March 15, 2004
Mar/Apr 2004 -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) just-released Sheep and Goat Report, sheep and lamb inventory in the United States on Jan. 1, 2004, was down 3 percent from one year ago -- a drop from 6.3 million to 6.09 million. In the same time-frame, breeding sheep inventory declined to 4.48 million head, down 4 percent from 4.66 million on Jan. 1, 2003. Replacement lambs under one year of age experienced a smaller decline, down 4,000 head to 691,000.
However, American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Executive Director Peter Orwick, advises companies and individuals who make business plans based on the report to consider the breeding herd as much as 200,000 head larger than indicated in this year's report. NASS's sampling method typically represents 20 percent of all sheep operations in the United States, and according to survey procedures, "large producers were sampled more heavily than small operations." With the drought easing in many regions of the nation, the demand for breeding ewes in smaller farm-flock operations increased, but may have been overlooked in the survey.
Another factor was the huge decrease in ewe exports to Mexico, which fell 61 percent, from 370,000 head in 2002 to 144,000 head in 2003 -- again resulting in an increase of breeding ewes in the United States.
Lastly, slaughter of older ewes in the United States fell 3.8 percent in 2003.
Wool prices showed a positive trend in 2003, up from 53 cents to 72 cents per lb. Fleece weight remained constant at 7.5 lbs. per fleece.
A complete copy of the NASS Sheep and Goat Report can be found at: http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/shep0104.txt