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M-44 Ban Hurts Sheep Industry

Brad Boner, ASI President

In March, we found out that language was placed in the ag appropriations bill that removed another tool from Wildlife Services’ dwindling toolbox. It appears at this early juncture that WS employees will no longer have M-44s available to them.
It has still not been verified exactly how this transpired, but it appears as though the language was “air dropped” by a senator into the bill in the waning hours of the negotiation process of the ag appropriations conference committee.
This sets another underhanded and desperate precedent that has previously been avoided by our detractors. Since no language on M-44s was in either the Senate or House versions of the ag appropriations bills that went to the conference committee, it was a huge surprise to find it included in the final version of the bill. Unfortunately, even though it came out of the bill as “report language” and not “statutory language” – which means the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation is optional – we found out that USDA leadership fully intends to act on the language in the ag appropriations bill and began removing M-44s from all their employees’ use immediately.
By the time you read this letter, ASI and the several state associations that actively use the device will have a strategy in place to try to reverse this unprecedented action. Please inform yourself of our strategy and help us implement it with your congressional delegation. At a minimum, I would strongly urge each of you to reach out to your congressional representatives and ask them to contact Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at USDA and urge him to not implement this optional language that removes the M-44 from our predator management toolbox – one that has already been decimated by never-ending government regulations.
As our government continues to make it harder and harder for us to provide the human requirement of food and fiber for the people of this country, every one of us need to raise the volume and increase our shouting from the rooftops about how these misguided and unprecedented actions are rapidly decaying our ability to fulfill the minimum daily nutritional and comfort requirements necessary to sustain even a minimum standard of living for our people. These ill-conceived actions put in great jeopardy a continued free and viable population here in the United States of America.
Until next time, try to keep it on the sunny side.

So Far, So Good

When I wrote the January article, the lamb supply chain was flickering with some positivity in certain segments, while other segments were under whelming. Given a smaller national flock, lower imports and steady retail demand, I was still hopeful that 2024 would be positive for the lamb industry.

In the retail reports, prices offered for shoulder and loin cuts on the meat shelves have been fluctuating. Shoulder cuts – bone in and boneless – have been steadily between $7 and $8 per pound. Loin chops have been fluctuating between $9.30 and $10.50 per pound. A key part of the retail report is that it compares recent weeks to a year ago.
Keeping that in mind, loin chops have been $4 to $5 per pound lower than compared to a year ago and the featuring rate is up to 6.3 percent compared to about 4 percent last year. The feature rate is the number of stores advertising any reported lamb item during the current week, expressed as a percentage of the total stores that get sampled.
In Tennessee stores, I have started to see more total lamb products and variations of lamb products in the meat case. As we get closer to Easter, traditionally, demand picks up for lamb products. Moving forward, if the feature rate continues to be steady to higher, that’s an indication of steady to increasing demand.

The lamb cutout value has been the strongest it has been in a long time and is going extremely counter to what the market was indicating a year ago. The latest report has the cutout trading at $475.66 per cwt. (solid blue line in the chart). This makes the current cutout values up from $450.56 per cwt. a year ago (dotted line) and up from the previous five-year average price of $406.72 per cwt. (solid red line). The trend is gaining upward steam, as well, which is expected if comparing to the previous five-year average.
A key reason for the upward swing in the cutout values is due to wholesale leg, loin and shoulder prices have been trending upward. Prices are at $404.52 per cwt. for shoulders, $527.08 per cwt. for legs and $712.43 per cwt. for loins. All three are well above last year’s prices. I believe the upward trend of the cutout will continue with lower supply of slaughter lambs and steady to stronger retail demand.
Reports for slaughter lamb production come out in the monthly USDA reports, but the numbers have a monthly lag. At the time of writing this article, the most recent report (February) indicates a daily average of 34,400 head of lamb and sheep were processed in January, which is on par with last year’s volume, but below the previous five-year average for January (37,000 head). Additionally, dressed weights averaged 63 pounds, which is below the previous year (64 pounds) and below the five-year average (70 pounds). Thus, the supply chain is harvesting fewer head and harvesting at lighter weights, which provides support for wholesale and cutout values.
Prices for slaughter lambs have been holding steady through the first quarter of the year. Prices have been oscillating around $190 per cwt., and through mid-March prices are currently trading $191.24 per cwt. That puts prices up from last year – $135.12 per cwt. – and the previous five-year average – $165.22 per cwt. Depending on market location and slaughter lamb size, prices could be higher. For example, in the three-market (Texas, Colorado, South Dakota) report, 60 to 90-pound slaughter lamb prices have boosted up to $243.74 per cwt. in mid-March, which is up from $198.36 per cwt. in early February.
The feeder lamb market prices is a section of the supply chain that has been trending downward. In the three-market report, feeders are trading at $269.35, which is still higher than last year – $178.75 per cwt. – and the previous five-year average – $235.62 per cwt. The trend is due largely to demand for slaughter lambs at the same weights. As tighter supplies of feeders continue, due to the smaller national flock. The questions for the feeder segment are, “how low will prices go, and how soon will prices reach that point?”

Similar to slaughter data reporting, trade data is reported monthly but lagged a month. At the time of this writing, the latest report indicates that lamb imports were 23.2 million pounds, which is up from 18.9 million pounds last year, and the 20.6 million pounds average for the previous five years. Import volumes from both Australia and New Zealand were about 24 percent above a year ago. Mutton imports at 6.2 million pounds in January, were down 27 percent from 2023. Total lamb and mutton imports were up 7 percent from last January but 10 percent smaller than in 2022.
Moving forward, imports historically increase in March, due to the seasonal increase in demand. Thus, the increased January import numbers compared to last year and the previous five-year average leads to the question if March imports will be higher than normal.

So far through the American lamb supply chain, there have been many people that are happy with higher prices. So far, so good. I’ve highlighted some things to watch for in the coming months, that will spell out the rest of the year.

The American wool market strengthened slightly in early March in response to some positive signals coming from the major markets for textile demand and improving global financial markets. However, the wool market is not back to normal strength as large supplies of wool are limiting any significant upward price movement in the market.
Depending on quality, the wool market has shown positivity through the first quarter of the year when compared to the fall of 2023.
Fine wools closed the first week of March trending upward with the highest gain being in the 18 and 19-micron range at 8 U.S. cents per pound on a clean, weekly basis. This group of wool is still below last year’s prices, but the upward trend is opposite of last year.
While most medium wools remained stagnant to slightly lower, 23-micron wool saw a jump of 8 U.S. cents, making it on par with 22-micron wool at U.S. $3.79 per pound. As a whole, medium wool prices remain below 2023 prices. Coarse wool prices for microns 28, 29 and 32 have been hovering around U.S. $1 to $1.22 per pound. Thirty-two-micron wool has been trending higher from 72 U.S. cents per pound in January to 80 U.S. cents per pound at the end of the first week of March. The Eastern Market Indicator started at U.S. $3.70 per pound in January but since trended downward and held steady at U.S. $3.40 per pound through February before gaining to U.S. $3.46 per pound first week of March.
Unfortunately, 2024 prices thus far remain below levels seen through most of 2023. The biggest obstacles moving forward in the wool market continues to be large supply of wool, economic uncertainty in the global market regarding consumer demand, and recently, a shipping squeeze looming in the international wool markets.

ALB Offers Funding Opportunities

The American Lamb Board allocates funds through the Cooperative Funding Program for local sheep producer groups, lamb suppliers and direct marketers to cost-share marketing efforts that align with ALB’s mission to grow awareness and demand for American lamb.
Applications can be submitted now until April 30. Once the application process closes, no additional applications will be reviewed until Oct. 1.
“Previously, we accepted and reviewed applications year round, but by changing the program to review applications twice a year, we can more effectively and efficiently look at allocating funds to the programs that we believe will have the greatest impact,” said ALB Chairman Jeff Ebert.
While the timing of the application process is changing, ALB will continue to allocate funds to assist efforts by state/local industry groups, American lamb suppliers and direct marketers as the budget allows. The program will continue supporting projects where applicants are prepared to share costs and provide additional resources to the funded project.
For the Cooperative Funding Program, ALB will prioritize funding opportunities designed to build consumer demand for American lamb by targeting consumers, chefs, retailers and other non-industry audiences.
ALB has new funding available for industry groups looking for money to support educational programs targeting sheep producers. ALB is now accepting applications from industry groups interested in hosting educational workshops or field days targeting emerging sheep producers. ALB sees a real opportunity right now for the American lamb industry to grow and is increasing efforts to establish a consistent, year-round supply of American lamb to meet consumer demand and reduce the need for imported products.
ALB has allocated funding to support up to 10 workshops/educational programs designed to educate and inspire those who might be new to raising sheep or are considering adding sheep to their operation. Each successful applicant will receive up to $2,000 to help offset the costs of hosting an emerging producer educational program.
In addition to funding, ALB also has program templates from a pilot workshop in Kentucky to help guide applicants interested in hosting educational workshops. Applications are due May 31.
ALB is funded by the mandatory American Lamb Checkoff. No projects influencing local, state or government policy or action will be funded, as required by law.
For more information about the program, including FAQs, and to download an application, visit:

ASI Leads Support for Wildlife Services

Approximately 250 agriculture, transportation and affiliated groups signed on to ASI’s annual letter of support for Wildlife Services, which was sent to congressional leaders in early March.
The wide range of services provided by the agency protects not only American livestock and crops, but also American lives as civilian and military aircraft are routinely engaged in bird strikes that create life-threatening encounters. Such strikes have decreased thanks to mitigation efforts by Wildlife Services.
“Wildlife causes more than $12.8 billion in damage each year to natural resources, public infrastructures, private property and agriculture. USDA Wildlife Services works to prevent, minimize, or manage this damage and to protect human health and safety from conflicts with wildlife. Wildlife damage to U.S. livestock, aquaculture, small grains, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products has been estimated to reach nearly $1 billion annually. Wildlife predators cause more than $232 million in death loss to livestock; field crop losses due to wildlife total $619 million annually; losses to vegetables, fruits and nuts total $146 million annually; and 70 percent of catfish farmers incur wildlife-related damage. The annual industry-wide value of lost catfish sales revenue to cormorants averages $47.2 million, ranging from $25.8 million to $65.4 million, depending upon predation levels in any given year. As a result, WS is an essential program to U.S. agriculture.
“WS assists farmers and ranchers in 50 states and three territories to reduce the impact of predators on their animals, protecting 8.9 million head of cattle, 5.1 million head of sheep, and 56 million head of other livestock in 334,000 direct control actions. In FY23, WS provided more than 20,800 technical assistance activities that enabled 6,061 livestock producers to implement improved husbandry and methods such as use of guard animals, exclusion, fencing and predator dispersal. These activities included 53 predator management workshops attended by more than 2,700 individuals from 14 states, dispersal of 277,335 double-crested cormorants, and removal of 2,521 cormorants at aquaculture facilities in 15 states to protect farmed fish from avian depredation. The industry is worth $1.5 billion nationally (per National Marine Fisheries Service).
“WS supported USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ emergency response efforts to animal diseases, natural disasters and hazardous spills. In FY23, WS deployed 102 personnel on 172 deployments for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and African Swine Fever. WS personnel have physically deployed to assist 12 states in response to HPAI. WS responded to the ASF detection on the island of Hispaniola and since detection in July 2021, have removed a total of 4,921 feral swine and have sampled 3,042 for ASF on Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands through FY23. The National Wildlife Disease Program also coordinated sample collection and evaluation or assisted state agencies with many other diseases in wildlife to include SARS-CoV-2, plague, tularemia, leptospirosis, rabies, chronic wasting disease and rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus.
“In collaboration with state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tribes, WS addresses livestock depredation and protects human health and safety related to wolves and grizzly bears. WS manages conflicts with gray wolves or Mexican gray wolves in 11 states. WS conducted operations with grizzly bears in three states, dispersing 22, capturing-relocating seven and lethally removing six in FY23. Congressional funding of $4.5 million in FY23 supported protecting livestock from large carnivore predation in 12 states using nonlethal strategies such as range riding, fladry installation and electric fence construction. WS filled 30 full-time positions and one part-time position to implement these strategies. WS’ National Wildlife Research Center evaluated the effectiveness of activities to reduce depredation.
“In FY23 alone, WS conducted more than 72,950 technical assistance projects to reduce wildlife damage to property in urban, suburban and rural locations across the country which include: homes, schools, industrial facilities, roads, bridges, airports and airport runways, dams, and electrical and water systems. In addition, WS works to protect wetland habitat, riparian habitat, tidal marsh and timber from a variety of pest species including feral hogs and nutria, as well as the destruction that beaver can cause. Through cooperator-funded beaver damage management on more than 45,000 sites in 49 states, WS worked to protect roads, bridges, timber, agriculture, property, native habitat and other natural resources from flooding damage.
“WS’ National Feral Swine Damage Management Program continued to reduce the impacts of invasive feral swine to American agriculture, natural resources and property, and to reduce threats to human health and safety, declaring a 12th state (Indiana) free of feral swine since the program’s inception in 2014. Work to reduce feral swine damage on approximately 187 million acres continued across 34 states and three territories. Funding for the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program within the 2018 Farm Bill was set to expire at the end of FY23, however, Continuing Resolution (H.R. 6363) provided extensions, adding an additional $15 million, split between APHIS and the Natural Resource Conservation Service to continue the FSCP.
“WS had 3,809 cooperative service and interagency agreements including agriculture, forestry, private industry, state wildlife agencies, state departments of health, state departments of agriculture, schools, universities, counties, local governments, Tribal governments, homeowner associations, conservation groups and others that together with WS mitigate the damage and dangers that wildlife can inflict. As a by-product of operational activities in FY23, WS donated more than 651,500 pounds of meat to food banks and other organizations providing for people in need. WS donated an additional 35,800 pounds of meat for non-human consumption.
“WS flew 80 aircraft for 16,400 flight hours over a total of 1.1 million miles of flight operations to conduct livestock protection via predator removal, removal of invasive feral swine and brown tree snakes, aerial delivery of vaccine baits (rabies), emergency response and other missions.
“WS processed more than 18,200 strikes with civil aircraft with more than 11,000 strikes with military aircraft also reported. More than 290,000 wildlife strikes with civil aviation have been reported to the National Wildlife Strike Database for civil aviation since WS began keeping records in 1990. Reported wildlife-aircraft strikes continue to increase as airport managers and biologists prioritize reporting all wildlife strikes to the FAA database. Damaging strikes have decreased because of wildlife mitigation and awareness efforts at airfields. WS provided 333 staff years of direct support to assist a total of 782 civil, military and joint-use airports including about 76 percent of all U.S. commercial passenger airports. WS trained 7,871 airport and military personnel to prevent wildlife from colliding with aircraft, improving travel safety. WS also provided direct staff support to reduce aviation hazards at 151 U.S. or coalition military airbases stateside and in southwest Asia, the Pacific Rim, Africa, Europe, and in the British Indian Ocean Territory, and an additional 110 civil-military airports protecting American military aviation assets and personnel.
“It has been WS’s cooperative nature that has allowed it to accomplish all of the above listed programs and has made it the most cost effective and efficient program in the federal government in the areas of wildlife damage management and public health and safety.”

SSWS Plan Videos Now Available

ASI released two videos recently that demonstrate how the association’s Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan can be implemented at a lamb packing plant and a lamb feedlot.
Visit to watch the packing plant video. Visit to watch the lamb feedlot video.
Participants on one of the industry tours during the 2024 ASI Annual Convention in Denver got a first-hand look at both Superior Farms and Harper Feeders, as well as their use of the SSWS Plan for continuity of business in the face of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United States.
The plant and the feedlot worked with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Preventalytics to develop an SSWS business continuity plan. To ASI’s knowledge, Superior Farms was the first packing plant and Harper Feeders was the first lamb feedlot in Colorado to get their Enhanced Biosecurity Plans reviewed and deemed acceptable. They were also the first in the United States to achieve these accolades.
FMD is an easily spread virus that causes blisters on feet and in the mouth of animals with divided hooves, such as sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and deer. It does not make people sick. It is not a food safety risk. Meat is safe to eat.
Funding for the videos was made possible from a grant provided to ASI from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program.
Visit to learn more about the SSWS Plan.

Kentucky School District Puts Lamb on Lunch Menu

Lamb, it’s what’s for lunch. That was true for students in Woodford County (Ky.) Public Schools on two special days this semester.
Woodford County Food Service Director Courtney Quire took advantage of a Local Foods for Schools grant from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to purchase meat from Four Hills Farm, providing countless children in the county with their first taste of American lamb.
“I’ve mainly used the grant to purchase local beef,” Quire said. “But I got this crazy idea and started thinking about what else we had here in the county that would be available. The beef I was getting was from Frankfort – which is close, but not in the county. I got online and started looking and found Four Hills Farm, so I thought that would be a neat opportunity.”
Located in Versailles, Ky., Four Hills Farm is in Woodford County, and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mansfield was more than happy to work with the local school district.
“We just got an email out of the blue about buying some of our lamb,” he said. “She ordered 500 pounds, so we had to process a bunch of lambs to have enough to supply her order. After talking about all of the different possibilities, we settled on bone-in legs and shoulders. She prepared it, seasoned it and cooked it. They cooked the lamb and shredded it and served it like a barbecue sandwich.”
The American Lamb Board said it wasn’t familiar with any other public school districts who had served lamb in recent years. ALB said you’ll find lamb on menus at some colleges and universities in the United States, but local school districts are a virtually untapped market for American lamb.
“I’m glad to be the first – potentially,” Quire said. “I’m not familiar with any other districts who have served lamb either. I really love that I am able to give our kids the opportunity to try things they wouldn’t normally get to try in a school lunch.”
The lamb was served in the county’s four elementary schools on Feb. 29, so maybe it can become a Leap Day tradition. Students at the county’s middle and high schools had to wait until late March to find lamb on their lunch trays.
“Everyone had really positive feedback on the lamb,” Quire said. “Even when I was just cooking it at one the elementary schools, everyone was excited about the smells that were floating around the school. I was pretty impressed with the kids’ acceptance. I’m sure a lot of them have never even had lamb. We served it like a barbecue day, so it was somewhat familiar, but a little bit different.”
Quire has exhausted the grant funds for the 2023-24 school year, but said she would gladly purchase more lamb in the years to come if additional funds are available.
Mansfield said he offered ground lamb when Quire first contacted him, but she was looking for something that was distinctly lamb.
“She said, ‘I’ve got a whole freezer full of ground beef. If I serve them ground lamb, they’ll just think it’s ground beef. I want them to know it’s lamb,’” Mansfield recalled. “We had to do some things a little different to fill the order, but it was an opportunity we didn’t want to pass up. We sent them some recipes and offered to have (Lamb Ambassador) Nick Forrest work with them. But Courtney had everything under control.”
Given the unique opportunity, Four Hills wanted to make sure the lamb was presented in a positive way that appealed to the children’s tastes.
“This was going to be an introduction to lamb for a lot of these kids, so we wanted to make a good impression,” said Four Hills Vice President Lynn Pruett. “It was a great opportunity to educate new eaters about this tasty food. We were really impressed with the amount of preparation she put into it. As adults, we don’t always have the best impressions of school meals. We just think of them opening a big vat of something and dumping it out. We definitely didn’t want to turn a whole group of kids off of lamb. But we couldn’t be happier with the way they prepared the lamb and the effort they put into the entire meal.”
Quire posted about the special meal on the Woodford Co. Schools Food Service Facebook page and tagged Four Hills Farm in the post to bring even more attention to the special meal. The post included photos of the lamb preparation and the final lunch as it was served to the district’s elementary school students.
“We were thrilled with the Facebook post,” Pruett said. “She didn’t tell us about that ahead of time, so we saw it at the same time everyone else did. It was so nice of her to tag the farm in the post and bring more attention to our lamb.”
Processing lambs specifically for the order left Four Hills with additional meat to sell, including high-end cuts such as the racks.
“That opened some new doors and opportunities for us because most of our lamb goes to Whole Foods,” Pruett said. “We haven’t always done a good job of reaching out to other markets, but with the extra lamb we got into a couple of restaurants. We appreciate that this opportunity pushed us into some new markets, as well.”

Small Wisconsin Mill Has Big Reputation

All Carol Wagner wanted was to complete a sheep to sweater project with sheep she raised and wool she processed. It makes for a humble origin story for this superwoman of wool, who has teamed with her husband, Paul, to build Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill into a nationally recognized leader in the small mill industry in the United States.
From Vermont to California, mills such as Hidden Valley are staying as busy as they care to be processing the fibers that come from hobby farm flocks throughout the country. Where the large mills want to work with thousands of pounds of wool at a time, these small mills can handle modest orders that produce the raw materials necessary to supply a network of spinning and knitting enthusiasts from every corner of the United States.
Along the way, the couple has developed a well-known Coopworth flock. It started with ewes who came from New Zealand in the early 1990s, back when you could still import live sheep into the country.
“It’s hard to find a Coopworth flock in the Midwest that doesn’t have some Hidden Valley genetics,” Carol said. “It’s getting harder and harder to find a ram that isn’t related to our flock. We’ve brought semen in from New Zealand and Australia. We’ve done artificial insemination six times, and we really need to do it again.”
A teacher by trade, Carol was looking to step away from school life in the mid-1990s. The flock had grown to the point that the couple was selling yarn, batts and roving at local farmers’ markets, and in 1997 they had the opportunity to buy an 8-ton, 1921 Davis and Furber single breaker carding machine from Dale and Kay Kaufman of Valders, Wis.
Living on the farm where Paul grew up, the couple had nothing but a house and the flock on 16 acres at the time. Paul put his construction background to work and built the mill and showroom in record time.
“I poured the slab on Aug. 9, and she was open for business on Sept. 16,” he said with pride. “It was crude, but it was up. We did it with just my son and my father-in-law helping out.”
In addition to space for the mill equipment, the building has a first-floor showroom and a second story that is part showroom, part museum, part classroom depending on the time of year.

The Wagners attribute much of their success to the Coopworth breed. Despite the fact it’s a long wool not often thought of as fine wool, it was exactly what Carol was looking for when she set her mind to developing her own flock. After all, the wool initially was going to be just for her own personal use, so it needed to be something she liked and could work with on a daily basis.
Carrie Flores – who works as a trusted assistant with both the mill and the flock, and documents it all with stunning photos that she regularly enters in the ASI Photo Contest – said Carol has developed an expert eye when evaluating the flock’s wool.
“She has an exact idea in her mind what she wants the sheep to look like, and what she wants from the fleece they produce. There’s Coopworths, and then there’s Hidden Valley Coopworths. She’s spent 30 years picking out what she thinks she needs. Now, she can just look at them and go, ‘Yep,’ or ‘Nope.’”
So, what does Carol base her selection decisions on? She admits her standards aren’t that difficult to follow. But the process clearly takes a trained eye.
“If I’ve got a lamb who’s fiber looks like an adult fleece already, then that’s not what I want,” she said. “It’s only going to get coarser. I look for length of fiber, does it have luster? Coops don’t have crimp, they have waves. If they’re too straight, they’ll just become hairy, and that’s not what I want. I guess over the years I just learned to really look at the fleece and know if it was I wanted or not.”
Paul was onboard with any dual-purpose breed.
“I told her she could have any animal she wanted, but it needed to be something that I could eat,” he said. “The Coopworth is a great dual-purpose animal. The fiber industry has been a godsend for us. We make more money on wool than we do on meat, and I’ll sell 300 lambs a year. But it won’t come close to touching what we make on the wool. I think the whole industry has overlooked this tremendous resource.”
Color certainly sets Hidden Valley apart. In addition to natural colors from the sheep, Carol and Carrie spend quite a bit of time dyeing wool in a variety of wild colors that quickly draw knitters and handspinners to the company’s booth at any show. Carol and Paul setup shop at approximately 10 fiber shows a year throughout the Midwest in addition to weekly appearances at nearby farmers’ markets.
“I was on the board in Wisconsin when they started the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival,” Paul said. “Originally, they wanted it to just be sheep shows, but I fought them tooth and nail on that. It started with 20 vendors, and now there’s 100 and something. That show is really supported by the fiber people. Carol runs the fiber classes and they’ll have 2,000 students coming in for those.
“This has been a really nice industry for someone like me,” added the usually outspoken Paul. “I’m not capable of dealing with the challenges of corporate America. But what we’ve done here has worked quite well for us.”

Along the way, the farm has taken in a few refugee Corriedale and CVM sheep. It wasn’t an effort to diversify the flock, but each breed brings different wool qualities that Carol can put to use in the mill’s offerings of roving, quilts, batts, yarns, raw wool and sheepskins.
The new breeds led to a few “accidental” cross breedings around the farm, but Carol has no intention of diluting the gene pool – especially when it comes to the Coopworths.
“We’ve kept some of those crossbreeds as novelties, but it was never intentional. We refer to the Corriedales as our Eeyore sheep – like from Winnie the Pooh,” Carol said. “They just trudge along with their heads down like he does. I’m not convinced I like the CVM sheep yet.”
The additional breeds came along in similar fashion to the mill. Friends were looking to get out of the business and the Wagners ended up taking them on.
“It is kind of exciting that this opportunity came up,” Carol admitted. “If only I was 20 years younger, imagine what I could be doing. Sometimes Paul and I still look at each other and ask, ‘Why did we do this?’”
Only about 40 percent of the fiber processed at Hidden Valley comes from the family farm. The rest is commercial work that comes from a variety of breeds and has given the Wagners the chance to see all kinds of wool up close.
“Carol’s idea for a mill struck me as something that could be profitable,” Paul said. “And it worked. That’s how we make money. We don’t make it selling lamb for $1.50 a pound.”
While Carol selects sheep based on their fleeces, they still have to meet Paul’s standards, as well.
“Most people who have fiber animals really baby their sheep. We don’t,” he said. “Fleece value is No. 1 on our list, but if they can’t make it here, then they go. They have to have good mothering ability. We don’t want to help lamb 200 ewes. Sometimes Carol and I go back and forth on which ones to get rid of.”
Hidden Valley has two distinct operations: the wool side and the lamb side, and they have to work together to keep the operation moving in the right direction.
“It’s always been my goal to get to the point where we’re processing just our wool,” Paul said. “We had nothing but a few acres and a rundown house when we started this. The only reason I bought the place is because it was too good a deal to pass up. If we’d been capitalized, or if we had started this at a reasonable age instead of at 50, there’s no telling where we’d be right now.
“Carol took me to a fiber show in Michigan years ago, and I was so impressed. I had no idea this industry even existed. It was so under the radar at the time. So, we got started and we’ve been growing ever since.”

ASI Wraps Up Successful Spring Trip to Washington, D.C.

In mid-March, members of ASI from all across the country traveled to the nation’s capital to participate in ASI’s annual Spring Trip to advocate on behalf of the sheep industry’s top issues and priorities.
On March 12, the fly-in kicked off with breakfast and general issue briefing from Cornerstone Government Affairs lobbyists Vernie Hubert and Macey Hammerstrom. Following ASI’s D.C. consultants were various sheep industry specific presentations from: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Deputy Administrator Janet Bucknall; USDA/Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Heather Manzano; The Meat Institute Vice President of Legislative Affairs Nathan Fretz; USDA/Agricultural Marketing Service Deputy Administrator Jennifer Porter; USDA/Agricultural Marketing Service Associate Deputy Administrator Taylor Cox; and Kelley Drye International Trade and Government Relations Partner Paul Rosenthal.
This ASI event provides the only opportunity of the year for producer leaders to visit with USDA program officials that partner with industry on wool and lamb marketing and sheep production and protection.
ASI members took to Capitol Hill to meet with their state’s members of Congress and agriculture committee staff, advocating for passage of a new Farm Bill, the sheep industry’s priority issues and Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations requests.
Joining the ASI Executive Board, representatives from 10 of ASI’s state affiliates travelled to Washington, D.C., to represent the industry, including: California, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
The trip wrapped up on March 13 with ASI’s annual American Lamb reception on Cornerstone’s rooftop overlooking the Wharf, where the night was filled great company and American lamb.

ASI Seeking Nominations for ALB, NSIIC

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service is seeking nominees for both the American Lamb Board and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center. ASI is a certified nominating organization for both ALB and NSIIC and is now accepting nominations from those interested in filling these roles.
All nomination forms must be submitted to ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick by May 1. Forms can be emailed to The ASI Executive Board will then choose a slate of nominees to forward to USDA for consideration. USDA requires at least two nominees for each position.
For ALB, USDA/AMS is seeking nominees to succeed one producer with 101 to 500 lambs, one producer with more than 500 lambs, one feeder with 5,000 or more lambs, and one first handler, all with terms that expire in early 2025. Any U.S. producer, feeder or first handler who owns or purchases lambs may be considered for nomination.
Either the producer with 100 or less lambs or the producer with more than 500 lambs must be from Region I – east of the Mississippi River. The feeder with less than 5,000 lambs may be from either Region I or Region II – west of the Mississippi River. These positions are currently filled by Jimmy Parker of Alabama, David Fisher of Texas, Steve Schreier of Minnesota and Andrew Allman of Colorado. Each are eligible for reappointment.
The 13-member board was established to maintain and expand the market for sheep and sheep products with industry funding via the American Lamb checkoff. ASI coordinated sheep industry development and support of the checkoff with implementation in 2002 and two nationally approved referendums in the ensuring years.
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USDA/AMS is seeking nominees for one producer position and one expert in finance and management to serve three-year terms on the NSIIC Board of Directors.
The positions are currently filled by Leo Tammi of Virginia and Burton Pfliger of North Dakota, both of whom are not eligible for reappointment after serving consecutive three-year terms.
The center’s board of directors is comprised of seven voting members and two non-voting members. Voting members include four active U.S. sheep producers, two members with expertise in finance and management and one member with expertise in lamb or wool product marketing.
The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center was established – at the request of ASI – as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and administers a grant program designed to improve the competitiveness of the American sheep industry by strengthening and enhancing the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products.
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AMS policy is that diversity of the boards, councils and committees it oversees should reflect the diversity of their industries in terms of the experience of members, methods of production and distribution, marketing strategies and other distinguishing factors, including but not limited to individuals from historically underserved communities, that will bring different perspectives and ideas to the table. Throughout the full nomination process, the industry must conduct extensive outreach, paying particular attention to reaching underserved communities, and consider the diversity of the population served and the knowledge, skills and abilities of the members to serve a diverse population.

Forest Service Museum Seeks Support

The National Conservation Legacy Center will open in 2024 or 2025 as a world class destination. The center will be the flagship of the National Museum of Forest Service History – a 501 C(3) nonprofit organization independent of the U.S. Forest Service – and the museum is looking for financial support of its capital campaign to build the new center.
The museum was started in 1988 to preserve and share America’s conservation legacy. The museum works with teachers across the country to bring conservation history into classrooms, host virtual and traveling exhibits, and maintain a 31-acre campus in Missoula, Mont.
The only museum of its kind, the National Conservation Legacy Center expects 80,000 to 100,000 visitors annually, and the striking mass timber design will attract widespread media attention. A world-renowned museum exhibition design firm – Art Processors – is working with the museum to design and bring to life a unique participatory, immersive experience for visitors.
After two years of research and design, the museum is finally able to share with its partners the opportunity to be a part of this extraordinary new facility. Your support enables the museum to share its extensive Conservation History collection with a national audience, host blockbuster exhibitions, create educational programs for students and families and extend its community reach.
Exhibits will feature state of the art participatory and immersion experiences with educational activities and events to inspire visitors to engage and understand the conservation of America’s natural resources – reflecting upon Gifford Pinchot’s guiding principle, “Provide the greatest good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”
Participatory museums work with constituents and visitors to make cultural institutions more dynamic, relevant and essential places. The goal of participatory exhibitory is both to meet visitors’ expectations for active engagement and to do so in a way that furthers the mission and core values of the museum.
Immersion exhibits create a multi-sensory experience, which pulls visitors out of the passive, one-dimensional museum viewing ritual and transports them to a different time, place or situation where they become active participants in what they encounter.
Since 1905, the U.S. Forest Service has been making history as America’s first conservation agency. However, during the course of its 100-plus-year history, there has never been one central location where the people can learn and enjoy this history.
There is no central repository where artifacts could be preserved, researched and displayed. There has not been one central exhibition hall where the stories and lessons could be shared with the public, where the leaders, partners and people whose stories are our history could be recognized and shared.
Conservation of the forests and grasslands of the United States forms an unparalleled heritage for the American people and the world. It’s a story about the dedicated people who created much more than a government agency, they fostered new ways of thinking about our country’s resources and the stewardship of public lands. It’s time to preserve and share this story of national accomplishment- America’s Conservation Legacy.
The National Conservation Legacy Center will provide a world-class, one-of-a-kind facility for all to learn and enjoy this rich and uniquely American conservation history. The center will continually look for ways to engage with visitors and partners so that everyone can learn from the past and therefore foster a better understanding of the conservation challenges of today and future generations.
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HENRY KREBS, 1926-2024

Henry Robert Krebs, 97, of Ione, Ore., passed away peacefully at his home Friday, March 1, 2024 with Robin, his wife of 25 years by his side.
He was born July 7, 1926, at Heppner, Ore., to Henry W. and Annie C. Lowe Krebs. He attended school at Cecil, Ore., and went on to graduate from Arlington High school in 1944. Henry served in the U.S. Army from 1944 until 1946. He received a Purple Heart while serving in the Philippines and then continued his service as part of the occupational force in Japan. After an honorable discharge, he attended and graduated from Oregon State College on the GI Bill. While at college, he met and married Dorothy Durst.
After finishing college, they moved back and partnered in the family ranch located at Cecil and East Glacier, Mont., raising their family and producing wheat, cattle, hay and sheep.
During his life, Henry was involved with many organizations including the National Wool Growers Association, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, American Legion, B.P.O.E., Western Range Association, Public Lands Council and was a founding member of the Oregon Sheep Commission. He was recognized as a diamond Pioneer Ag achievement award and a lifetime member of Oregon Sheep Growers.
After slowing down from working on the ranch, he later married Robin Baker in 1999. They lived in Ione and enjoyed their property in Montana and travelling to sheep conventions.
Henry is survived by his wife, Robin of Ione; daughter Jane (Ron) Brinkman; son Clint (Maureen) Krebs; son Skye (Penny) Krebs; son Glen (Roni) Krebs; Bridger (Barbara) Baker, Corey (Gina) Baker, Joey (Kim) Baker, Rosanne (Brian) Jewett and Jeani Baker; 21 grandchildren; and 22 great grandchildren. He was proceeded in death by daughter, Bonnie Jean Krebs.
Graveside Services were March 9 at High View Cemetery in Ione. Memorial contributions may be made to The Ione American Legion, P.O. Box 265 Ione, OR 97843.

PATRICK O’TOOLE, 1948-2024

Little Snake River Valley rancher and conservationist Patrick Francis O’Toole died Feb. 25, 2024, at age 75 of complications following a stroke. He was loved and respected in the agricultural and natural resource communities.
Pat was born Dec. 6, 1948, in Pittsburgh to James Francis O’Toole and Mary Ann Mooney O’Toole. When Pat was 3 years old, his family moved to Hialeah, Fla. Pat grew up swimming, surfing and, most of all, running. He attended Hialeah High School, where he excelled in academics, track and cross country. He ran a four-and-a-half minute mile, but loved distance running. He attended Arkansas State University, Miami-Dade Junior College and Florida State University on track scholarships.
The West called and Pat moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where he attended Colorado State University. He met his wife Sharon Salisbury while both were working at The Collegian newspaper. Pat graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1975. He and Sharon married on Sept. 28, 1975. That winter, they traveled throughout South America.
When they arrived safely home – much to their parents’ relief – they began their life’s work on the Ladder Ranch, along the Wyoming/Colorado border. It has been in Sharon’s family since 1881. Pat liked to say that the ranch raises “cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children.” They lived for eight winters in a cabin without electricity or running water, and summers in camps as they herded their own sheep.
In 1978, daughter Meghan Lynne was born, followed by Bridget Emma in 1980 and son Patrick Eamon in 1985.
In 1986, Pat was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives, where he served for six years representing Carbon County. He became known for his gift of working with people in all walks of life, diverse viewpoints and differing political views. Next, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Western Water Policy Commission, looking at the future of water in the West. He wrote the dissenting report defending food production and irrigation. This led him to the Family Farm Alliance – an organization representing irrigators in 11 Western states. He served as its president from 2005 until his death.
He cared deeply about the Colorado River, and was influential in protecting irrigated agriculture, migratory bird habitat and tribal rights.
Pat worked tirelessly to protect his beloved Western landscapes. He and the Ladder Ranch family have been widely recognized for their conservation work and ethic. In 2014, the Ladder Ranch received the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award. In 2016, Pat received the Kurt Bucholz Conservation Award from the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust.
At the time of his death, he was leading a big project – Headwaters of the Colorado.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon, his three children, Meghan O’Toole Lally (Brian), Bridget O’Toole (Chris Abel) and Patrick Eamon O’Toole (Megan). His six grandchildren were the absolute light of his life. He leaves Siobhan, Seamus, Maeve and Tiarnan Lally and Patrick McCoy O’Toole and Rhen O’Toole. He is also survived by his sister Mary Lynne O’Toole Lidstone, his niece Sherri Salisbury Marthaller, his nephews Bill Moree, Joe Salisbury, Christian Gros, Kevin Lidstone, James Lidstone and John Lidstone. He also leaves many cousins in Florida and Pennsylvania, and a plethora of close friends.
Pat was predeceased by his parents, Jim and Marie O’Toole; his in-laws George and Laura Salisbury, his buddy Pete Antonacci, and several friends.
A celebration of life will be held at the Ladder Ranch in July. The family asks that donations be made to the Family Farm Alliance, P.O. Box 216, Klamath Falls, OR 97601 ( or the Little Snake River EMS, Box 275, Baggs, WY 82321.

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