Predators remain the number one single cause of sheep loss in the United States, followed by old age. This was reinforced in a report released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) titled Sheep and Lamb Nonpredator Death Loss Report, 2009.
The report provides a breakdown of sheep and lamb death losses in 2009 for all causes by operation size and region, focusing on causes of death losses other than predators. More detailed analysis of predator losses are given in other USDA reports and account for more than 40 percent of the deaths.
According to numbers released by USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Services, a total of 634,500 sheep and lambs were lost in 2009 due to predator and nonpredator causes.
The 387,300 sheep and lambs lost to nonpredator causes in 2009 are further broken down by disease or health condition. Besides old age in adult sheep, weather-related causes and digestive problems (parasites, bloat, etc.) were high; in lambs, weather-related causes and digestive problems were also major causes of loss.
An area of discussion presented in the NAHMS report indicates the difference in how NASS reports lamb crops in various regions of the country. In the Western states, only lamb losses that occur after marking, docking or branding are reported. All other states count all lambs born as part of their lamb crop numbers. NAHMS indicates that this difference in reporting methods leads to the exclusion of a large number of lamb losses in the NASS report from both predator and nonpredator causes.
The American Sheep Industry Association estimates that as much as 30 percent of predation in lambs occurs prior to docking.
The Sheep and Lamb Nonpredator Death Loss Report, 2009 is available at the NAHMS website at http://nahms.aphis.usda.gov.