As we move into 2011, it seems appropriate to review and reflect on the events of 2010 that helped to shape the sheep industry. Although it is difficult to choose just 10 top stories, the following is an attempt to do so.
Record Setting Lamb and Wool Prices. 2010 brought an all-time high for lamb prices and the highest wool prices since 1989. The cull-ewe market exploded this winter, and prices for feeder lambs strengthened to record highs through the summer while lamb meat wholesale prices have never been at this level. Strong American military purchases plus international wool shortages and U.S. exchange rates combined for substantial price increase in the wool area. Some sales exceeded the world wool market in the spring.
SVC Brings Superwash Equipment to U.S. The Sheep Venture Company (SVC) received approval of its loan application by the National Livestock Producers Association's Sheep Loan Fund Committee to purchase manufacturing equipment for the United States that will allow wool products to be machine washed and dried without shrinking. The superwash line will alter the fiber in wool products, allowing them to be washed and dried without shrinking and will meet "Total Easy Care" standards for consumers.
American Sheep Industry Highlighted on RFD-TV. For the first time in American Sheep Industry Association's (ASI) history, a show highlighting the strengths of the U.S. sheep and sheep product markets appeared on RFD-TV in September. According to the staff at RFD-TV, the number of viewers tuned in was second only to a show by the Secretary of Agriculture.
NSIIC Members Seated. The rule to establish the new National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC) became final in December at the same time as Secretary Vilsack announced the directors to the board. The center will strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep products in the United States through infrastructure development, business development, production, resource development and market and environmental research.
MPR Extended. The Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) legislation reauthorizes price reporting programs and requires livestock sales information to be reported and published in a timely fashion, allowing buyers and sellers to make more informed decisions. The new law extends the program through September 2015.
Superior Farms Acquires Iowa Lamb. In October, Superior Farms announced that it had entered into an agreement to purchase Iowa Lamb Corporation to help increase efficiencies in the sheep industry.
Payette Forest Decision Announced. The decision announced by the Payette Forest supervisor will result in the number of acres where domestic sheep will be allowed to graze to shrink from about 100,000 acres to just over 31,500 acres in three years. It will cost four sheep ranchers at least half if not all of their grazing rights on that forest and affect thousands of domestic sheep.
Nontraditional Lamb Study. The industry report, Nontraditional Lamb Market in the United States: Characteristics and Marketing Strategies, published this year, showed that over 30 percent of all lamb is marketed in this channel through farmers markets, direct farm-to-consumer sales and through smaller processors serving niche retail and food service accounts.
Genetic Workshop Held. The genetic workshop, Breeding Sheep for a More Profitable Flock, was a huge success with attendees from multiple states. It was held in Ohio and focused on defining and selecting traits that can increase profits in sheep production.
Lamb Purchase Program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased more than $1.9 million in lamb products as part of a $20 million program secured by ASI in the spring of 2010.
NSIP and LAMBPLAN Formalize Agreement. The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) and Meat and Livestock Australia formed an agreement where LAMBPLAN is available to U.S. sheep producers.
"It was quite a year," commented Glen Fisher, ASI president. "It sets the stage for much-needed growth of lamb and wool production to meet the emerging demand in America. We look forward to 2011 and to the work that must be done for the industry in the new year."