USDA Releases Sheep 2011 Part II Report: Marketing and Death Loss

USDA Releases Sheep 2011 Part II Report: Marketing and Death Loss

By AMY TRINIDAD

Sheep Industry News Editor

(April 1, 2013) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released the second descriptive report from its Sheep 2011 study: Part II: Reference of Marketing and Death Loss on U.S. Sheep Operations. The report was produced by APHIS’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS). 

The NAHMS Sheep 2011 study was conducted in 22 of the nation’s major sheep-producing states and marks the first time in 10 years that NAHMS has taken an in-depth look at the U.S. sheep industry. The study provides participants, stakeholders and the industry with valuable information representing 70.1 percent of U.S. farms with ewes and 85.5 percent of the U.S. ewe inventory. 

Lamb Marketing
The largest marketing component of the sheep industry is the sale of lambs. Overall, the majority of sheep operations with 20 or more ewes (52.5 percent) sold their lambs at auction markets or sale barns. Large operations (500 or more ewes) are the exception. Marketing on large operations is more diverse compared with the other operation sizes. For example, a relatively equal percentage of large operations sold lambs directly to slaughter (24.4 percent), directly to feedlots (20.8 percent), at auction or sale barns (29.6 percent) or directly to buyer/dealers (29.0 percent). 

Marketing characteristics also varied by region. In the Central and East regions the majority of operations sold lambs at auction or sale barns (58 and 52 percent, respectively), while in the West region similar percentages of operations sold lambs directly to consumers (25.1 percent), directly to another operation (21.3 percent), at auction or sale barn (22.5 percent) and directly to buyer/dealers (23.2 percent). 

Not surprisingly, lamb marketing also varied by flock type. The majority of fenced-range (59.4 percent), pasture (51.3 percent) and dry lot/feedlot (51.8 percent) operations sold lambs at auctions or sale barns, while similar percentages of herded/open-range operations sold lambs directly to slaughter (22.9 percent), directly to feedlots (27.2 percent) and directly to buyer/dealers (25.3 percent).

Overall, 75.3 percent of lambs were sold in the United States during 2010. Of those, 27.3 percent were sold at auction/sale barn, 24.9 percent were sold directly to slaughter and 17.3 percent were sold directly to buyer/dealers.

For all operations, the majority of cull sheep sold (60.4 percent) were sold at auction markets or sale barns. The majority of breeding and “other” sheep (51.7 percent) were sold directly to another operation. The primary reason for culling rams and ewes was old age. The average age at which rams and ewes were culled was 4.9 and 6.3 years, respectively. Rams and ewes on large operations were slightly older when culled than those on smaller operations.

Death Losses
Death and loss of sheep and lambs must be minimized for an operation to stay viable. As flock size increased so did the percentage of operations that lost sheep to predator and nonpredator causes. 

Predator losses have a substantial economic impact on U.S. sheep operations. While only 7.4 percent of very small operations lost sheep to predators during 2010, 52.7 percent of large operations lost sheep to predators. In total, 23.6 percent of operations lost lambs to predators during 2010. Of these operations, 71.6 percent lost lambs to coyotes; 84.9 percent of large operations lost lambs to coyotes. Bears accounted for lamb losses on 17.3 percent of large operations, but on only 3.5 percent of all operations that lost lambs to predation.

Typically, large operations under report lamb losses because they do not see lambs for days or weeks after the lambs are born. Nearly three-fourths of large operations (71.8 percent) lost lambs to nonpredator causes and 85.7 percent lost lambs to predators during 2010.

Overall, coyotes caused the highest percentage of predator losses – about 60 percent of lambs lost to predators – but predator predominance varies by geographic location, flock size and flock type. For example, mountain lions, cougars or pumas were a cause of sheep loss on 26.8 percent of operations in the West region but on only 1.3 percent of operations in the East region. Dogs were a cause of sheep loss on 39.3 percent of very small operations (fewer than 20 ewes), while only 4.1 percent of large operations reported predation due to dogs.

For the 47.2 percent of operations with one or more ewes that lost sheep to nonpredator causes the highest percentages of operations lost sheep due to old age (36.7 percent), lambing problems (24 percent) and unknown nonpredator causes (19.1 percent). A higher percentage of large operations (40.2 percent) lost sheep to lambing problems than very small (17.8 percent), small (23.4 percent) and medium (29.4 percent) operations.

For the 53.2 percent of operations that lost lambs to nonpredator causes during 2010, 25.6 percent lost lambs to lambing problems. Respiratory causes of lamb loss were seen by 22.7 percent of all operations with losses. A higher percentage of medium and large operations lost lambs to respiratory problems than very small and small operations. A higher percentage of large operations lost lambs to poisoning and theft compared with the other operation sizes.

Sheep and Lambs on Feed
This study included only operations with ewes and, therefore, was not meant to characterize the sheep feedlot industry. As was found in this study, many operations feed high-energy diets to sheep or lambs to finish them but also have a regular ewe/lamb operation.

Overall, 31.4 percent of operations fed a high-energy diet to sheep or lambs to finish them for slaughter during 2010. A higher percentage of small and medium operations (31.1 and 34.4 percent, respectively) fed a high-energy diet compared with large operations (23.4 percent).

Overall, 43.7 percent of market lambs fed a high-energy diet weighed less than 65 pounds when placed on feed. A higher percentage of market lambs from large operations (28.5 percent) weighed more than 105 pounds when placed on feed compared with market lambs from small and medium operations (14.4 and 11.1 percent, respectively).

Biosecurity
Biosecurity is a system of management practices designed to prevent the introduction of disease to an operation or to animals in a flock or herd. Biosecurity practices that reduce an operation’s risk for disease introduction include prohibiting the introduction of new animals to the operation and isolating any animals that leave the operation and return.
Keeping a closed flock is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy flock, as introducing new animals poses one of the greatest threats to biosecurity. In a closed flock, replacement females are selected from within the flock, and genetic improvements are made through artificial insemination. Artificial insemination is economically unfeasible for most U.S. sheep operations.

Each age group introduced to the flock poses its own biosecurity risks. Bred ewes can harbor reproductive pathogens that are detectible only when ewes abort or lamb. Replacement lambs can introduce new strains of respiratory and enteric pathogens to other lambs. Overall, 28.6 percent of operations added new sheep or lambs (other than those born of the operation) to the flock during 2010, with the percentage increasing as flock size increased.

Many outwardly healthy animals carry infectious organisms that can affect flock productivity. For this reason, quarantining new additions is always recommended. General recommendations for the minimum length of quarantine vary from 14 to 28 days. Quarantining should provide sufficient time for the incubation and detection of infectious diseases. Collectively, 27.9 percent of sheep and lambs added in 2010 were quarantined. A higher percentage of added sheep and lambs were quarantined on small operations compared with sheep and lambs added to any other size operation. Large operations quarantined replacement ewes longer (average of 38.9 days) than very small operations (average of 19.5 days). In aggregate, the operation average number of days replacement ewes were quarantined was 25.6 days.

Over half of operations had all new additions vaccinated and dewormed prior to their arrival (58.4 and 56.0 percent of operations, respectively). About one-third of operations (31.4 percent) had all new additions genotyped for scrapie susceptibility. Overall, 84.4 percent of operations had at least one health-related management practice performed on new additions prior to arrival.

Veterinary Use
Almost one-fourth of operations (23.9 percent) had a private veterinarian visit for any sheep-related reason during 2010. For operations that did not use a veterinarian during 2010, 68.9 percent indicated they had no health-related problems; 5.1 percent reported there was no veterinarian with sheep experience available; and 11.8 percent claimed veterinarian visits were too expensive.

Sheep Shearing
Overall, 80.2 percent of operations with 20 or more ewes sheared lambs and sheep during 2010. A lower percentage of small operations (77.3 percent) sheared lambs and sheep during 2010 compared with medium (86.7 percent) or large (93 percent) operations.

A hired individual was used to shear sheep on 50.9 percent of these operations, while 29.2 percent contracted with a shearing crew and 26.2 percent used employees or the sheep owner to shear. There were some variations by size of operation, with over half of small operations (56.9 percent) hiring individuals to shear compared with just 13.1 percent of large operations. Nearly nine of 10 large operations (86.4 percent) used a contracted shearing crew compared with just 18.5 percent of small operations.

Disinfecting shears between sheep can reduce the likelihood of transmitting disease from one sheep to another. One disease in particular (caseous lymphadenitis) is likely to be transmitted from sheep to sheep when skin is broken or cut by contaminated shearing equipment. Shears should always be disinfected between flocks and, ideally, should be disinfected between sheep. A higher percentage of small operations (10 percent) than medium (4.6 percent) or large (4.6 percent) operations disinfected shears between sheep. Over half of operations (54 percent) never disinfected shears between sheep, while 15.3 percent sometimes disinfected shears between sheep.

Over half of operations (61.5 percent) sold wool on a greasy basis. Nearly half of operations (48.8 percent) stored wool in bags. Overall, 11.3 percent of operations that sheared sheep had their wool analyzed by a laboratory; 62.3 of large operations had their wool analyzed. A small percentage of small operations (4.7 percent) had their wool analyzed by a laboratory. 

Wool in the United States is usually marketed by one of four methods: marketing cooperatives, pools, warehouses and private treaties. For this study, marketing cooperatives and pools were placed in the “cooperative pools” category, since pools are another marketing channel cooperative. Cooperative pools were used by the second highest percentage of operations for marketing wool; direct sales were used by the highest percentage of operations. A higher percentage of small operations (38.7 percent) sold wool using cooperative pools compared with medium and large operations (28.4 and 12.9 percent, respectively). Over half of large operations (53.3 percent) used warehouses to market their wool compared with only 15.5 and 30.3 percent of small and medium operations, respectively.

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