March/April 2005 -- Warnings about a possible shutdown for Ranchers' Lamb of Texas, Inc., a $7 million slaughtering plant in San Angelo, Texas, built by Concho Valley sheep producers, have been heard since November 2004. It became a reality on Feb. 18, when all 45 employees were dismissed and the operation shut its doors.
The closure is blamed on a lack of supply of lamb. Recent weekly production was 2,500 slaughter lambs, compared to as many as 8,000 head a week six years ago. Officials had declined to accept lambs for slaughter from Australia or New Zealand, preferring lamb from U.S. producers.
Annual profits were achieved in the first five years of operation. However, after investing in a $2 million fabrication unit two years ago to produce case-ready lamb cuts, Ranchers' Lamb was never again profitable.
With hopes of keeping the doors open, last year the operation cut its workforce by more than half and eliminated the fabrication unit. However, the plant still could not find enough slaughter lambs in the area to be profitable.