second half of 2012 – recent prices have been reported on fat lambs at 80¢ to $1/lb. Drought conditions and high feed prices in the U.S. have producers questioning when to sell feeder and fat lambs, how many ewe lambs to retain in their flock and, unfortunately for some, whether or not to simply disperse.
They also say, “This too shall pass.” Our neighbors think we’re crazy, but my husband and I were making plans a year ago to expand our flock and, despite dry conditions and high feed prices, we’re sticking to our plan because of the investment we’ve made in our genetics. We’re also planning on expanding again through ewe lamb retention in 2013. I encourage any breeder who had the same idea we did to stick to your guns. It may take another year or so for the market to straighten out, but I truly believe that those of us that ride this out will be rewarded in the end.
Support from the industry through the American Sheep Industry (ASI) Association’s “Let’s Grow with twoPLUS” initiative (learn more at) and newly-formed Emerging Entrepreneurs Committee encourages existing flock expansion and new flock formation. I encourage anyone who is interested in sheep at all to contact your ASI-affiliated state sheep association to learn more.