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Safety Measures Implemented by ASI Office Staff

Benny Cox, ASI President

ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick put safety measures in place early on during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of the ASI staff and try to avoid an outbreak among office personnel. This limited the number of staff in the office at different intervals – which was apparently the right move – but this certainly demanded changes in operations. There have not been any problems, and this reaffirms Peter’s ability to address issues promptly. As challenges have arisen, he and the office staff have dealt with them in a timely manner.

ASI has been busy as always and now has trained many individuals on “how to Zoom,” me being one of them. Face-to-face meetings are preferred at times, but are not always necessary. In fact, the ASI Executive Board Meeting in July was conducted as a Zoom meeting. Typically, this would be an in-person meeting, but the decision was made early on to shift online due to many closures and cancellations across the nation.

We have written many letters and conducted many conference calls to those in Washington, D.C., to make our position known in an effort to serve our stakeholders. And, I might add, we’ve accomplished this with a significant measure of success. The way of the world has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so, and now with cell phones and computers we have weathered this storm much easier than we would have in past decades.

It is anyone’s guess how the wooled feeder lambs will sell in the next couple of months with some of the larger offerings at video auctions starting soon. There is no doubt most of the feeders selling fat lambs in the month of March and later have lost lots of money and will be very cautious if they buy feeder lambs this summer or fall. We still have a good deal of turbulence in the lamb processing end of our industry with Mountain States Rosen’s bankruptcy and the opening of the new plant in Brush, Colo. Hopefully, there is not a complete halt in lamb slaughter due to either of those situations. As I understand it, Superior Farms has continued to move forward without any major issues. Thank goodness for that.

In my world of ethnic demand for both sheep and goats, little has changed for us with record movement here in Texas. With the four auctions in our general area, we averaged around 20,000 sheep and goats sold weekly from mid-April through mid-July. The market values are at levels above this time last year. We did have a market fall-off the last two weeks of March, but got most of that back the next two weeks through the middle of April.

The Muslim holiday of sacrifice was July 31 this year, and it generally adds stability to the market. Those trying to take advantage of this holiday must sell their livestock in time for the handlers to get purchases to processing and distribution destinations.

Y`all keep on doing what you do best and I will see you on down the road.

Lamb Production Rebounds, But Challenges Remain

Juniper Economic Consulting

The lamb industry has done a good job of catching up on lamb processing after a two-month cutback in slaughter. In March, one major packing plant cut harvest by about one-third and another stopped slaughtering altogether: consumers just weren’t buying.

In April, federally inspected lamb and mature sheep slaughter was down 26 percent year-on-year, down 3 percent in May and then up 1 percent year-on-year in June. By June, the lamb industry was back in business.

Estimated lamb harvest in January to June was 902,906 head, down 6 percent year-on-year. Estimated lamb production was 44.0 million lbs., down 9 percent year-on-year. June’s slaughter and production were up 1 percent and 2 percent year-on-year, respectively.

Higher rates of slaughter and a bump in production after an extreme slowdown in March and April doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are eating more lamb. A concern for the industry moving forward is the growing volume in the freezers. In early June, lamb and mutton in cold storage hit a new record high of 48.0 million lbs., up 18 percent monthly and up 25 percent from a year ago. The stickiness of continued depressed slaughter lamb prices supports the notion that increased lamb production is not necessarily all going to restaurants and grocery stores, but into freezers.

A slowdown in imports helps keep supplies current. In the first trimester, lamb imports totaled 79.5 million lbs., down 14 percent year-on-year. Lamb imports from Australia were down 12 percent year-on-year to 59.2 million lbs., and lamb imports from New Zealand were down 21 percent to 19.1 million lbs.

Although many restaurants reopened in June, sales are down and take-out lamb is a relatively new concept. The American Lamb Board reported that the projected loss of American lamb sales in 2020 is 35 to 45 percent, depending upon its severity (7/6/20).

“With the shutdown of dine-in restaurant services, many restaurant operators pivoted to expanded delivery, take out and grocery markets to survive,” ALB reported. “Quick service restaurants – especially burger, chicken and pizza – weathered the storm better than others due to wider availability of off-premise options. Unfortunately, restaurants where lamb is most likely menued (fine dining/casual dining, cruise ships, resorts and hotels, as well as independent restaurants in general) were most impacted.”


Feeder and Slaughter Lamb Markets Depressed

Slaughter lamb prices in direct trade under “comprehensive information” averaged $214.11 per cwt. in June, up 1 percent for the month and down 29 percent from $301.40 per cwt. a year ago. The live-equivalent price in June was $107.47 per cwt., down from $151.02 per cwt. in June 2019.

Weights had been below a year ago until May and based on weekly data, weights look to be similar to a year ago for June. Federally inspected lamb and mature sheep weights at slaughter averaged 135 lbs., 2 percent higher year-on-year. When weights increase we wonder whether the industry is moving lambs in a timely manner, had really good feeding conditions or both.

The number of lambs on feed in Colorado feedlots was 65,543 head in early July – 88 percent of last year’s volume and 86 percent of July’s five-year average. In the first half of the year, federally inspected lamb and mutton harvest averaged 36,761 head per week, down 6 percent from last year’s January to June weekly harvest rate.

Sixty- to 90-lb. feeder lambs at auction in South Dakota and Texas averaged $165.42 per cwt. in June, down 6 percent monthly and up 2 percent from a year ago.

Slaughter lamb prices at the New Holland, Penn., auction were higher year-on-year in June. Eighty- to 90-lb. lambs averaged $197.21 per cwt., 15 percent higher; 90-100 lb. lambs averaged $181.86 per cwt., up 9 percent; and 100-110 lbs. lambs averaged $171.68 per cwt., up 7 percent from a year ago.


Looking Forward

In the year ending March 19, lamb sales at retail were up 4 percent year-on-year and retail volumes were up 3 percent – a good indicator that lamb demand strengthened during this period. This puts lamb on solid footing to fill in for possible shortages in competing proteins. According to Acosta research, 53 percent of shoppers noticed purchase limits when buying meat; 46 percent noticed out-of-stocks; and 35 percent noticed higher prices (Supermarket News, 5/28/20). Chicken, beef and fish, respectively, were the most popular protein choices to fill freezers.

Higher-priced protein gives lamb – itself a higher-priced protein – a competitive advantage in the meat case, but price is only one factor in a decision to choose lamb. According to Supermarket News, an educated consumer is your target protein buyer because health, wellness and sustainability issues played a bigger role in meat and seafood purchases in 2019. Even in this time of economic stress, lamb education is a must.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center forecasted on June 10 that the lamb industry will continue to keep pace with slaughter and production, and will manage COVID-19 by putting product in storage. In 2020, slaughter and production is forecasted to be down only 1 percent and imports up 5 percent year-on-year, supporting a 2-percent higher level of total disappearance, or consumption. However, live lamb prices are not expected to rebound fully by year’s end.

In the third quarter, slaughter is expected to reach 3-percent higher than a year ago, and production up 7 percent year-on-year. Slaughter lamb prices are expected to see a lift, yet still sharply lower than a year ago. The national direct lambs are forecasted at $235 to $240 per cwt. on a carcass basis in the third quarter, down 20 percent year-on-year. The live-equivalent forecast is about $118 to $120 per cwt. Sixty- to 90-lb. feeders could range $150 to $155 per cwt., down 8 percent year-on-year.

For the year, LMIC forecasted on June 10 that slaughter lambs could be down 15 percent year-on-year and feeders down 2 percent.


Loin Puts Lamb in the Spotlight

In June, the wholesale composite remained monthly unchanged, but the loin saw a welcome lift as consumers remained at home and “grilled out.” The loin chop is a popular backyard grilling choice and likely saw a Memorial Day and Father’s Day bump, buoyed by safer-at-home recommendations in some regions. The American lamb industry is challenged to pivot from its popular foodservice accounts to increased grocery sales, and this might be the start of a trend. In many parts of the country grilling season can extend through the fall.

The wholesale composite value averaged $412.29 per cwt. in June, up 0.4 percent monthly, and up 5 percent year-on-year. The 8-rib rack, medium, averaged $832.05 per cwt. in June, down 3 percent monthly. The shoulder, square-cut, averaged $329.56 per cwt., down 1 percent monthly. The loin, trimmed 4×4, saw $549.65 per cwt. in June, up 15 percent monthly. The leg, trotter-off, averaged $378.89 per cwt., down 2 percent monthly.

Among lamb primals, the rack and leg softened in June, below year ago levels while the shoulder and loin remained higher year-on-year.
Ground lamb averaged $513.10 per cwt. in June, down 9 percent monthly and down 10 percent year-on-year.

The American lambskin market was already struggling pre-COVID, and the pandemic has further depressed the market. The unshorn supreme price ranged from -$3.00 to $0.50 per piece in June – 208 percent lower year-on-year. Meat & Livestock Australia explained that the Australian lambskin pelt market is also depressed.

“Offshore markets are unlikely to facilitate an uptick in prices in the short term, with buying activity remaining low and restrictions still in place,” (M&LA, 6/1/20).


Wool Loses 40 Percent of Value in One Year

The American wool market was relatively active until mid-June when it slowed considerably. Although prices were down an average 46 percent, many wool growers sold wool shorn this spring, as well as held over from last year.

The American wool market saw some relief in June as wool prices on a clean basis gained, but were still severely depressed compared to last spring. Across all microns reported, prices were up 6 percent monthly and down 46 percent year-on-year. Eighteen micron fine wool averaged $3.64 per lb. clean in June, up 10 percent monthly and down 44 percent year-on-year. Twenty-one micron averaged $3.19 per lb. clean, up 3 percent monthly and down 44 percent year-on-year. Twenty-five micron averaged $1.61 per lb. clean, up 19 percent compared to May and down 55 percent year-on-year. In general, finer wools saw more movement compared to coarser wools.

With more than 60 percent of American wool exported, the virus has all but halted foreign trade. Reportedly, domestic buyers for export accounts were in the market this spring, although export sales were down 41 percent in the first seven months of the October-to-September marketing year. This spring more domestic interest was evident as well as interest from relatively new export markets including Bangladesh and South Africa.

The price gap between Australian and American wool has narrowed. Fifteen years ago, American wools would typically bring 60 to 75 percent of Australian wools, but currently can bring anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of Australian wool prices due to improved clip quality and wool preparation. In June, finer American wools remained relatively competitive with Australian wools, however, coarser micron wools didn’t fare as well. This June, 18 and 19 micron wools averaged 77 percent of Australian wool; 20 micron was 81 percent; and 26 micron was 56 percent.
In the week ending July 8, the Australian Eastern Market Indicator averaged Australian 1,134 cents per kg clean, or U.S. $3.56 per lb. clean. Demand was enhanced by the need to fill orders before Australia’s three-week annual recess in July.

“Any wool required for export orders during that time, needed to be purchased this week, pushing demand higher, as exporters fought hard over the wool on offer,” (AWEX, 7/8/20).

In June, the EMI averaged Australian $1,151 cents per kg clean, down 2 percent monthly and down 36 percent year-on-year. In U.S. dollars, the EMI averaged $3.61 per lb. clean in June, up 3 percent monthly and down 36 percent year-on-year.

NSW Farmers Association James Jackson commented that first the U.S.-China trade war and now COVID-19 are devastating international wool markets.

“You don’t go out buying suits and high-end clothing in this situation,” Jackson said. “A lot of the shops are shut and the wool market has certainly collapsed,” (ABC Rural News, 6/26/20).

American wool growers are encouraged to take advantage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture nonrecourse marketing assistance loans and loan deficiency payments for wool and lambskins. Growers marketing graded and ungraded wool are eligible. The programs aim to help sheep producers manage risk in inherently volatile agricultural markets. The ASI website link with LDP information is

All sheep producers are also encouraged to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payment. Information can be found at

Brad Boner Selected for Wyoming Ag Hall of Fame

Wyoming Livestock Roundup Managing Editor

Brad Boner’s involvement in agriculture goes far beyond production. In fact, his dedication to and passion for the industry are evident through his active involvement in both the cattle and sheep industries on local, state and national levels.

Boner runs a ranch outside of Glenrock, Wyo., and was chosen as one of two Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame 2020 inductees.


Commitment to Wyoming agriculture

Boner has served as a leader to Wyoming’s agriculture industry in many ways, most recently as ASI secretary/treasurer. In the past, he also served as Wyoming Wool Growers Association president, Wyoming Angus Association president, ASI regional director for Region VII, ASI Wool Council chairman and Mountain States Lamb Cooperative chairman.

Boner has also been a member of ASI Let’s Grow Committee, ASI Lamb Council, Wyoming Animal Damage Control Board, Converse County Conservation District and Mountain States Rosen.

“Brad has a deep understanding of the value agriculture has to his community, the state of Wyoming and this nation. He is a mentor to many and an outstanding leader on a variety of important issues affecting Wyoming’s agriculture industry,” said WWGA President Vance Broadbent.

Peter John Camino, former WWGA president and Johnson County sheep producer, commented, “Brad is intelligent, innovative and his dedication to agriculture is unmatched by anyone. He has worked diligently to solidify a future not only for himself, but the future generations to follow. Brad believes there is a bright future for the industry, and it is possible, in part, by his hard work and dedication.”


Emphasis on the sheep industry

Although Boner raises both cattle and sheep and despite his active involvement in both industries, he seems to have had a greater impact on the sheep industry.

“Brad is one of our industry’s foremost leaders, serving in many capacities to the benefit of Wyoming’s sheep ranching community,” Broadbent said. “He has been an articulate spokesman on numerous issues, but he has had the greatest impact on moving our industry forward in times of need.

“Of importance to our organization is Brad’s never-ending willingness to continually speak out on behalf of the domestic sheep industry to ensure the sustainability of the sheep industry in Wyoming. He provides a needed perspective on numerous issues facing our producers.”


Creating a co-op

One of Boner’s most noteworthy accomplishments is his active role in creating MSLC.

In fact, Brad served as co-chair in starting the co-op and served as MSLC’s first chairman when it was up and running.

“Brad, along with several other producers, dedicated not only hours, days, weeks or months, but years to develop a cooperative that would allow them to produce, market and sell their products,” said Camino. “Brad was one of the main contributors to the formation of MSLC, which in my opinion saved the operations of many producers, including my own.”

“The establishment of MSLC and Brad’s role in developing it ensured a thriving sheep industry in Wyoming to continue,” stated Broadbent.
“He is again serving as chairman of MSLC and dedicates a tremendous amount of time to help the co-op. He truly gives back to the industries that represent his livelihood,” added Frank Moore, Boner’s business partner of 17 years.


Community involvement

In addition to his involvement in Wyoming’s agriculture industry, Boner has also been active in his local community through the years.

An avid basketball player and fan, Boner has refereed basketball for more than 30 years, starting with college intermural basketball, then both middle school and junior varsity high school games in his hometown of Glenrock.

“College basketball is his favorite sport and to this day he stays in referee mode, calling fouls and bad or missed calls when attending a game from his seat or in front of the TV,” said Moore. “Brad is an exceptional choice for the Ag Hall of Fame, as his actions, both in business and as a volunteer, clearly reflect his ag roots, his good ethics and his love for the state of Wyoming and its agriculture industry.”

Sheep Center Accepting Grant Applications

The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center announced in late June that it is accepting grant proposals through Sept. 15. The grants must be designed to improve the American sheep industry.

The sheep center has budgeted about $300,000 to support projects consistent with the grant program. The average grant amount in the last four years has been about $29,000. Financial assistance provided by the sheep center must accomplish one or more of the following objectives:

1. Strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products in the United States through the improvement of infrastructure, business, resource development and the development of innovative approaches to solve long-term problems.

2. Provide leadership training and education to industry stakeholders.

3. Enhance sheep and sheep products in the United States through assistance to all segments of the industry to address sustainable production and marketing of sheep and sheep products.

4. Promote the marketing of sheep and sheep products through an organized method that can measure tangible results.

5. Enhance the sheep industry by coordinating information exchange and by seeking mutual understanding and marketing within the industry.

The sheep center will review each proposal, recommend funding and submit final recommendations to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service for approval. The center was established as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and was awarded funding by AMS to be used for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.

For more information on applying for a grant, contact Program Manager Steve Lee at 207-236-6567 or, or send mail to National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, 1578 Spring Water Way, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129.

The Price of Color for American Wool Growers

ASI Wool Production & Specialty Market Consultant

Every year, wool growers have the choice to sell their wool or hold onto it with hopes of better prices in the future. Unlike most agricultural items, wool can be held for years, but what happens to the color of wool as it ages and will color changes affect the price received later?

The short answer is yes, wool will become more yellow and lose brightness as it sits in storage. However, the rate at which it yellows varies, and how it is stored can affect its value. Additionally, wool can show discoloration while on the animal, even before being shorn and stored. The big concern is whether the discoloration of wool can be scoured-out, or if the color will be permanent.

The color of wool plays an important role in quality and price, particularly when the color is unscourable. When wool remains off-white or yellow after scouring, it limits that wool’s potential to be dyed, particularly in pastel colors or when trying to match colors for large lots, thus, limiting its potential end uses.

While being stored after shearing, wool will change color. Ladd Hughes, general manger at Bollman Industries scouring plant in San Angelo, Texas, sees more yellowing in wools put-up in humid areas, although all wools will yellow and lose brightness with time.

“If you went and looked at last year’s wool and thought, ‘That’s pretty good wool,’ then went and looked at this year’s wool, you would see that it’s whiter.”

Diego Paullier at Chargeurs Wool usually finds that, “One year should not be a problem for color. After that, you start losing whiteness and brightness.”

Storage conditions will affect color changes in wool. Wool that was packed in higher humidity or wool being stored in high temperatures and high humidity is likely to become more yellow, in addition to being susceptible to other issues such as moths. Properly packing and storing in a covered, dry (from above and below) area is key.

Permanent discoloration can also be created while the wool is growing on the sheep. Canary stain is created by bacteria in hot, humid conditions and results in permanent yellowing. Fleece rot – also known as yellow banding – water stain and cakey yolk can occur on susceptible sheep in prolonged wet periods, and create a hard, brittle band and unscourable color in the wool. Shear in the spring and early summer before temperatures rise, and separate these fleeces from the main clip.

Pen or shed stain results in an off-color and comes from urine and feces on the wool. Proper management and a clean environment help control waste. Skirting fleeces from tags can also be advantageous. Applied materials, such as branding paint, can also cause permanent discoloration and should be used properly and only as much as needed.

It is also important to note that the color of wool in the grease is a poor indicator of the clean, scoured color. So, if a buyer is evaluating wool without a core test with color results, they may not know how white the wool truly is, and will likely take the safe option and assume an off-white color when clean, ending with a price discount for the grower. That’s one reason why last year’s wool can bring a slightly lower price than this year’s wool. So, if you choose to hold your clip over for another year or more, realize the market must come up substantially to overcome potential loss in color and quality.

Idaho Hosts 99th Ram Sale

The auction didn’t start until the next day, but there was a lot of Friday night math going on at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds in Filer, Idaho, the second weekend of July. Counting and recounting happened time and again before Idaho Wool Growers Association President John Noh made an executive decision: they were going to run out of lamb for the barbecue.

More than 100 buyers, sellers and family members were served that night, but some got steak purchased from the local grocery store instead of the lamb supplied by Superior Farms. While it’s never fun to run out of food at an event of this nature, Noh was happy to see the crowd exceeded all expectations. In the roughest year the sheep industry has seen in nearly a decade, organizers weren’t quite sure what to expect at the 99th annual Idaho Ram Sale.

One thing was certain that night, everyone was happy to have some place to be for a change after months of semi-forced hibernation and seclusion.

“I think prices are better when buyers can get their hands on the animals and see them in person,” Noh said of the decision to move forward with a live sale at a time when many livestock auctions have taken place online. “It was important for us to have a live sale because a lot of our members are older, and not so inclined to buy things online. It is important to see the animals. And it was important for the industry in our state to come together and support the great families that have raised these rams.”

As expected, prices weren’t great as 72 pens (179 rams) sold for anywhere from $100 to $700 apiece. Generally, the sale offered Columbia, Rambouillet and Suffolks, as well as crosses of these breeds. In a state dominated by range flock operations, the availability of rams in these breeds is crucial.

“People still like to kick the tires,” said seedstock producer Mike Duff of Duff Land and Livestock in Blackfoot, Idaho. “They like to walk around and lay their hands on the sheep and look at them in person. That’s just human nature. Video and pictures are great, but sometimes they don’t do the sheep justice.”

Duff sells rams in bulk mostly through private treaty, but also still sees value in bringing sheep to the sales throughout the West. He took part in California’s online sale in the spring, and knows that there’s a place for both live and online sales.

“California was a unique experience,” he said. “It was kind of a mixed bag, but it taught us that we can modernize in the sheep industry and live to tell about it. So, we look forward as a company to implementing some new marketing techniques in the seedstock industry. I think Wyoming is planning to be a mix of live and online, so it’s nice to know that we have an opportunity to market our rams nationally instead of just regionally at a sale like that.”

As is the case in several states, the Idaho sale is a significant fundraiser for the Idaho Wool Growers Association, and that alone is a great reason for seedstock producers to bring rams and participate.

“Every ram I have is pretty much sold before it hits the ground,” Duff said. “But, we need to continue to support the association and all the great things that it does for the sheep producers in this state. This sale has been around for almost 100 years, and I want to do what I can to make sure it will still be here in another 100 years.

“Unfortunately, our genetics are worth more than we’re getting for them here today. There’s just lots of uncertainty right now.”
Regardless, buyers and sellers both were happy to be a part of the sale.

“We have more rams this year than we’ve had the last few years,” Noh said. “Turnout for the barbecue last night was phenomenal — too good in fact since we ran out of lamb. Even in a down year like this, there was a lot of optimism at the dinner last night and in the conversations I’ve had today as we get ready to start the sale.”

Several seedstock producers felt like they were offering some of their best rams ever in the sale.

“For these purebred producers, this is shipping day, just like the range guys have in the fall,” Noh said. “And we need to do everything we can to support them on this important day.”

Eastern Idaho’s Joel Teuscher has attended the sale for more years than most of the current seedstock producers, and felt like the 2020 sale was tough, but consistent.

“Only Mike Wilder has been here selling rams longer than I have,” Teuscher said. “I think our rams looked pretty good this year. We’d always like to get a little more money for them. We’re just happy to be here.

“We need to have a sale like this to give people a chance to buy the rams that they need. It was a tough year for the sale, but it’s been a tough year for everything.”

Texas A&M’s Jake Thorne Wins SHF Scholarship

A California native living in Texas plans to put the 2020 Sheep Heritage Foundation Scholarship to use in Idaho. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Associate Jake Thorne was selected for the $3,000 scholarship, and will spend the money working toward a Ph.D. remotely through the University of Idaho.

“I’m just incredibly thankful for this scholarship,” Thorne said. “Cost is always a big concern when continuing your education, so this scholarship is much appreciated.”

Raised on a sheep operation in California, Thorne relocated to Texas to compete with Texas A&M’s livestock judging team in 2008. He earned a bachelors degree two years later and went right to work on his masters degree, which he finished in 2013.

“When I finished my masters, I thought I was done with school at that point,” said Thorne, who got married in 2015 and welcomed a daughter to the family in 2018. “I was definitely kind of tired of school and needed a break. But then I got involved here at San Angelo, and that sparked my interest. We have both research and extension here, and I was working on both sides. There are definitely some challenges and benefits of going to school while working and having a family. But my family is a source of motivation for me to work hard.”

Even before his masters degree was finished, Thorne accepted a position as a research associate and farm manager for Texas A&M AgriLife in San Angelo, Texas. He served in that role for six years before moving to the extension side of the operation in January 2019. He continues to serve in that role while pursuing his doctorate.

As for working with the University of Idaho, Thorne said he was excited about the university’s Flock54 Program and contacted Dr. Brenda Murdoch at Idaho about joining her team.

“I believe that investing in Jake’s education would be a great benefit to the American sheep industry as he has a unique understanding of both commercial production and scientific research,” Dr. Murdoch wrote in Thorne’s recommendation letter. “His training in molecular genetics throughout his Ph.D. program has provided him with the ability to offer perspective as both a producer and an academic, and I believe Jake will be able to use these tools to be a leader amongst his industry peers into the future.

“Jake joined my program in the spring of 2019 and has been involved in a number of our research projects. He has been active in trialing the Flock54 genomic marker panel, which I coordinated the development of, as it has become available to the sheep industry. Through grant-funded projects he has coordinated in Texas, Jake led the efforts to genotype over 2,000 sheep with Flock54 and produce parentage reports for the producers from these datasets.”

Working remotely hasn’t been a problem so far. And this year has certainly proven to the masses that video conferencing can go a long way to bring people together in a work environment.

“There are some issues that can come up when you’re 1,500 miles away from your fellow lab mates, but it hasn’t been a problem,” Jake said. “I also try to get to the campus at least once a semester.”

Thorne was one of several scholarship candidates in 2020 who has life-long ties to the American sheep industry.

“I’m a sheep guy and I’m passionate about this industry,” he said. “I think there are some industry problems that we can continue working on. There are so many production issues that I know we can solve with a little time and hard work. Parasites and reproduction are huge issues in the sheep industry here in Texas. I want to be a part of the leadership, a part of that core group in the industry that is working to solve these problems.”

USSES Filling Geneticist, Rangeland Positions

A little more than a year after finally making its way off the closure list, the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, is headed in the right direction and hoping to get back to full strength thanks to receiving Agricultural Research Service permission to hire two long vacant positions: a sheep geneticist and a rangeland management specialist.

First up is the geneticist position, which USSES Supervisory Research Animal Scientist J. Bret Taylor hopes to have offered to the best candidate by mid-August.

ASI Vice President Susan Shultz joined Taylor, as well as representatives from academia and research on the selection committee for the geneticist position. Taylor felt it was important for the sheep industry as a whole to be represented on the selection committee because the new geneticist will work with all facets of the industry in some capacity.

Fortunately, the new hire won’t be starting from scratch at the century-old institution.

“Even though we’ve been without a geneticist, we haven’t slowed our genetics program during that time. Through the years of this vacancy, we have worked closely with Dr. Dave Notter (Virginia Tech), who has led most of the inter-cooperation and genetics work. As of late, we have Dr. Tom Murphy at USMARC (U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.) becoming a major player in the integrated work between the USSES and USMARC. And Dr. Ron Lewis, the NSIP (National Sheep Improvement Program) technical committee advisor, has been involved, as well.

“When you look at how these individuals have been involved over time, one goal we’ve been working toward is No. 1: we’ve developed a new breed. And we are at the point that a newly hired geneticist will join with Dr. Notter in getting that breed released to the public in the next few years. Also, at the request of producers, ASI and breed associations, we’ve added our Polypay, Targhee and Rambouillet data to NSIP. Currently led by Dr. Murphy, is the linking of USSES and USMARC Polypay and Suffolk flocks, which will help evaluate genetic and environmental interactions. Dr. Lewis and his team have been investigating how we can use crossbred lamb and ewe data to calculate adjustment factors in order to compare estimated breeding values of individuals from different breeds.

“We need a geneticist here to continue working on these current projects with our cooperators. Our research here must compliment and assist NSIP with increasing the accuracy of EBVs and evaluating new lamb, wool and health traits for future inclusion in the program. That’s imperative. We feel that NSIP and quantifiable indicators of genetic merit for economically important traits are critical toward industry advancement and success. And that’s why it was so important that the USSES added its Targhee, Rambouillet and Polypay records to the NSIP database in recent years.

“We’re a huge supporter of NSIP,” Taylor said. “And it’s important from an NSIP standpoint that we efficiently, effectively and responsibly manage our phenotypic data in a way that allows us to predict and estimate what our best animals can do toward meeting consumer demands. From that foundation, we can work with our collaborators to begin evaluating the role of genomic technologies for use in selection of phenotypic traits that are important for the industry. Genomic technologies can be used to identify major genes associated with performance but can also be incorporated into the calculation of EBV and result in improved accuracy.

“It will be important for our new geneticist to cooperate with leading sheep geneticists such as Dr. Murphy and Dr. Brad Freking at USMARC and Dr. Lewis at the University of Nebraska. Our joint research with USDA and industry sheep flocks must always result in improved accuracy and precision of both quantitative and molecular genetic tools. We need to know that these estimates and tools are actually predicting what we say they are predicting. So if a producer wants to increase weaning weight or loin muscle depth, she or he can confidently identify the right animal to make that possible. The producer needs to know that when she or he buys a ram with a favorable EBV that indeed that ram’s offspring will perform accordingly.

“Also, this geneticist will continue to do what all geneticists have done here since 1916 and be the curator of a 100-year phenotypic genetic database. The value of that is being proven right now by our contribution to NSIP.

“Before NSIP and LAMBPLAN, USDA and university geneticists were calculating estimated breeding values for their own research flocks,” Taylor said. “But NSIP offers a much greater opportunity. It is a shared genetics database that allows scientists and producers to participate together, in real time to advance the American sheep industry forward in a way that satisfies the customer. And, that’s the goal. Satisfied customers come back and buy again.

“The whole idea in moving our USDA flocks to NSIP was to contribute data that was relevant for producers. One way relevancy is created is by linking our Polypay flock with other Polypay flocks, linking our Targhee flock with other Targhee flocks, and linking our Rambouillet flock with other Rambouillet flocks. We have purchased a number of NSIP rams from the industry and bred them to our ewes. Now our genetics are linked to the industry.”

Much like the geneticist, the rangeland management position hasn’t changed much in the station’s history.

“The USSES’s mission all along has been to maintain or restore resilient, productive, native rangeland ecosystems. It’s the same now as when we started with rangeland management here in 1924,” Taylor said. “People hear that mission and say, ‘You’ve got to get a new mission.’ But I disagree. What was important in 1924 is even more important today. Land managers need tools and solutions that enable them to maintain or restore rangelands toward being resistant to catastrophic wildfire and invasive weeds, providing habitat for native wildlife, and providing abundant and nutritious forages for sheep and other livestock. Which, by the way, livestock grazing is a critical component of our nation’s food security infrastructure. It is important that our rangelands remain stable, and stable basically means healthy, sustainable and productive. This has always been our goal because it’s essential.”

The position should be advertised in August or September and hired thereafter. Grazing research will certainly be a key assignment for whoever fills the role.

“We need to develop experiments that help us maintain a multi-use landscape,” Taylor said. “We’ve been working with the Bureau of Land Management on exploring post-treatment management strategies of shrublands. We’re able to use our models to help BLM estimate what the landscape will look like in five, 10, 15 years after a proposed treatment strategy. BLM can then present this information to the general public so the public can see that based on science – from us, other ARS labs and universities – what the probable outcome will be for proposed management plans.”

“Many of these public lands that we’re talking about are currently used for sheep grazing. So, this work is very relevant to the sheep industry.”

Start with BCS for Better Breeding Results

It’s easy to overlook ewe body condition score during the summer months. Your ewes have what they need to be self-sufficient until it’s time to turn the bucks out again: fresh air, plenty of pasture, water and likely access to a free-choice mineral supplement.

But breeding season is just around the corner. It’s time to give ewes more than a passing glance to make sure they are in good condition for successful pregnancies.



Use a BCS chart to assess your flock’s condition. Depending on flock size, it might not be practical to check the condition of all ewes. In that case, score approximately 10 to 20 percent of ewes to get an estimate of the flock’s condition.

At 45 to 60 days before the beginning of the breeding season, ewe BCS should be 2.5 to 3.0 for optimal breeding and conception results. Maintaining body condition scores, or improving those for thin ewes, during the first 90 days of pregnancy helps promote embryo survival.

Too-thin ewes (1.5 BCS or below) might not only be weaker and more susceptible to disease, but they also typically take longer to conceive during breeding season. That’s because under-conditioned ewes might skip heat cycles until they get back to ideal weight.

This hit to fertility is important because ewes not bred on the first cycle or two could result in a delayed, late lambing. The delay is costly in terms of lamb gain – the lambs will have fewer days to put on weight. Lamb crop percentage marketed also decreases since fewer lambs will be ready to sell at weaning.

Over-conditioned ewes (4.5 BCS or above) are also not reproductively or financially efficient. These females tend to take longer to breed, leading to delayed lambing and reduced lamb gain.



To hit a target BCS of 2.5 to 3.0, consider adding a supplemental fat and protein source. Supplemental fat can help maintain condition and is especially important if ewes trend toward the thin side. Fat has 2.5 times more energy than a carbohydrate such as corn, making it the most efficient way to add energy into a diet.

Here are two tips to improve supplement consumption, depending on your BCS objective:

• To increase consumption, place supplemental fat and protein sources in loafing areas or areas where ewes bed down at night so they are easily accessible.

• To decrease consumption, move tubs away from water sources and loafing areas. Position tubs farther out on pasture where sheep must move to get them.

Ideally, supplements should be offered year-round to maintain BCS through every season. It’s especially important to provide supplemental fat when forage nutrient values are declining through late summer, fall and winter.



Supplemental fat and protein are important beyond the breeding season, offering benefits during gestation and beyond. Supplementation is critical as ewes enter the third trimester, when 75 percent of fetal growth occurs. If the ewe can’t get enough energy into her system during this timeframe, she can lose condition since the fetus is taking many of the nutrients.

As a ewe gets later into gestation, her rumen competes for space with the growing lambs. An energy-dense supplement provides the nutrition the ewe needs in a smaller package, allowing her plenty of space for both the rumen and lambs.

Once lambs are born, maternal nutrition remains important. A higher level of dietary fat can influence milk fat content. In turn, higher milk fat helps lambs get a better start with extra energy for rapid and efficient lamb growth.



Look at the big picture when it comes to optimizing ewe nutrition. Start today by zeroing in on ewe BCS to ensure your flock is ready for the breeding season. And keep in mind, your entire program benefits when you focus on properly managing supplemental fat and protein throughout the year.

Visit to learn more. Clay Elliott, Ph.D., is a small ruminant technical specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. Contact him at

Around the States


American sheep producers had collected nearly $30 million in payments from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program according to numbers released on July 13 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Payments for lambs and yearlings accounted for more than 91 percent ($27,203,214.61) of money paid to the American sheep industry. Producers also benefitted from wool payments – $1,492,787.65 for non-graded wool and $974,236.10 for graded wool.

“America’s sheep producers are struggling just like everyone else during this difficult time for our country,” said ASI President Benny Cox. “We thank the Trump Administration, Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for not only recognizing those struggles, but for taking action to assist the industry financially.”

ASI played a key role in showing losses and projected damage – $125 million at the farm gate – within the sheep industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That information was part of the decision-making process as USDA worked to develop this vital assistance program.

And ASI continues to reach out to USDA and congressional supporters to address additional losses within the industry – specifically coverage for replacement and cull ewes. USDA announced in early July the addition of a handful of specialty crops not covered in the original program announcement, and it was expected to do the same for livestock in the near future.

As of July 13, the CFAP program had approved 409,423 applications and paid out $5.87 billion to American agricultural producers. Livestock accounted for just more than 50 percent of all CFAP payments at $2.97 billion.

USDA releases updated data on CFAP payments each Monday at



Entries for the Michigan State Fair Sheep Shearing Contest are due in by Aug. 15, and the contest will take place on Sept. 3, beginning at 5 p.m. local time at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich.

The contest is sponsored by the Michigan Sheep Producers Association and Caryl Livestock. The entry fee is $40 ($45 after the deadline) and should be sent to Sy Caryl, 516 N. Davison Street, Davison, Mich., 48423 by Aug. 15.

International shearing contest rules will apply. Shearing machines will be furnished, but shearers may use their own handpieces. Eight places will be paid in three divisions: professional, intermediate and junior. The first-place prize is as follows: $1,000 for professional, $500 for intermediate and $250 for junior.

The objective of the contest is to provide sheep shearers the opportunity to demonstrate their shearing skills in competition, to encourage the use of improved shearing techniques and to promote the quality of wool for market.



The 83rd South Dakota Sheep Growers Annual Convention is set for Sept. 25-26 in Spearfish, S.D.

The weekend will kick off with an industry bus tour on Friday, Sept. 25, with convention meetings the following day at the Holiday Inn Spearfish Convention Center.


Robert William “Woody” Woodbury, 1929-2020

It is with profound sadness that his family announced the passing of Robert William “Woody” Woodbury on June 12, 2020.

Born in Beverly Farms, Mass., on July 1, 1929, and raised during the Great Depression, he was the kid who had nothing, surrounded by those who had everything. Those difficult circumstances taught him the value of a dollar, the virtue of humility, the meaning of hard work.

After graduating from Beverly High School, he was accepted to Middlebury College where he studied political science and played second base on the varsity baseball team. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and paid his way through college by working as a ‘hasher’ at his own fraternity.

After graduating in 1952, he went to work in Boston for Nichols and Co. and became a specialist in the analysis and purchasing of wool for the textile trade. Shortly thereafter, he married the love of his life, Joan, on Aug. 27, 1955.

He was the first to raise his hand when the opportunity came to move out west as a wool buyer. In 1959, he moved his family to Broomfield, Colo. In 1970, he left Nichols and Co. and started his own firm, Woodbury, Heins & Draper. He spent the next 58 years, traveling throughout the western United States buying and selling tremendous amounts of wool & lambs until finally retiring from the trade in 2016.

The National Lamb Feeders Association, the Colorado Wool Growers Association and the American Sheep Producer Council have all honored him for his expertise, years of service and contributions to the industry. His upbringing, and his desire to create a better life for his family, coupled with a true love for what he did, was what drove him. After his retirement, he often regretted working as long as he did. He didn’t need to, he simply loved what he did.

He was a man of deep faith, and a member of the Nativity of Our Lord Parish. He rarely missed mass, and until he no longer could, knelt at the side of his bed and said his prayers. He relished time spent with family and celebrated the accomplishments and life events of each and every one of them.

He leaves behind his loyal and loving wife of 65 years, Joan, his adoring children, Ann Rollert (Hank), Tucker Woodbury (Trina) Polly Drake along with his grandchildren, Elizabeth Filbert (Barney), Casey Drake, Chip Rollert, Abby Drake, Caroline Rollert, Jacob Woodbury and Milly Woodbury and two great grandchildren.

He was proceeded in death by his father, Jacob Woodbury, mother, Doris Witherell, his aunt, Bess Woodbury, who helped raise him, Moxie our pet Magpie, Lassie, Scarlet, Pushkin, Black Kitty and a loft full of homing pigeons.

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