With the hot weather and lack of rain, many of the southern states continue to operate in severe drought conditions. Lack of forage and rising hay costs are moving a lot of breeding sheep to sale, particularly in New Mexico and Texas.
Some producers wanting to maintain their genetics may be looking at transporting their breeding sheep to areas with greater feed and water this year, such as the conditions in some of the northern states. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is now providing contact information on www.sheepusa.org to assist both producers selling or moving sheep and producers with available forage to lease or wanting to buy breeding sheep.
Peter Orwick, ASI executive director, is encouraged that these running-age breeding sheep are staying in the industry rather than being offered for export or slaughter.
"We hear weekly of truckloads of ewes that are moving into the Dakotas from Texas, for example, providing encouragement that the breeding stock will remain in production," commented Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. "You really feel for the ranchers that are out of options for feeding stock; however, unlike some drought years when prices weaken due to forced sales, this year has very strong markets as well as areas with record hay and grass production plus producers looking to expand sheep numbers."
ASI has set up a drought assistance page on its website, www.sheepusa.org/get_page/amp;pageID/472, where information can be posted relating to sheep for sale or lease, grazing needs for sheep located in a drought-affected area or pasture availability for producers with excess grass. Also, information about the major sale barns in drought-ridden areas of the country is located on this page. This will allow producers looking to sell or move sheep to make contact with other producers or auction barns that might be of assistance in buying or pasturing additional animals. To post to this page, email email@example.com.
Many state department's of agriculture already have well-developed, functioning hay and pasture hotlines. To link to your state, go to www.sheepusa.org/Department_of_Agriculture.
"Even with high transportation costs, it could be feasible for producers to ship sheep to areas of the country where forage is readily available in order to retain breeding stock," continued Orwick. "Keeping the ewes in production will help meet the production needs this year and help rebuild the flock after this record drought period."