The industry is experiencing record markets for lamb and wool with slaughter prices the highest seen in years and wool selling at rates not seen since 1989. Another less visible market for the sheep industry is that of wool pelts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that pelt prices increased fairly quickly over the last few months. Pelt demand is good while supply and offerings continue to be short.
The reported value of pelts has been volatile over the last 25 years. In 1987, No. 1 U.S. pelts (pelts with a wool length of 5/8 to 1 inch) reached a 10-year high of $10.25 per pelt. Prices fell from there ranging between $4.82 and $7.35 from 1988 through 1994. $11 and $12 No. 1 pelts were common from 2001 through 2004 before prices for No. 1 pelts again fell into the $6 to $7 range. For the week ending March 18, USDA reported No. 1 pelt prices at $7 to $12 per pelt.
U.S. pelt prices are reported by length of wool, but within a length category, the price actually paid might range considerably from the prices reported. Industry sources recently quoted No. 1 and Imperial Valley pelts at $20 to $25 per pelt.
Australian prices for pelts that were generally comparable in size to the average U.S. pelts last week brought $22 to $30 for clean pelts compared to $10 to $14 per pelt at the beginning of November 2010.
The Australian dollar has been at near parity with the U.S. dollar from the end of September 2010 until now ranging between .95 and 1.01.