Image of sheep

To View the December 2023 Digital Issue — Click Here

ASI Closes Trade Case Investigation

Image of Brad Boner

Brad Boner, ASI President

Based on advice from legal counsel, the ASI Executive Board has decided not to pursue a trade case against lamb importers at this time.
Back in May, ASI hired a top law firm in Washington, D.C., and agreed to fund preliminary investigations into violations of United States trade law by lamb importers. Two cases were recommended: countervailing duty (subsidized production) and anti-dumping (sales below production costs or at prices lower in the United States than in a home market). ASI contributed more than $55,000 from the Guard Dog Fund as the Executive Board met multiple times on the topic.
Confidential injury surveys were sent to hundreds of sheep producers, lamb feeders and lamb companies in June and July to provide necessary information for the law firm to consider the possibilities of success in pursuing the case. Thirty-five sheep producers, six lamb feeders and two lamb companies completed the confidential surveys and returned them to the law firm before the deadline. The firm – which won a section 201 trade case for ASI in 1999 – found evidence of “material” injury from imports within the last three-year window but was unable to find significant “dumping” margins which nullified any potential relief available to the domestic industry.
For these reasons, and following the advice of lawyers well versed in trade law, ASI decided against pursuing the case further at this time. Considering the total cost to pursue the case, it didn’t seem prudent to go against the legal opinions of those who are experts in trade law. This was the third trade investigation of lamb imports involving ASI in the past six years.
The memorandum from the law firm is clear that none of the three United States trade laws provide a successful path to impacting lamb imports or American lamb prices. The memorandum further clarifies that legislating restrictions such as quotas or tariffs via the U.S. Congress is not viable. There are examples in agriculture of commodities that have statutory import controls such as the beef industry, which was legislated in 1964 as the Meat Import Act. Several updates were done by Congress in 1969, 1978 and 1986, and all specifically excluded lamb under the restrictions. Decades have passed since Congress restricted imports by statute.
ASI successfully fought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture rule allowing sheep and sheep product importation from countries banned in the late 1990s due to cattle BSE. A rule was proposed to drop the ban in 2009, however the association kept the ban in place through 2020.
Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) introduced legislation this congress that will halt USDA from implementing the rule issued by the Biden Administration to allow importation from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada and Europe until a study has been completed on the disease and health protocols in place.
Until next time, keep it on the sunny side.

Estimated Feeding Returns & Price Trends

A majority of lamb feeding in the United States occurs in the state of Colorado. Typically, the number of lambs on feed will seasonally climb to the highest levels of the year during the fourth quarter.
ASI funded the development of a modeling framework to determine estimated lamb feeding returns for a hypothetical lamb feeding operation in Colorado. The estimated lamb feeding returns data will be maintained and updated by the Livestock Marketing Information Center.
The modeling framework assumes the operation places lambs that weigh 70 pounds and will be fed to a finish weight of 140 pounds. The estimated returns model assumes a ration that consists primarily of corn and alfalfa hay. The purchase price for feeder lambs is based off the three-market average feeder lamb price (60 to 90 pounds) for Colorado, Texas and South Dakota. The slaughter lamb price used is the national negotiated live price. Both prices are reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
In March 2022, estimated lamb feeding returns turned negative and remained there for 15 consecutive months until June 2023, when returns were once again positive. Rising feed costs were one of the factors that limited returns during the period of negative returns. Corn prices reached well into the $7 per bushel range with a few months over $8 per bushel. During that period, alfalfa hay prices started to climb from about $200 per ton and reached $280 per ton in May and June of this year. Prices for both corn and alfalfa hay have since moved lower with corn in the $5 per bushel range and alfalfa hay around $250 per ton in recent months. Prices for both corn and alfalfa hay moving lower in recent months has provided relief on feed costs. On average, monthly feed costs were tracking around $0.65 per pound of gain in late 2022. In 2023, the average cost per pound of gain has trended lower with recent months around $0.50 – a nearly 23 percent decline from a year ago.
The estimated returns modeling framework assumes that the lamb feeding operation purchases the 70-pound feeder lamb, which is another variable cost that must be accounted for in calculating estimated returns. In 2023, feeder lamb prices have tracked between $150 to $200 per cwt., which is similar to the five-year average price level. Seasonally, feeder lamb prices climb higher during the fourth quarter of the year. Fortunately, feed costs are expected to continue trending lower, which should partially offset the higher feeder lamb purchase price.
Slaughter lamb prices continue to hold strong with recent weeks remaining counter seasonally higher around $200 per cwt. The typical seasonal pattern would see prices trend lower through the second half of the year. The strength in slaughter lamb prices is linked to a rising lamb cutout value, which has been around $460 to $470 per cwt. in late-October and into November. Typically, the five-year average indicates that the lamb cutout value holds steady during the second half of the year, around $400 per cwt. Values for the shoulder and leg have been trending higher since late-summer providing support for the cutout value. The loin and rack are holding steady with values at or above the five-year average.

Through most of October and into November, weekly lamb and yearling slaughter levels have been around 33,000 to 34,000 head per week, about 8 to 9 percent (2,500 to 3,000 head per week) above last year. Year-to-date through October, weekly lamb and yearling slaughter has been averaging about 3 percent higher than the same period in 2022. The higher pace of lamb and yearling slaughter has likely been influenced by an economic incentive evidenced by counter seasonally higher values for the lamb cutout and slaughter lamb prices.
Moving more lambs through the supply chain has led to weekly dressed weights tracking lower than typical levels leading to recent weeks below 60 pounds. Year-to-date through October, weekly lamb and mutton production has been about 2.5 percent below the same period last year, which is likely due to lower dressed weights more than offsetting higher slaughter levels.

Cold storage stocks in September – the most recent month available – were 26.1 million pounds, identical to the prior month and 15 percent below the same month last year. Lamb and mutton imports were 20.7 million pounds in September, down 10 percent from the prior month and 13 percent below the previous year.
Comparatively, lower imports and cold storage stocks from last year are indicators that supplies are not building and demand is keeping pace with production. Seasonally, the five-year average indicates that cold storage stocks are typically drawn down during the fourth quarter and imports can rise in response to demand during the holiday season.

After three consecutive weeks of a lower number of bales offered, the first week of November saw a jump in bales offered to 44,378 – the highest since early September. The Eastern Market Indicator continues to trade below the prior years’ levels.
Through October and into early-November, the EMI has tracked 11 to 14 percent below levels seen at this time last year. Current EMI levels are some of the lowest in nearly three years. Across the microns, weekly prices were holding relatively steady through October, but at the start of November, prices faltered slightly. Prices for 17- to 20-micron wool were seeing improvement late in October, but turned lower at the start of November. The last several weeks have seen prices for 21- to 29-micron wool struggle to gain solid footing with prices generally trending lower.
Prices for Merino cardings have been relatively flat for several weeks, but compared to the prior year, weekly levels are down upwards of 20 percent.

Make Plans to Attend Your First Annual Convention

Considering attending ASI’s Annual Convention for the first time in 2024? Here’s some things you should know before the convention begins on Jan. 10 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.
Of course, anyone with an interest in the American sheep industry is welcome to attend, whether it’s your first time or 40th time. Register at Early bird registration discounts end on Dec. 8, and all online registrations must be completed by Dec. 18. Any registrations after that date must be completed in person in Denver.
There’s no doubt attending the convention for the first time can be a bit intimidating. With more than 400 attendees and 50-plus meetings, there is a lot going on and a lot to take part in at the annual convention. First-time attendees should look through the tentative schedule before leaving home. This will give you a glimpse of sessions you might like to attend. Once you’ve arrived in Denver, you’ll receive a convention book with the official schedule, meeting agendas and a list of speakers for each meeting. Take time to look through the agendas and see if that has an impact on which meetings you’d like to attend. All meetings listed on the official schedule of events are open to registered convention attendees.
Each of the tours offered during the convention require a separate ticket in addition to convention registration. Tours should be booked as early as possible as space is limited. If a tour is listed as sold out when you register, check with the registration desk at the convention, as spots sometimes open up at the last minute.
Many of the meals provided during the convention are included in the registration fee. A full registration provides access to the Industry Welcome Reception on Thursday evening, the Awards Lunch on Friday, the Speaker Lunch on Saturday and the Make It With Wool Reception and Fashion Show on Saturday evening. If you’re booking a two-day registration, the meals listed above are included for the days you’re registered to attend.
The Wool Recognition Lunch on Thursday and the RAMPAC Reception on Friday evening each require a separate ticket in addition to your registration fees.
Networking is one of the most important benefits of attending the annual convention. Visiting with producers, lamb feeders, lamb companies and participants in the vendor fair between meeting sessions are some great ways to meet new people. Seating at meals is generally open and also allows opportunities to have conversations with people from all across the United States.
First-time attendees are encouraged to attend meetings of the Young & Emerging Entrepreneurs Committee – scheduled for Thursday evening (mostly a meet and greet session) and all day on Friday. In addition to presentations from industry insiders, the group is planning a lamb cooking competition this year.
During the annual convention, the Whova app is also a great place to check in digitally. The app includes valuable information – such as the schedule, list of speakers, etc. – and provides an opportunity to interact with other attendees. In the past, it’s been used to plan carpools to/from the airport, dinner outings and more. The app is the place to share photos from the convention, as well. It’s available for download from your app store.

Greg Groenewold Named Wool Excellence Winner

Following in the footsteps of his father, Greg Groenewold has been selected as the winner of the 2024 Wool Excellence Award by ASI’s Wool Roundtable. Grant, Greg’s father, received the annual award in 2016.
The award will be presented at the Wool Recognition Lunch on Jan. 11, 2024, during the ASI Annual Convention in Denver.
“I was very surprised when I found out,” Greg said. “Then I was a bit emotional because my father had won the same award. It kind of took my breath away.”
Groenewold Fur and Wool Company is a third-generation operation. The company’s fur operation helped open doors for exporting wool to several countries, including China and Germany. And Greg was a driving force on the wool side before he was even old enough to drive.
“From the time he was probably 10 years old, he was riding in the trucks to pick up wool,” recalled his brother, Guy. “And when he was old enough, he was the one driving the truck. By 1980 or so, he was selling most of the wool, picking it up from the shearers, grading and sorting it, pretty much everything. He did that until about seven or eight years ago.”
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, Greg fought off the effects of the disease with a work ethic that few could match.
“That’s how he defined himself, as a hard worker” Guy said. “As a partner, he was the hardest-working person – both physically and mentally – that I’ve ever seen. For 10 years, he didn’t let the disease slow him down. And even when the symptoms started to show up, he worked every day for another six years. He’s still in the office one day a week even now.”
As an independent, family-run business, Groenewold Fur and Wool operated outside of the traditional American wool industry for many years. Greg was the one who started the operation’s assimilation with ASI approximately 20 years ago.
“He’s a very nice guy, and has always been easy to work with,” said ASI Wool Consultant Barry Savage, who first met Greg back in 2003. “They are setup a bit different than many of the wool exporters, but Greg has always been flexible when we’ve made suggestions.”
The company had exported wool into China for more than a decade before establishing a working relationship with ASI.
“We’ve always been very independent, and it wasn’t really our style to work with an agency like ASI, but Greg embraced it,” Guy said. “And that led to my dad embracing it.”

USDA Announces ALB, NSIIC Appointments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in early November the appointment of five members to serve on the American Lamb Board. All five of the appointees will serve three-year terms, beginning in January 2024. Newly appointed members are:
• Steve Breeding, Seaford, Del. – Producer (100 or less head).
• David McEwen, Galata, Mont. – Producer (More than 500).
• Catherine Harper, Eaton, Colo. – Feeder (Less than 5,000).
• Carlos R. Barba, Naperville, Ill. – First Handler.
• Michael N. Duff, Blackfoot, Idaho – Seedstock Producer.
American Sheep Industry Association President Brad Boner of Glen Rock, Wyo., appreciates these volunteer leaders’ willingness to serve the national sheep industry organizations.
ASI is proud to have nominated these individuals for ALB to the Secretary of Agriculture and looks forward to their work on behalf of the lamb business. ASI developed the lamb checkoff as a key part of the lamb industry adjustment plan filed with USDA in 1999.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced appointments to the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board of Directors. Newly appointed members are:
• Producers – Patricia R. Sanville, Frederick, Md.; Randy Tunby,
Baker, Mont.
• Expert in Marketing – Barry Savage, Newton, Mass.
ASI is the official nominating entity for directors to the sheep center and is pleased with the appointments by the Secretary of Agriculture. ASI successfully added the center to the 2014 Farm Bill and is actively supporting re-authorization in the upcoming legislation.
“The center has proven to be a great partner in strengthening the sheep industry with project support, such as creation of the commercial wool testing laboratory in 2022, support of the new lamb processing facility in Colorado and the launch of Sheep Genetics USA in 2021,” Boner said.

Making the Most of USDA Assistance Programs

Small upticks in the Australian wool market this fall were nice, but there’s no disputing the fact that wool prices aren’t where American sheep producers would like them to be as we head into 2024. Even with some gains in October, Australian wool prices were still down more than 12 percent from that same time in 2022 – which wasn’t a stellar year by any stretch of the imagination.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Assistance Loans and Loan Deficiency Program can help producers offset lower wool prices. In 2022, the LDP program paid out more than $5.5 million to American wool growers. Think of the program as an “on the spot” price payment for low wool prices. But like any government program, there are things you need to know if you plan to make a claim. Producers should consult with their local Farm Service Agency office now to make plans for their 2024 wool clip.
Marketing Assistance Loans and Loan Deficiency Program payments are marketing tools available during harvest or shearing. MALs provide interim financing at harvest time to help agricultural producers meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are low. This enables producers to delay selling the commodity until more favorable market conditions emerge.
Alternatively, LDP provisions specify that in lieu of securing a MAL, producers may elect to receive an LDP. An LDP is the difference the producer would have received if a loan was repaid at the lower market price – a direct benefit that does not need to be repaid. MAL repayment and LDP provisions are intended to minimize potential delivery, storage and related costs of agricultural commodities to CCC. The provisions also are designed to avoid discrepancies in marketing loan benefits across states and counties and to allow domestically produced commodities to be marketed freely and competitively.
You can learn more about these programs at In the meantime, here are answers to some common questions about the LDP program.
Q: When do I need to apply for an LDP?
A: Producers should talk to FSA before selling wool, and ideally, before shearing. LDPs are available until Jan. 31 after the wool is shorn. You choose what day to take the LDP rate on. Prices change weekly and you can find current rates at

Q: Should I get a graded or ungraded LDP?
A: Both programs require the wool to be weighed. Graded prices are reported on a clean basis, while ungraded wool is reported on a grease basis. The graded program requires producers to also provide a core test report/certificate from a CCC-approved testing facility. Currently, only the New Zealand Wool Testing Authority is approved.
Growers can participate in graded or ungraded programs – or a combination of both. You are free to choose the option that is most beneficial to you. For example, a grower could choose to use the graded program for his/her fleece wool and ungraded for off-sorts, such as tags, crutchings, bellies and pieces. The MAL rate is established yearly for graded wool in eight micron categories. The MAL rate for ungraded wool is set at 40 cents per pound greasy.

Q: I sell my wool through a wool pool. Can I get an LDP?
A: Yes. Ungraded and Graded LDP’s are available for wool destined to wool pools. MALs are not permitted as delivery to a pooling location is considered the day that growers lose beneficial interest of the wool.

Q: I’m not able to sell my wool through a wool pool this year. Can I still get an LDP?
A: Yes, you can still be eligible for an LDP and there are multiple ways to show how much wool you produced. Types of evidence accepted include: copies of sales documents; weight or scale tickets from a commissioned agent or CCC-approved third party; delivery evidence; core test reports or certificates; settlement sheets; invoices or kill sheets from the lamb slaughter company for unshorn pelt LDPs; etc.
Learn more at
LDP-Production-Evidence.pdf. Producers should also consult their local FSA office to confirm.

Q: Am I able to get an LDP for my pelts?
A: Producers can also collect an LDP on unshorn slaughter lamb pelts. To be eligible, a producer must meet the definition of an eligible producer, own the lambs for at least 30 days before slaughter, sell the unshorn lamb for immediate slaughter or slaughter the unshorn lamb for personal use, have beneficial interest in the pelts, sheep must be of U.S. origin, the pelt must be unshorn, and submit production evidence.

Additional Online Resources

United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule in June amending the emergency release notification regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The amendments clarify that reporting of air emissions from animal waste at farms is not required under EPCRA.

ASI worked on resolving this issue on behalf of American sheep producers and supports the subsequent changes.

The final rule comes as first responders across the county have repeatedly reminded the agency that community-specific protocols are determined between local responders and animal producers well in advance of emergencies. These strong partnerships provide a platform for resolving issues when they arise without the need for a national one-size-fits-all approach.

“This final rule provides clarity and certainty to the regulated community that animal waste emissions from farms do not need to be reported under EPCRA,” said Wheeler. “This action eliminates an onerous reporting requirement and allows emergency responders and farmers to focus on protecting the public and feeding the nation, not routine animal waste emissions.”

“The goal of emergency response officials and local emergency planning committees is to prepare communities for emergency threats related to hazardous chemical releases. Such emergency threats do not include ‘best guess’ reporting on day-to-day emissions on farms and animal operations,” said National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials President Tim Gablehouse. “The focus of LEPCs should be and is on chemical hazards that present meaningful risk of harm to community members and first responders. We look forward to working on enhanced coordination and cooperation between all community members to improve preparedness for hazardous chemical releases.”

The changes to emergency release reporting regulations reflect the existing relationship between EPCRA and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and provide consistency between the two environmental laws.

On March 23, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Omnibus Bill). Title XI of the Omnibus Bill is entitled the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act. The FARM Act expressly exempts reporting of air emissions from animal waste (including decomposing animal waste) at a farm from CERCLA section 103. The FARM Act also provides definitions for the terms animal waste and farm. Because these types of releases are exempted under CERCLA, based on the release reporting criteria under EPCRA section 304, these types of releases are also exempt under EPCRA section 304.

On Oct. 30, 2018, Wheeler proposed the reporting exemption alongside Gablehouse and various state animal producer trade associations.

You can read the final rule here at

For more information, visit

Guard Dog Contributors

John & Nina Baucus, Sieben Ranch – MT
Brad & Laurie Boner – WY
Ryan Boner, M Diamond Angus – WY
Stan & Ann Boyd, Boyd Livestock Services – ID
Robert & Becky Boylan, Boylan Ranch – SD
J. Paul & Debbie Brown, Reata Ranch – CO
Peter & Jackie Camino, Camino & Sons – WY
Jeanne Carver, Shaniko Wool Company – OR
Colorado Wool Growers Association – CO
Mike & Jennifer Corn, Roswell Wool – NM
John & Mary Eagle, Eagle Suffolks – ID
Ben & Stella Elgorriaga, Elgorriaga Livestock – CA
Vernon, Terri, Dallas & Whittney Fairchild, Fairchild Shearing & Fairchild Sheep Shearing – ID
John & Jodi Faulkner, Faulkner Land & Livestock – ID
Guy Flora – OH
Paul R. Frischknecht, Frischknecht Livestock – UT
William & Sherie Goring, Goring Ranch/NH Shadow Livestock – UT
Melchor & Karen Gragirena, El Tejon Sheep – CA
Michael A. & Vicki Guerry, Guerry – ID
Julie Hansmire, Campbell Hansmire Sheep – CO
Mike & Mary Ann Harper, Mike Harper Livestock – CO
John & Tom Helle, Helle Rambouillet – MT
Ryan & Beatriz Indart, Indart Ranch – CA
Aaron & Katie Jones, CF – MT
Skye & Penny Krebs, Krebs Sheep – OR
Clint & Maureen Krebs, Krebs Livestock – OR
Terri Lamers, Steve Snyder, Todd Snyder & Jackie Thompson, Snyder Ranches – CO
Dean & Kathy Lamoreaux, Lamoreaux Sheep – UT
Ray & Randy Larson, R. Larson Sheep – UT
Jack & Kathryn McRae, McRae Brothers Targhees – MT
Minnesota Lamb & Wool Producers – MN
Lorin & Mary Ann Moench, Thousand Peaks Ranches – UT
Frank & Elaine Moore – WY
Michael, Kelly & Katy Nottingham, Nottingham Livestock – CO
Jack & Cindy Orwick – SD
Brian & Gayenell Phelan, Superior Farms – CA
Joe Pozzi, Joe Pozzi Livestock – CA
Spencer & Connie Rule, Rule Feeders – CO
Jeff, Cindy & J.C. Siddoway, Siddoway Sheep – ID
Jack Smith, Cedar Livestock Association – UT
W.L. & Jamie Strauss – TX
Angelo, Karin, Anthony & Dani Theos, Theos Swallow Fork Ranch – CO
Gary & Lori Visintainer, Visintainer Sheep – CO
Warren Ranch Company – WY
Clark & Ruth Webster, C & R Farms – UT
Western Range Association – ID

Larry Allen, Allen Livestock – CO
Joe & Carmen Auza, Auza Ranches – AZ
Brian & Carolyn Bitner, BRB Livestock – UT
Jack & Lori Blattner, Blattner Suffolks – ID
Broadbent Family, JRB – UT
Curry & Bonnie Lou Campbell, Campbell Mayer Liveoak – TX
Steve & Pam Clements – SD
David & Theressa Dalling, Dalling Sheep – ID
Douglas & Julia Davis, The Homestead Ranch – SD
Renee & Lonnie Deal, Sperry Livestock – CO
Denis Ranch – TX
Rufus & Patty DeZeeuw, DeZeeuw Farms – SD
John & Bernie Dvorak and Family – MN
David & Janet Earl, Upper Creek Ranch – UT
Ted & Renae Edwards, Edwards Ranch – WY
Thomas & Leah Edwards, TLE Ranch – WY
Ellison Ranching Company – NV
Martin & M. Terese Etchamendy, Etchamendy Sheep – CA
Nick & Kimberly Etcheverry, Eureka Livestock – CA
Lorin & Waneta Fawcett, Joseph O. Fawcett & Sons – UT
Gerry & Gwen Geis, Geis Brothers – WY
Kevin & Bobbi Geis, Geis Brothers – WY
Helen Glass, JL Glass Ranch – TX
Keith & Linda Hamilton, Hamilton Ranch – WY
Hampton Sheep Company – WY
Thomas & Joni Harlan, Harlan Livestock – WY
Marlin Helming, Helming Hampshires – CO
Dwight Heser – MT
Larry & Angie Hopkins, Little Eagle Creek Valley Farm – IN
Lee & Peg Isenberger, Isenberger-Litton Livestock – WY
Matt & Sandra Jarvis, Jarvis Sheep – UT
Claire Jones, Bar 7 Ranch – TX
Gary & Gail Jorgensen, Legacy Lamb – KS
Bob, Marie, Ben & Jamie Lehfeldt, Lehfeldt Rambouillets – MT
Kris Leinassar, FIM – NV
Louis (Spud) & Thea Lemmel, Lemmel Ranch – SD
Randy & Penny Leonard, Leonard Farms and Livestock – CO
Tim & Kim Mackenzie, Mackenzie Sheep – ID
William Mast – OR
Max & Joyce Matthews – SD
Janet & Maichael Mawhinney, Blaker Ridge Farm – PA
Michael McCormick, McCormick Ranch – WY
Ken & Phyllis McKamey, McKamey Ranch – MT
Pierce & Betty Miller, VIP Ranches – TX
Ron & Elizabeth Moss, Ron Moss Sheep – ID
Dave & Holly Ollila, Flying O Sheep – SD
Bob & Jennifer Orwick, Orwick Ranch – SD
Pete & Rama Paris, Paris Livestock – NV
Dan & Kay Persons, Rafter P Ranch – MN
Burton & Pattie Pfliger, Roselawn Legacy Hampshires – ND
Doelene Pitt, Pitt Family Columbias – UT
Stan & Carol Poe, Poe Hamps – IN
James Powell – TX
Jewell Reed – WY
Warren & Carla Roberts, Open Heart Ranch – CO
Tom & Carol Schene, Schene Enterprises – CA
Louis Schmidt, Schmidt Ranch – CO
Maurice Short, Bullseye Ranch – OR
Dean & Paula Swenson – ND
Bill & Susan Shultz, Bunker Hill Farm – OH
Bill & Jan Taliaferro, Green River Livestock – WY
Jean Tennant, Tennant Ranch – SD
Randy & Amanda Tunby, Tunby Ranch – MT
Lionel Valdez – CO
Marilyn Volpe & George Borkow, Sheep Ranch – ID
Cody Whitehead Burns, Dolan Creek Cattle – TX
Ray & Jeri Willoughby, Willoughby LTD Ranch – TX
David & Sara Winters, Winters Ranch – TX
W.L. & Tommy Whitehead Ranch – TX

Mark Lyman, Lyman Sheep Ranch – WY
Rex Streets – MT

Maximize Revenue Opportunity from Cull Ewes

Ewes are culled from the flock when they are no longer contributing to the profitability of your operation. But cull ewes don’t have to be a loss.

There are two key times of year to evaluate ewes for culling – after weaning and before breeding. After weaning, assess ewes for productivity and profitability in terms of the number of lambs weaned and the cumulative weaning weight of those lambs.
Around 45 to 60 days before breeding season, evaluate how ewes held up during the grazing season. Did any ewes require greater maintenance in terms of parasites, worms or other health challenges? Did they have feet and leg issues? Body condition can be a factor for culling, but under-conditioned ewes that are otherwise sound and productive still have time to get back into condition with nutritional support before breeding.
For spring lambing flocks, now, during late gestation, is a good time to review animal records and earmark ewes that have decreased in productivity in the past few years so you can watch them going into lambing season.

Many factors influence culling decisions, and you can group these factors into two categories – voluntary and involuntary culling. Involuntary culling is associated with factors that negatively impact the bottom line regardless of market conditions. Involuntary culling factors are typically associated with reproductive issues (not breeding back) and severe health challenges.
Most other factors are considered voluntary culling – factors preventing ewes from being highly productive but might be overlooked if the profit margins are high in a given market. As such, voluntary culling factors include: feet and legs; assisted or unassisted lambing; mothering ability; udder quality; number of lambs weaned; cumulative weaning weight of lambs; body condition; and age.
Producers often ask me at what age to cull ewes. The answer depends on the ewe. Is she weaning a cumulative lamb weight that ranks in the top half of the flock? Has she remained hardy in terms of feet and legs and udder quality?
Age alone isn’t a reason to cull if a ewe is productive and weaning an adequate weight of lambs.
Once you’ve decided which animals to cull, consider if you should cull immediately or keep ewes in the flock for a time to maximize market opportunities. The decision is twofold: What are the expected feed costs to add weight to cull animals before marketing, and will the expected return on investment outweigh any additional input costs?
Deciding when to cull ewes is about comparing the opportunity cost of time on feed and market opportunity. You don’t have a crystal ball to know what market prices will be, but you can look at seasonality of historical cull ewe prices to make an informed decision.
Also consider the environmental conditions and time of year. For example, it might not make sense to devote extra feed resources to cull ewes when experiencing drought conditions. The availability of stored forage and grazing resources can greatly influence expected feed costs for cull ewes.
If you decide to feed out ewes before marketing, I recommend treating them like incoming feedlot lambs and, at a minimum, getting them up to date on vaccinations and deworming. Then, work animals up to a feedlot-style diet for 60 to 90 days before marketing to maximize weight gain. However, be sure to evaluate for broken-mouthed ewes prior to initiation of the feeding program as the diet might need to be constructed to ensure they can be truly efficient on grain-focused ration.
Roughage is still essential in the diet, but to maximize efficiency, it’s important to feed a higher level of energy to cull ewes than replacement ewes or ewes remaining in the breeding program. How much to feed ewes will depend on current grain prices and what forage resources you have available. Self-fed products with a high fat level can also be a great option to supplement forages and help quickly add weight to cull ewes.
Re-asses cull ewes about 30 days after they’ve been on feed. If they haven’t gained weight, consider marketing them to focus resources on ewes that are responding to added time on feed. Finding just the right balance of feed investment and marketing opportunity can help you capitalize on cull ewes and bring additional revenue back to your business.
Visit to learn more. Patrick Gunn, Ph.D., is a sheep and goat nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. Contact him at

Skip to content