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Hard to Predict Lamb Market Has Rebounded

Benny Cox, ASI President

There is one thing that is for certain, and that is we are surrounded by things that are ever changing. In my line of work, I am always being asked what is this market going to do? After 52 years, I have stuck to what a very successful business man told me, “It is sometimes hard to not answer that question, but it is wise to not go out on that limb.”

My response is generally what the market was the previous sale and, many times, what trends we have seen in that past time frame. Since the middle of March, we have seen the markets go from great to devastating – in some instances – and to our surprise in the sheep market back to better than was expected.

We are now challenged with somewhat of a shortage of fat lambs around the country that go to the major packers and that market has improved extremely well. It is hard to figure where the next surprise might come from. Canadian firms are said to have purchased more than 20,000 lambs this fall, which might have played a roll in our recovery along with added lamb retail purchases at the store shelves. The lamb import numbers from Australia and New Zealand have fallen off, as well.

Not everyone has knowledge of freezer inventories, but they play an important part in market trends. Cold storage statistics for September reported total red meat down 13.2 percent. The last time red meat reached such a low level was September of 2011. Lamb and mutton decreased 26.4 percent as lower slaughter levels from plant closures in August reduced available supplies.

Back here in Texas, we have been blessed with a strong ethnic market most all spring, summer and fall. A large majority of the wooled feeder lambs have not gone to the commercial feeders or the traditional system, as they generally do, and instead have gone to the ethnic buyers. We have seen the feeder lambs in the Western and Northwestern states improve a lot since they started to market them this fall. Many producers are selling their lambs a good deal higher than they did last year.

I sat down with Jay Hasbrouck in November at the old Ranchers Lamb Plant just outside of San Angelo, Texas. Jay and his son, Jeff, were aiming for a Dec. 1 startup. Jay was not so optimistic about that, but they are moving forward as fast as they can. The new Brush, Colo., plant is operating and working to get up to speed now, and was harvesting between 3,300 and 3,500 a week the last time I was on a conference call with Colorado feeder Mike Harper. Brad Boner reported that the Mountain States Cooperative members that killed and maintained ownership of their fat lambs have moved lots of product the first part of November.

To date, I am happy to report the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments to the sheep industry have exceeded $100 million (including payments from the first and second round of CFAP).

The ASI Annual Convention will be Jan. 28-29, 2021. The officers and staff will meet in Denver with the audiovisual firm to coordinate the virtual convention and two days worth of presentations, panels and speakers. I urge all of you to register and join the topics of most interest to you. I urge each state’s director to the ASI board to be certain to participate in the board meeting on Friday, Jan. 29.

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

Lamb Loin Rallies During COVID-19

Juniper Economic Consulting

The U.S. Department of Agriculture lamb reports paint a rosy picture of the American lamb industry, with a strong rebound in live lamb prices and a record-high wholesale market. However, the market information that we are not receiving suggests a celebration might be premature.

USDA doesn’t report on the volume of lamb that actually sells at foodservice and retail. We do have information on freezer inventory, but it is unknown what volume of lamb is being stored in private freezers and not reported by USDA. Therefore, it is uncertain how widespread the benefits of the hot wholesale market are.

The national lamb carcass cutout averaged $439.53 per cwt. in October – 4-percent higher monthly and 10 percent higher year-on-year – pulled up primarily by the higher loin. The cutout estimated value of a lamb carcass is based on prices paid for individual lamb items in dollars per hundredweight (cwt). The cutout is used by producers, packer/processors and retailer/distributors as “a price barometer for trade negotiations with other parties.”

The loin has found a loyal customer in the stay-close-to-home lamb lover. The loin – as well as its more competitive substitute, the shoulder blade – is a popular grill item and favored during the warmer fall days. The loin, trimmed 4 x 4, averaged $682.86 per cwt. in October, 5 percent higher monthly and 33 percent higher than a year ago. The loin started off 2020 following average seasonal trends, took a nosedive in May – falling 8 percent – before doing an about-face and charging upward. In June, the loin jumped 15 percent, regaining lost ground, and then gained an average 6 percent in each month June to October.

Other primals such as the rack and leg have not performed as well, but the shoulder has seen parallel gains. The shoulder, square-cut, averaged $353.80 per cwt., up 4 percent monthly. The medium, 8-rib rack averaged $830.73 per cwt., up 4 percent monthly in October. The leg, trotter-off, averaged $380.47 per cwt., up 3 percent monthly.

The loin and shoulder were the only two primals to see year-on-year gains. The shoulder was up 8 percent year-on-year. The rack was down 5 percent year-on-year in October and the leg lost 2 percent year-to-year.

The lamb cutout is defined per a 100-lb. carcass. Thus, a lamb cutout value of $300 per cwt. is for a 100-lb. lamb carcass and is thus worth $300. Therefore, given an October cutout of $439.53 per cwt. for a 60-lb. carcass (the average dressed weight in October), its total value is $263.72 per 60 lbs. ($439.53 x 0.60).

AMS deducts a $59 per cwt., processing/packaging cost to arrive at a net carcass value. In October, the net carcass value was $380.53 per cwt., up 4 percent monthly and up 9 percent compared to a year ago. The lamb cutout does not include revenue from either pelts or offal products, and does not account for operating costs.


Slaughter Lamb Prices Strengthened

Slaughter lamb prices saw a slow rally since crashing last spring; however, they have yet to make a full recovery. In October, the Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association reported slaughter lamb prices averaged $149.81 per cwt., down 12 percent from last October for 142- to 144-lb. lambs. In the first week of November, Equity reported slaughter lambs receiving $149.75 per cwt., down 6 percent year-on-year for 145-lb. lambs.

Lambs sold on a formula or grid are no longer reported by AMS due to confidentiality concerns, but it did report live, negotiated slaughter lamb prices in October. In October, live, slaughter lamb prices averaged $169.21 per cwt. for an average 141-lb. lamb. Prices averaged 14 percent higher year-on-year.

It is believed that increased competition for slaughter lambs and lower imports coupled with strong demand at grocery stores is helping to strengthen lamb prices. In September, foodservice and drinking places were down 14 percent in the month year-on-year; however, grocery sales were up 10 percent, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

On Nov. 12, Equity reported a sale of 525 head of lambs out of Wyoming at 78 lbs. for $215.25 per cwt. In October, there was one direct feeder lamb trade reported by USDA. Nearly 2,000 head traded out of Wyoming at $171 per cwt. for 95-lb. lambs. Livestock auctions remain an important source of feeder lambs for the packers. In October, in St. Onge-Newell, S.D., feeder lambs at auction sold for $160 to $243 per cwt. for 45- to 122-lb. lambs. In Billings, Mont., feeders brought $158 to $192 per cwt. for 74- to 131-lb. lambs.

In New Holland, Penn. – the second largest livestock auction – wooled and shorn 90- to 100-lb. lambs brought $217.19 per cwt., up 5 percent monthly. For roughly the same quality lambs, 90- to 100-lb. hair sheep averaged $205.96 per cwt., down 1 percent monthly.

The industry might see some further lift in live lamb prices in preparation for Chanukah and Christmas this month.


Colorado Lamb Processors Open for Business

With the closure of Mountain States Rosen – the nation’s second largest packing plant – and the recent opening of Colorado Lamb Processors and moves for another plant to open in Texas as soon as this month, industry change is afloat. Not only is there likely increased competition among packers, but there is also increased competition from a much smaller, but growing market – the lighter weight lamb market. This market is often characterized by lambs going to market at about 100 lbs. to ethnic markets or local, niche foodservice and grocery outlets. Lighter weight lambs – often hair breeds, such as Katahdin or smaller wool breeds, such as Cheviot – are gaining market share in the United States relative to heavier commercial breeds.

The proportion of lambs processed in state-inspected or custom-exempt slaughter facilities has increased relative to lambs processed in federally inspected facilities. It is hypothesized that the share of lighter weight maturing lambs is also increasing within federally inspected facilities. This is suggested by the lower dressed weights observed in the federally inspected plants. In that last five years, dressed weights have fallen 5 percent from 70 lbs. to 66 lbs. Some of this reduction is due to the fact that the industry has become increasingly current, with market-ready lambs sent to the processing plant.

There is a market for every lamb in America. It is hypothesized that the largest lamb packers/wholesales will increasingly incorporate lighter weight lambs among their accounts. One packer will have many different consumer accounts, each with unique lamb specifications. Increased market segmentation and increased communication from consumer to producer will improve profit centers throughout the industry.


Lamb Slaughter Lower Year-on-Year

In January through October, estimated lamb harvest in federally inspected facilities was 1.5 million head, down 6 percent year-on-year. Lamb production was down an estimated 9 percent year-on-year to 70.8 million lbs. Some of this reduction might be attributed to a lower sheep inventory this year, but also might reflect increased state-inspected lamb processing – particularly in recent months after the closure of Mountain States Rosen. Many producers were forced to scramble to find processing facilities for their lambs this summer and early fall.

In the eight months through August, lamb imports were down 12 percent to 139.7 million lbs. Australia’s imports were down 8 percent to 106.6 million lbs. and New Zealand’s lamb were down 25 percent to 30.9 million lbs.


Investments in Lamb Processing

COVID-19 exposed an impending emergency in the livestock industry: A shortage of regional livestock processing facilities. As the pandemic destroyed many lamb foodservice accounts – shattering robust demand – it became clear that existing processing facilities were insufficient. The industry made do, and disruptions were not as extreme as first feared, but it became clear that the lamb industry needs more processing facilities.

Some states – such as North Carolina and Minnesota – have made recent investments in rural livestock processing. In recent months, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock dedicated $12 million to the Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant program to aid small- and medium-sized meat processors in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.



In early November, LMIC estimated that the fourth quarter could see an uptick of sheep and lamb slaughter to 593,000 head, up 2 percent year-on-year. With heavier dressed weights from a year ago, LMIC also estimated that lamb and mutton production could rally to 37.5 million lbs., up 4 percent year-on-year. However, LMIC anticipates that lower imports will translate to lower per capita consumption in the fourth quarter, down 15 percent year-on-year.

In early November, the number of lambs in Colorado feedlots was 227,548 head, up 2 percent from October, and up 11 percent from November’s five-year average. Imports are lower, but the domestic industry is well situated to meet holiday retail demand and recent COVID-fueled demand.

A second wave of COVID-19 is putting pressure on meat prices as consumer buying sees an uptick driven by concerns of safer-at-home mandates. December retail holiday sales should be solid; however, recall restaurants are harder hit, and facing a slow recovery.


Wool Market Volatility Continues

Market volatility – supply volatility as well as demand volatility – is routine under the shadow of the pandemic.

“Because of the uncertainty in the supply chain and of demand (due to COVID-19) our clients changing their ideas very rapidly this year (switching production from traditional suiting and uniforms to next-to-skin, active wear and casual wear to meet market opportunities), it means our market has been incredibly volatile,” Peter Morris, head of Australian wool exporter PJ Morris Wools, told Farm Weekly.

With a few setbacks, the Australian wool market has been strengthening since early September. In early November, the Australian Eastern Market Indicator averaged Australian 1,188 cents per kg clean, down 24 percent year-on-year.

In U.S. dollars, the EMI averaged U.S. $3.87 per lb., down 20 percent year-on-year.

In October, 240,438 lbs. of clean American wool traded and 58,978 lbs. of greasy wool. The finer microns brought 6 to 10 percent higher prices compared to prices this spring and the broader microns averaged 41-percent higher. Unfortunately, the industry doesn’t have 2019 wool prices available for comparison, but October clean wool prices averaged 34 percent lower than prices reported during the fall of 2018.

American prices of wool in the West, and some Californian wool (Territory States) averaged $3.40 per lb. clean for 20 micron wool, $3.22 per lb. for 21 micron, $2.98 per lb. for 22 micron, $2.56 per lb. for 23 micron, $2.45 per lb. for 25 micron, $2.20 per lb. for 26 micron and 28 micron saw $1.55 per lb. The finer American wools averaged 90 percent of Australia’s EMI.

On a greasy wool basis – wools often shorter than 2 inches – 21 micron averaged $1.28 per lb., 23 micron averaged $1.22 per lb., 25 micron saw $0.88 per lb. and 29 to 30 micron averaged $0.32 per lb. for black-faced wools.

Lightweight Lamb Processing Gains Momentum

Juniper Economic Consulting

In 2010, ASI funded a study that estimated the number of lambs that “fell through the cracks,” in the United States and were not necessarily captured by state and federal slaughter lamb data. ASI updated its 2010 study in 2020 to reveal that the lighter weight lamb market – a sizable share of which was previously not thought to be counted – is increasingly counted, and represents a growing market in this country.

The American lamb industry is dominated by commercial slaughter lambs going to market at about 140 lbs. and heavier, but there is an increasing share of lambs that are processed at about 100 lbs. Most commercial lambs that are processed in the United States are channeled through a federally inspected slaughter facility, which primarily processes heavier lambs.

However, a growing share of lambs are processed in state-inspected facilities, characterized by lighter weight lamb harvest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture collects volume of lambs and live weights at slaughter for both sources of slaughter.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service reports four categories of slaughter lambs: commercial, federally inspected, non-federally inspected and on-farm. Federally inspected slaughter is meat inspection required under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. These facilities employ a federal meat inspector to inspect the livestock on slaughter days, and the meat can be sold.

Non-federally inspected slaughter, as reported by NASS, includes state-inspected slaughter from all states and includes all custom-exempt slaughter from all states. State-inspected slaughter is livestock that is slaughtered and processed and can – with the proper licensing and labeling – be wholesaled or retailed within the state (it may not be sold or shipped outside of state lines).

For example, a livestock owner could sell state-inspected meat at a farmer’s market or to a local restaurant. A custom-exempt slaughter facility is not inspected regularly by federal inspectors, but rather will be inspected by the state departments of agriculture and USDA once or twice a year. The meat and meat products are stamped “not for sale,” and must go back to the owner of the livestock. Commercial slaughter is the sum of FI and NFI slaughter. On-farm slaughter is reported by producers in annual surveys.

The sheep and lamb industry has seen some dynamic structural changes in the last 10 years, which has spurred growth in production of lightweight smaller-framed wool and hair breeds.

The share of NFI harvest – believed to be dominated by lighter weight lambs – in total commercial slaughter expanded in the past 10 years. From 2010 to 2019, FI harvest contracted by an average of 1.3 percent annually. By comparison, the number of head processed in NFI slaughter grew by an average of 5 percent per year. In turn, the share of FI harvest of total commercial slaughter fell from 92 percent to 87 percent from 2010 to 2019.

By contrast, the share of NFI slaughter swelled from 8 percent of commercial slaughter in 2010 to 13 percent in 2019. In January to September 2020, the NFI share expanded further, to 14 percent of commercial slaughter while the FI share fell to 83 percent.

In 2019, for every seven lambs that were processed in an FI plant, one was processed in an NFI plant. By September 2020, the share of state-inspected slaughter had grown: For every five lambs processed in a FI plant, one was harvested in a non-FI plant.

In the early 2000s, NFI slaughter was about 150,000 head, grew to 196,000 head in 2010 and then jumped to 300,000 head in 2019. In January to September 2020, NFI volume totaled 235,300 head. These lambs are primarily sold direct to consumers from producers, but also channeled through the largest lamb auctions in the United States, including Producers Livestock Auction in San Angelo, Texas, and New Holland Sales Stable in New Holland, Penn.

New Holland sells primarily lighter weight lambs, such as hair sheep and smaller-framed wool breeds including Cheviot and Southdown/Babydolls. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service reports large volumes of hair lambs are sold weighing 100 to 115 lbs. By comparison, slaughter lamb wool breeds consistently sell at 100 to 150 lbs.

The distinct differences in average live weight at slaughter between FI and NFI plants illustrates the emergence of two distinct lamb markets in the United States. The live slaughter lamb weight at FI plants was an average 138 lbs. between 2000 and 2019 while the average NFI slaughter weight was 104 lbs.

The increased evidenced of state-inspected slaughter could, in part, reflect a growth in Halal slaughter. It would be interesting to be able to identify changes in the number of state-inspected slaughter operations (increase/decrease) during the 20-year range of the data, and changes in the number of state-inspected plants that are Halal certified. This, however, would only provide anecdotal evidence of an increase in the “more mainstream” Halal market, rather than provide a quantitative measure of market size.

It is also likely that a greater percentage of FI slaughter is currently Halal certified than was the case 10 or 20 years ago. It is forecasted that the traditional, commercial lamb market of heavier weight lambs and the ethnic lamb market will gradually assimilate through time as the largest commercial packers adopt Halal slaughter and the processing of lightweight lambs.

Given the increasing importance of lightweight lamb slaughter in the American lamb market, it is advised that the industry continue to closely monitor federally inspected and state lamb slaughter data – volume and live weights – to improve development of American lamb industry promotional efforts.

The updated nontraditional lamb market study can be found at The first article in this two-part series appeared in the November issue of the Sheep Industry News.

ALB Offers Holiday Lamb Challenge

American Lamb Board

With the success of its inaugural The Lamb Challenge social media campaign, the American Lamb Board announced a Holiday Edition.
ALB crafted the campaign to spark product purchases, give consumers a chance to experiment with lamb cuts and increase their confidence in cooking with American lamb for the holiday season.

“As more meals are being prepared at home, consumers are seeking variety and are more willing to try new recipes. Many consumers are picking up lamb at the grocery store and preparing it at home for the first time,” said Gwen Kitzan, ALB chairman from Newell, S.D.

The Lamb Challenge-Holiday Edition provides a tremendous opportunity to increase lamb sales during the holiday season, which is a time when consumers are even more interested in preparing new recipes that will impress family and friends while creating memories around food.

Throughout this social media campaign, ALB is pushing out recipes and inspiration through a variety of channels. From Thanksgiving replacements to easy cocktail party appetizers to cozy cold weather comfort foods, American lamb will be showcased as a great holiday choice.

The Lamb Challenge-Holiday Edition runs through Dec. 31. To enter, consumers follow @fanoflamb on either Instagram or Facebook, “like” the designated contest posts, and comment with an American lamb recipe they plan to enjoy this holiday season with their loved ones.

One winner will be selected every two weeks and will receive four of ALB’s favorite cookbooks and two racks of American lamb.

Lebanese Taverna Partners with ALB

This fall, in partnership with the American Lamb Board, Lebanese Taverna featured lamb takeout meals at its nine restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area. After nearly four decades in the Capital region, this family-owned company has won the hearts and tastebuds of its customers as a staple in the local region for the best Mediterranean cuisine. The Lamb Family Meal was packaged in an ALB reusable grocery bag and featured braised American lamb with assorted Lebanese Taverna sides.

“This promotion moves takeout to a new sophistication level. Our American product is the centerpiece of this great dine-in quality food that is specially developed for takeout,” said ALB Chairman Gwen Kitzan of Nisland, SD.

The pandemic continues to create havoc in the foodservice industry, which is traditionally American lamb’s largest sales outlet. With takeout being key to the restaurant sector’s current survival, ALB has been working overtime on product options.

For Thanksgiving, Lebanese Taverna restaurants offered a takeout kit featuring an American lamb precooked bone-in leg. In addition, its market locations offered a pre-seasoned leg of American lamb to be prepared at home. These holiday lamb kits were packaged in ALB reusable insulated bags and included recipes and cooking tips.

First Round of CFAP Generates $68.9 Million for Industry

Director of Analytics & Production Programs

Final numbers are trickling in for the first round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments, which put $68.9 million back into the pockets of struggling American sheep producers.

The first round of CFAP provided direct payments to farmers and ranchers to offset COVID-19 related losses for livestock, dairy, specialty crop and non-specialty crop producers. Assistance was provided to those commodities that experienced a 5 percent or greater price decline from Jan. 15 to April 15 due to COVID-19. The CFAP 1 program was funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which provided $9.5 billion in funding for producers impacted by COVID-19-driven market losses and Commodity Credit Corporation funding of $6.5 billion to compensate for losses due to on-going COVID-19 market disruptions.

As of Nov. 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided $10.4 billion in CFAP 1 assistance payments to farmers and ranchers. Livestock payments totaled more than $5 billion or 48 percent of the total financial assistance provided. Non-Specialty Crops accounted for 26 percent for total CFAP 1 assistance followed by Dairy (17 percent), Specialty Crops (8 percent) and Aqua Nursery Flora (1 percent). A total of 651,099 applications were approved for CFAP 1 with funding received by farmers and ranchers located in all 50 states plus five U.S. territories.

For the American sheep industry, CFAP 1 provided direct financial assistance to sheep producers for lambs and yearlings less than 2 years of age, all other sheep greater than two years of age, graded wool and non-graded wool. Sheep greater than 2 years of age became an eligible commodity under CFAP 1 in August in response to data and comments submitted by ASI and industry stakeholders showing a more than 5 percent price decline through the Notice of Funding Availability.

Payments for lambs, yearlings and sheep consisted of a single payment based on the number of animals sold between Jan. 15 and April 15, multiplied by the CARES payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of animals between April 16 and May 14, multiplied by the CCC payment rate per head. Payments for wool were computed based on 50 percent of a producer’s 2019 total production or the 2019 inventory as of Jan. 15, 2020, whichever was smaller.

CFAP 1 payments for lambs and yearlings, sheep and wool totaled $68.9 million. Of the payments made to sheep producers, most of the assistance (72 percent) was for lambs and yearlings less than 2 years of age at $49.8 million in CFAP 1 support. Sheep older than 2 years of age received $14.9 million or 22 percent of assistance made to the sheep industry. CFAP assistance for wool totaled $4.3 million, consisting of $2.7 million for non-graded and $1.6 million for graded. Of CFAP 1 commodities, payments for lambs and yearlings less than 2 years of age ranked 12th among all commodities. If lambs, yearlings and sheep were combined into one category (such as cattle), sheep payments would have ranked 10th.

On a state basis, the majority of total CFAP assistance went to sheep producers in Texas at $8.9 million followed by Colorado at $5.34 million, California at $5.31 million, Utah at $5.2 million and South Dakota at $4.4 million. The top 10 states received $45.1 million or 65 percent of total CFAP payments made to the sheep industry.

Of the payments made for lambs, yearlings and sheep, Texas received the most assistance at $8.7 million, followed by Colorado ($4.89 million), California ($4.86 million), Utah ($4.3 million), and South Dakota ($4.0 million). For lambs, yearlings and sheep assistance, the top 10 states accounted for $41.5 million or 64 percent of the total payments for sheep. These rankings aren’t surprising given these states are also the largest in terms of sheep and lamb numbers.

Utah producers received the most CFAP 1 financial assistance for total wool (graded and non-graded) at $942,722, followed by Colorado at $456,096, California at $449,347, Montana at $380,975 and South Dakota at $359,689. The top 10 states for total wool (graded and non-graded) assistance received $3.7 million or 87 percent of total wool payments. In comparing the top 10 states for graded wool and non-graded wool payments, eight states were listed in the top 10 for both wool categories.

In the payment data, the number of approved applications for each commodity and state are provided. Lambs and yearlings accounted for the majority of approved applications followed by sheep older than 2 years of age, non-graded wool, and graded wool. Based on the data, the ‘payment rate’ per approved application was $11,000 for lambs and yearlings, $4,744 for sheep older than 2 years of age, $2,790 for graded wool and $1,284 for non-graded wool.

Market disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are ongoing. In September, USDA announced a second round of CFAP to provide $14 billion in direct assistance to farmers and ranchers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs due to the pandemic. Enrollment for CFAP 2 began in September and closes on Dec. 11. The current program is broken down into three categories: price trigger commodities, flat-rate commodities, and sales commodities.

For the sheep industry, CFAP 2 assistance is available for eligible producers of lambs and sheep – excluding breeding stock – and wool. Sheep and lambs are categorized as price trigger commodities having suffered a 5 percent or more national price decline in a comparison of the average prices for the week of Jan. 13-17 and July 27-31. Payments are computed based on the highest-owned inventory of eligible lambs and sheep – excluding breeding stock – on a date selected from April 16 through Aug. 31, multiplied by the CCC payment rate of $27 per head. Wool, however, is categorized as a sales commodity with payment calculations based on five payment gradations associated with 2019 sales.

This is an unprecedented time for the American sheep industry. Producers are encouraged to apply for CFAP 2 to help offset ongoing market demand and supply disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For details on how to apply for CFAP 2 visit

American Wool Road Trip

Reverse trade missions – funded by the Foreign Agricultural Service – play an important role in selling American wool to overseas buyers. But with international travel mostly on hold in 2020, ASI needed to develop a different avenue for putting available funds to use in promoting American wool.
And thus, the American Wool Road Trip was born.

A video crew working for the American Wool Council hit the road in a Jayco RV to visit wool warehouses, producers and manufacturers from Texas to Oregon to Ohio. Equipped with the latest in wool fashion and outdoor gear and sporting bumper stickers that included, “Honk if you look good in wool” and “I brake for sheep,” the road trip was a marketing vehicle in itself.

But the main benefit of the trip will be dozens of videos that the crew is producing to market American wool to overseas wool buyers and American consumers.

“Basically, we packed everything an international buyer might see on a reverse trade mission into these videos,” said ASI Deputy Director Rita Samuelson. “Having the crew wear wool and promote some great American wool products all along the trip was a great promotional idea, and that will play a role in videos we are producing that are geared toward consumers.”

ASI would like to thank Bailey Hats, Duckworth, Faribault, Farm to Feet, Holly Lamb Organics and Pendleton for their assistance in the project.

2021 Annual Convention Will Be Virtual

ASI’s 2021 Annual Convention has been moved to an online-only event that is set to run Jan. 28-29 due to social distancing and other concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic that made an in-person convention nearly impossible.

The convention was scheduled for Jan. 27-30 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, but state and local COVID-19 restrictions on social distancing made meeting room capacity an issue. Additionally, safety concerns would have meant some directors would not attend in person, therefore a much more expensive hybrid version of in-person and virtual would have been needed. ASI’s contract with the hotel has been rolled back to the next open convention date in 2024.

While the ASI officers and staff will gather in Denver to present a two-day event during the last week in January, all other attendance at the convention will be virtual. Affiliated groups such as the American Lamb Board and the National Lamb Feeders Association have been advised that the traditional ASI convention will not be available to host their annual meetings. There will be time in the schedule, however, for video updates from each of these affiliated groups.

In addition, there will be no annual awards in 2021, as the executive board felt the virtual format would not allow for a proper celebration of those who have worked so hard to support the industry through one of the most difficult years in its history.

The overall format of the convention will be drastically different from what producers have come to expect in 150-plus years, but some things won’t change. Topics of conversation will still cover emerging trends and issues of the American sheep industry. Plans are in the works for a roundtable discussion on lamb processing during the opening session on Thursday morning. With the closing of the Mountain States Rosen plant and the opening of two new players in the industry in Colorado and Texas, it’s understandable that sheep producers would want to know more about how processing of their lambs might be changing in the months and years ahead.

Rabobank’s Angus Gidley-Baird is expected to serve as the keynote speaker on Thursday afternoon.

“As a senior animal proteins analyst, I cover a large commodity portfolio including beef, sheep meat, pork, poultry and seafood,” Gidley-Baird said. “My role is to sift through data and provide updated market information and insights back to clients to help them make informed business decisions.”

He is a regular public speaker at farmer and industry events and also produces podcasts for the RaboResearch Australia/New Zealand team. He’ll discuss global sheep economics and most likely take questions from the online audience in his presentation, which is set for 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. mountain time on Thursday.

Since this is an election year, the board will also be required to vote on a slate of officer candidates during its business meeting on Friday afternoon.

“We realize that this will be the most drastically different Annual Convention in our industry’s history,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “But we want to encourage those in the industry – producers, as well as those on the lamb and wool sides of the industry – to set aside these two days to take part in the meetings from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”

There will be a minimal registration fee to attend the online convention. Visit for more information.

Meet the Exec. Board: Randy Tunby

For the first time in 25 years, Randy Tunby didn’t have rams for sale at the 2019 Montana Ram Sale. And he surprised everyone with the purchase of Rambouillet rams from John Helle and Rambouillet ewes from the Lehfeldts. A longtime Targhee breeder who raised and sold purebred rams for breeding, Tunby has decided to get away from that side of the industry and instead focus on his commercial flock. It’s the first step in a transition process that will eventually see his son, Zane, take over the family operation.

My son wants to come back to the ranch, eventually. He’s 23 but not quite ready to come back yet. At one point he was wanting me to stay in the purebred side, so I said I would keep it going until he came back. But he had a change of heart seeing all the time and effort that I had to put into it. So we talked about it as a family and decided it would be easier to just have the commercial sheep versus the purebreds. We still sell some of our ewes as breeding stock.

I want to do a little crossbreeding because I think those females will sell really well, and a little hybrid vigor never hurts anybody. Targhee and Rambouillet are pretty complimentary to each other. Just wanted to do a little playing around with a small group of sheep. We’ve had some Rambouillet ewes in the past. My dad and uncle years and years ago, they raised and sold some Columbia bucks at one time. My uncle even tried to do some accelerated lambing with some Polypay crosses. We’re Targhee-based, but not afraid to try some things a little bit. We’ve had sheep my whole life. Always had sheep and cattle, and that diversification has worked well for us.

I hate to say it, but the biggest issues we’ve had all these years is predators, and that’s still the case. In fact, we just brought all the ewes in here to get a little flush on the hay meadows closer to the place and we’ve had a coyote doing some killing on the home section right in sight of the house. I hope that I was able to dispatch the offending party just the other morning. Either way, there’s one less coyote running around now.

I went to Montana State University for four years and got a bachelors degree in animal science production and management. I came home and worked on the ranch during the summers. After college, I was offered a job at a feedlot outside of McCook, Neb. Long story short, my father and uncle were looking at some additional land at that time and made a purchase to expand the places, and that brought me back home. Amanda and I got married in 1991 and moved here to the place where I grew up in the fall of 1993 and shortly after that we setup an agreement to completely lease the place from my mom and dad in 1994 or 95. They were still here and involved, but we were leasing the place as we transitioned over from my parents. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but now we’re looking at transitioning the place to our son. Our daughter, Abigail, 26, also has an interest in the place, but she’s followed in Amanda’s footsteps as a full-time teacher. She’s still active on the ranch, especially in the summers.

The home place where my dad and uncle grew up is a centennial ranch that celebrated 100 years back in 2011. My dad and uncle were in a partnership for a lot of years, but when I came back to the ranch they kind of split that up. We’ve brought the two places back together now and my uncle’s place has some land that is going to be coming out of CRP here in the next few years, and I’m slowly building up our livestock numbers so we can utilize that ground the way that I’d like to. Probably won’t be haying quite as much as we increase livestock numbers.

I had some interest in being on the ASI Executive Board. I’m a longtime member of the Montana Wool Growers and served as their president. I’d been involved with ASI and had served on the Wool Council a couple of times. I was approached and we had a family discussion about it. I enjoy the people and the industry, having been involved for a long time at both the state and national level. It’s a passion for me. Being on the Wool Council, I have a little better understanding of the wool side of the industry. The good quality wools will always have a home. But we need to find a way to make some of those higher micron wools worth a little more money. We know that all wool has uses and is a valuable product that can be used in a lot of things. Somebody’s always experimenting and researching new ways to put wool to use.

The Exec. Board has done some long-range planning, and there were a lot of great ideas that were discussed as part of that. But follow through on that is always difficult. I sure think we need to figure out how to move forward on some of those ideas.

Around the States

Faribault Opens Chicago Store

Faribault Woolen Mill Co. – established in 1865 and maker of handcrafted blankets, decorative throws, apparel and accessories – opened its first-ever Chicago store in the Shops at North Bridge on Nov. 1.

The Faribault Woolen Mill is located in Faribault, Minn., and is one of the longest standing woolen mills in the country, where fifth-generation craftspeople take raw wool through a 22-step process to make blankets, throws, scarves and accessories.

“Our Michigan Avenue store allows us to introduce our premium products to the capital city of the Midwest,” said Paul Grangaard, Chairman & CEO of Faribault Woolen Mill Co. “Chicagoland shoppers are now able to experience the quality of our products in person. We look forward to debuting our entire offering including Chicago-specific merchandise like the iconic city flag blanket and the top-selling city map throw.”

The launch will be supported with a PR and marketing campaign involving partnerships with local restaurants to support outdoor dining this winter. Faribault Woolen Mill Co. is excited to provide the Chicago restaurant community support and solutions as they pivot toward the colder fall and winter months.

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue the work of expanding this heritage brand in a myriad of ways,” said Faribault President and COO Ross Widmoyer. “Our Chicago store expansion is a natural next step that aligns well with our midwestern roots. We look forward to entering the market safely and sustainably, and hope our timeless blankets keep Chicagoans warm for years to come.”

In addition to the Chicago store opening, the company plans to expand its retail footprint in other American cities in 2021.

Source: The Ritz Herald



Keith Wehner of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has been named Director for the Wildlife Services Western Region, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colo.

He will also serve as a member of the management team for the WS program, which provides federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts.

“Wehner’s collaborative nature and professional experiences will suit him well for the western region director position,” said WS Deputy Administrator Janet Bucknall. “He has played a pivotal role in advancing WS priorities related to livestock protection, airport wildlife hazard management and protection of agricultural resources from wildlife damage. He is a diligent and effective advocate for WS needs and priorities, and those of our stakeholders.”

Wehner brings valuable accomplishments and skills to his new position. He has noteworthy experience building cooperative field programs for the protection of agriculture, natural resources and property and to safeguard human health and safety. His work has included aerial programs, rabies management, statewide beaver and feral swine management programs, livestock protection, airport protection work, and threatened and endangered species conservation, among a variety of other technical areas.

Since 2018, Wehner has served as a Western Region Assistant Director. He began his career with WS in 2000 as a wildlife specialist and then as biologist in the Tennessee/Kentucky WS Program. From 2005 to 2010, Wehner served WS’ National Rabies Management Program as the rabies field coordinator facilitating the distribution of millions of oral rabies vaccine baits from Maine to Florida.

He served the WS program in Tennessee/Kentucky as the assistant state director during 2010 to 2015, where he built an aviation program to deliver aerial wildlife damage management to the entire eastern region. Wehner became state director of the WS program in North Carolina for three years.
The Western Region of WS includes significant operations for livestock protection, airport wildlife hazard protection, invasive species management and endangered species protection.


Gray Wolves Delisted from ESA

More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners announced on Oct. 29 the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt was at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to announce that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitors the species for five years to ensure continued success.

USFWS based its final determination solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted. This analysis includes the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States.

“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Sec. Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”

In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations. By the early part of the 20th century, the gray wolf had become scarce across almost the entire landscape of the lower 48 states. But, the dedicated efforts of partners that included states, tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners working together under the auspices of the ESA, brought this great predator back to healthy, stable numbers. Gray wolves in the United States exist primarily as two large, genetically diverse, stable to growing populations broadly distributed across several contiguous U.S. states, with an additional large population in Alaska that was never listed.

Gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains – where a healthy and sustainable population roams across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and eastern portions of Oregon and Washington – were previously delisted.

These states have since managed this delisted population effectively and responsibly. Wolves have even expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California and most recently in northwest Colorado.

This final rule excludes Mexican wolves as that species remains listed under the ESA. The final rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

“The American Sheep Industry Association commends the Department of the Interior for the successful recovery of the gray wolf population under the ESA and returning management of this species to the states. We are confident that this will ensure the continued sustainable population while also providing more tools to manage interactions between wolves, the public and domestic livestock,” said ASI President Benny Cox.

Wyoming Wool Growers Association President Vance Broadbent added, “For more than a decade, ranchers have worked with federal and state officials, as well as conservation and wildlife management groups to achieve lasting and meaningful recovery for the gray wolf. Wyoming has shown that delisting the wolf can be done responsibly and that states are well-equipped to manage their wildlife.

“We are grateful to Secretary Bernhardt, (USFWS) Director (Aurelia) Skipwith, and their teams for respecting the science that says the wolf has recovered and ensuring a strong future for wildlife across the country.”

Sheep Center Announces 2020 Grant Recipients

The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board of Directors announced in late October the approval of seven proposals for NSIIC grants in 2020. A total of 24 proposals totaling nearly $2 million were submitted for consideration.

The following grant proposals were approved by the board:

• Development of predator mitigation GPS collars.

• Mitigation of subclinical mastitis during early lactation and effects of subclinical mastitis on milk yield, lamb growth and lamb survival.

• Development and application of genomic breeding values in the Katahdin breed.

• Determining the relationship between growth EBVs, feed intake and feed efficiency in range sheep.

• Automated behavioral detection of mastitis in ewes.

• Wool research and education.

• Evaluation of growth, meat quality and sensory characteristics of wool, hair and wool/hair lambs.

The center budgeted approximately $300,000 for grants that will support projects designed to strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep products in the United States through infrastructure development, business development, production, resource development, and market and environmental research.

The board is comprised of seven voting and two non-voting members. Voting members include four domestic producers of sheep or goats; two members with expertise in finance and management; one member with expertise in lamb, wool, goat, or goat product marketing.

The board members are: Marsha Spykerman, Jeremy Gaske, Frankie Iturriria, Burton Pfliger, Steve Lewis, Brenda Reau and Leo Tammi.

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