To View the January 2021 Digital Issue — Click Here
Winter Meetings Look a Little Different in 2020 & 2021
Benny Cox, ASI President
It seems a short seven years as I look back since I began serving on the ASI Executive Board. Now, after nearly six years as an ASI officer, it is nearly time that I move into an ex-officio role as past president. Hopefully, I can be of assistance and support to the new officer group.
There are so many opportunities in the officer position to learn in detail how important our organization is to the American sheep industry. One of the most important lessons is how vital our legislative clout continues to be in Washington, D.C. I know without a doubt the hard work started more than 150 years ago through relationships between local and federal lawmakers with members and staff, and have carried us to this point. The relationships and continued outreach have allowed our industry to maintain its ability to get things done on the legislative front – proven by my statement in last month’s article about our CFAP payouts. You can be assured that payments might have not been there without the efforts of ASI.
People are ready to get back to something that feels closer to normal, even though we might never get back to the way it was. We had the winter meeting of the Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers Association on Dec. 5 with 77 people in attendance and 22 others joining online through Zoom. We had a good lineup of speakers, including: Jay and Jeff Hasbrouck with the newly restored lamb plant in Texas; David Quam from the American Lamb Board; Dr. Alan McAnelly with Capra Foods of Goldthwaite, Texas (a hair sheep processing facility); Rep. August Pfluger, who now fills the seat of retired Congressman Mike Conaway; and your’s truly speaking on behalf of ASI. By the way, I assured Rep. Pfluger our group will be in D.C. as soon as this virus mess is cleaned up, and until then we will be in regular contact. Pfluger sent out his personal invitation to our members and is looking forward to working with us – or should I say for us – as best he can.
I mentioned Jay and Jeff being at the meeting, and we visited a good deal about the traditional lamb market and how it has backed off some. Dressed meat was lowered in the past week or 10 days due to slower movement, which is understandable. Jeff did make the statement that lots of lambs in the feedlots are ready to process right now and many will soon be at those desired weights. I have heard that story many times in the past and certainly understand that issue. I also am looking forward and can foresee a possible shortage of fat lambs earlier this spring than is the norm, and that could be the case throughout the spring as well as summer – when demand is generally good.
If you have not registered already for the ASI Annual Convention, then you should do so soon. It will be virtual on Jan. 28-29, and we need all the support we can get. The earlier you register, the easier it is for the staff to organize things for this unique convention unlike any we’ve ever experienced. This is an election year for ASI, and we know already of two worthy individuals in the running for leadership positions. So everyone should be there for that, as well.
Y`all keep on doing what you do best, and I will see you on down the road.
JULIE STEPANEK SHIFLETT, PH.D.
Juniper Economic Consulting
The current wool market is characterized by a wait-and-see mode in preparation for shearing and marketing this spring. After a tumultuous 2019 with the United States-China trade war and last year’s advance of COVID-19, the industry is braced for volatility, but has confidence wool demand will rebound with a vengeance.
A shadow hanging over the industry going forward is the significant amount of American wool that didn’t sell in the past two years, and is now stored on farms and in wool warehouses. A recent survey of wool exporters and warehouses indicated 10 to 12 million lbs. greasy wool is currently held in stock and will be carried into 2021. This is equivalent to 40 to 50 percent of a “normal” season. Greasy wool is the wool that goes into the scouring (cleaning) process before turning wool into yarn for spinning. In 2019, the value of the American wool clip was an estimated $45.3 million, which means about half of this sum was lost in 2020. As demand picks up worldwide, domestic producers will bring more product to market – which could depress prices.
Recall that prior to the advance of COVID-19 last spring, American wool exports had slowed considerably due to the trade war. As the United States imposed tariffs on a wide range of Chinese goods, China retaliated and thus, Chinese importers face higher-priced American wool, which slowed exports considerably.
Reportedly, there is some risk with putting wool in storage for long periods of time. That will likely pressure sales this spring. There is cost to storage, but also some quality concerns. Storing wool up to a year will be fine. However, wool stored more than two years might start to see some yellowing and some discoloration that presents a marketing risk and price discount. This is the case even for “clean” wool – if stain and/or tags or other impurities exist in the wool, then of course the risk for deeper stain or discoloration of the wool is worse.
Australian Wool Market Sees Lift
By Dec. 9, the Australian wool market saw a new level of confidence signaled by steadier prices, more stable demand and a positive outlook. The second-to-last sale of the year before a three-week recess helped secure orders and support prices.
AWEX explained, “This created a sense of urgency, which resulted in an increase in buyer sentiment and demand. This, in turn, led to an overall increase in the prices required to acquire the wool needed to fill these orders.”
By early December, Australian wool prices were not yet at pre-COVID-19 levels, but made an impressive 37 percent rebound from 2020’s low of 858 Australian cents per kg in early September. On Dec. 9, the Eastern Market Indicator averaged 1,198 Australian cents per kg clean, down 20 percent year-on-year.
In US dollars, the EMI was 404 cents per lb. clean ($4.04 per lb.), down 14 percent from a year ago.
Wool Exports Down Sharply
At 4.37 million lbs., total American wool exports – greasy wool, scoured wool, wool tops, and noils and waste – were down 49 percent by volume in October-September 2020 from a year ago. This downward trend was ignited by COVID-19, but follows a lower export trend that began in 2018-19 with the trade war. The virus led to the shutdown of major ports of important buyers in China, India and Italy for a few months this spring, explaining much of the reduced exports.
By value, total wool exports were down 52 percent in 2019-20 to $12.5 million. The export loss of about $12 million comes out of the pockets of wool growers and exporters across the United States. During this same period, the Australian wool market lost 48 percent in U.S. dollars.
Historically, China has been America’s largest greasy wool export market and its importance remains, in spite of the trade war and the pandemic. About half of the total wool products exported by the United States is in its greasy state. In 2019-20, greasy wool exports comprised 54 percent and 53 percent of total wool exports by volume and by value, respectively. In the 2016 marketing year, 52 percent of greasy wool exports were shipped to China, 66 percent in 2017, 78 percent in 2018, 41 percent in 2019 and 37 percent in 2020. Egypt was the second most important export market in 2020 (25 percent), Bulgaria was third (20 percent) and Italy was fourth (6 percent).
The United States has succeeded in stabilizing its value-added yarn and wool exports, for they were less affected by the trade war or COVID-19. The United States exported 845,177 kgs of yarn and fabric in 2019-20, down 16 percent year-on-year and down 9 percent in 2018-19.
In sum, the recent season of sharply lower wool exports brought on by the COVID-19 demand shock is an extension of an already troubled export market induced by the trade war. In the last two years, wool exports were down 63 percent by volume and down 66 percent by value.
USDA Wool Grower Support
In these particularly uncertain times, risk management tools are worth a look. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency offers nonrecourse marketing assistance loans and loan deficiency payments for wool and unshorn pelts.
The MALs give wool growers an opportunity to delay selling their wool, to obtain a nine-month loan from FSA at shearing time and put wool in storage for delayed marketing. When marketing conditions are more favorable, the grower may sell his or her wool and repay the loan with the proceeds. The loan is called “nonrecourse” because the grower is not obliged to sell his or her wool to USDA. Wool may be stored on the farm or in a warehouse.
Premiums and discounts are determined according to the grade of wool pledged as collateral. Offsorts from skirting fleece wool are eligible for loan or LDP at the ungraded rate: tags, crutchings, bellies and pieces. To obtain a loan or LDP at the graded rate, the wool must be core tested by an approved testing facility to objectively measure the fiber diameter (micron) and yield.
The effective loan repayment rate is the lower of either the 30-day average or weekly rate reported by USDA. As of Dec. 2, the graded wool posted prices (per pound, clean basis) was $3.00 per lb. clean for 20.6-to-22-micron wool and $2.95 per lb. clean for 23.6-to-25.9-micron wools. Rates were also available for ungraded wool sold on a greasy basis.
Visit SheepUSA.org/issues-governmentprograms-woolldp for more information on these programs.
American Pelt Exports Down
Due to confidentiality guidelines established by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, domestic pelt prices are no longer reported. Pelts can be an important additional revenue stream to lamb producers and are paid by lamb packers, but also a loss to lambskin tanners. Most pelts produced in the United States are exported, primarily to China.
American pelt exports totaled 529,738 pieces in October-September 2020, down 20 percent year-on-year. Similar to the wool market, lower pelt exports are symptomatic of the virus and the trade war, but unlike the wool market, were facing demand issues dating back three to four years. While pelt exports were down 20 percent in 2020, exports were down 27 percent the previous year.
In two years, the pelt industry lost 41 percent of its exports by volume and 68 percent by value to $4.7 million in October-September 2020.
Leather exports from lambskins have also fallen, down 32 percent in October-September 2019 to and down an additional 12 percent in October-September 2020 to 30,015 square meters.
Economic uncertainty is just about the only factor that the wool market can count on in 2021. Given so many factors are out of its control, the industry is encouraged to stay the course and do what it does best, produce the finest quality wool and ensure – for the time being – that it is stored well.
China has already seen an unexpected uptick in economic activity and 2021 will hopefully see higher wool prices fueled by increasing exports due to rebounding apparel retail in China and other developed countries. U.S. apparel, in particular, has been hit hard. In June, 43 percent of U.S. apparel imports came from China, which were down 33 percent year-on-year, but up 65 percent month-to-month (Fiber2Fashion.com). Total apparel imports faced the same trends. Beth Ann Bovino, global U.S. chief economist for credit ratings firm S&P, predicted that retail recovery in the United States might take to 2021 and beyond.
According to the latest forecast by eMarketer, total retail sales will drop by 11 percent in 2020 and could take up to five years for offline sales to return to pre-pandemic levels. Approximately 43 retailers have filed for bankruptcy this year – including Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus – yielding market share.
E-commerce will likely see continued growth, gaining 18 percent in 2020. While consumers’ appetite for online shopping grows unabetted, an opportunity arises for wool apparel e-sales.
Livestock Marketing Information Center
Like most livestock sectors in 2020, the impacts of COVID-19 have been challenging, and the sheep and lamb industry is no exception. Disruptions from the pandemic led to lower slaughter levels during the second quarter, and the closure of a major slaughter facility in July has plagued the industry for most of 2020.
Additional slaughter plant capacity is anticipated to alleviate slaughter disruptions from 2020. A new facility in Brush, Colo., is online with another slated to reopen in San Angelo, Texas, both bringing new dynamics to the sector. The global pandemic will continue to be at the forefront for the sheep and lamb industry going into 2021. Recovery of the economy will be critical for the industry to recoup demand, which will be vital as the industry is expected to see improved production for 2021 and 2022.
Sheep and Lamb Market Recap for 2020
Prior to the onset of COVID-19, weekly sheep and lamb slaughter was tracking at similar levels to 2019. As the first quarter came to a close and the pandemic took hold, slaughter plunged from 40,751 head in late March to 28,937 head in two weeks – a 29 percent drop. This was a critical time for the industry leading up to peak demand at the Easter holiday season. It would take the industry another six weeks to recover and reach above similar levels to the prior year. By that time, Easter had already passed, along with much of the key demand season. Through the rest of the summer months, slaughter levels tracked similar to 2019 until July.
In late July, the American sheep industry was dealt a blow with the bankruptcy, sale and subsequent closure of the Mountain States Rosen slaughter facility located in Greeley, Colo. As a result, the plant was sold to neighboring, and prior owner, JBS USA Holdings, Inc., which has transitioned the site into further beef processing. The MSR plant was the second largest lamb processing facility in the United States with a reported processing capacity of 6,000 head per week and about 350,000 head per year. Although the plant was reportedly operating at a lower throughput, closure of the plant limited options for producers to process their lambs.
Following the MSR plant closure in July, average weekly slaughter has been about 4,000 head lower per week, an average decline of 10.4 percent each week. The impact is also demonstrated in year-to-date weekly slaughter, which was tracking 6.9 percent lower than the same period through November.
As the MSR lamb slaughter facility closed, another state-of-the-art facility – Colorado Lamb Processors in Brush – was nearing full operation. The operational capacity of the CLP plant is reported to be about 1,800 head per day. Since mid-August, weekly slaughter was ranging between about 32,000 to 36,000 head, but since mid-October the range has increased to about 35,000 to 38,000 head. Although the slaughter numbers are still below prior year’s levels, they do give an indication that the CLP facility is processing more sheep and lambs. This is a sign that they are gearing up to process lambs in time for the Easter Holiday which is April 4, 2021.
Double J Meat Packing based in Colorado purchased a slaughter facility that had been idle for nearly 15 years in San Angelo. The facility is expected to come online in the near future with a reported capacity around 2,000 head per day. Both the Double J and CLP plants should offset some of the loss from the MSR plant closure.
Slaughter Lamb Price Reporting
Weekly slaughter lamb prices (national direct, hot carcass) have not been reported by USDA since the week ending July 31 due to confidentiality guidelines imposed by the Agricultural Marketing Service. The closure of the MSR facility led to wide sweeping implications for price reporting. The concern is that these prices will remain unreported indefinitely. The opening of both the CLP and Double J plants will not guarantee prices are reported again.
Confidentiality guidelines will need to be met each week on each item. The lamb industry has already seen challenges associated with meeting the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting confidentiality guidelines, and the events this year have made it even more difficult to meet the requirements.
Feeder and Slaughter Lamb Prices
The three-market average (Colo., Texas and S.D.) weekly feeder lamb prices started off the year above 2019 levels, but once the pandemic occurred prices quickly dropped and remained low through most of the summer. Typically, prices are the highest at the start of the year and then taper off during the summer before a slight increase during the fourth quarter. Going into the fourth quarter this year, feeder lamb prices have taken an upward trend due to stronger prices reported in Sioux Falls, S.D., where prices have ranged from $220 to $250 per cwt. since the start of October.
The strong increase late in the year gives support to demand for placement of feeder lambs. Monthly Colorado lambs on feed has been tracking very similar to last year and the five-year average. Feeder lamb prices are expected to finish the year up 21.4 percent with an annual price range from $183 to $187 per cwt.
As discussed previously, the weekly national direct carcass slaughter lamb price has not been reported since the end of July due to not meeting confidentiality requirements. The Sioux Falls weekly slaughter lamb price (wooled, 110-130 lbs.) is reporting strength in prices during the fourth quarter, easily surpassing last year and the five-year average.
This is a good indication that demand is likely remaining strong given the slaughter disruptions and plant closures that have occurred this year. Slaughter lamb prices are expected to improve in the fourth quarter but will finish the year with annual prices ranging from $245 to $250 per cwt., down 13.9 percent which is due mainly to a nearly 30-percent drop in prices during the second and third quarters, respectively.
Trade: Lamb Imports Lower for 2020
Year-to-date lamb and mutton imports through the first three quarters of the year are up 12.2 percent to nearly 231.5 million pounds (carcass weight). Most of the gain in imports has come from a three-fold increase in mutton shipments that occurred during the first quarter. Mutton imports have since moderated back to more typical levels.
Lamb imports are down 7.2 percent through September, totaling 155.7 million pounds. Australia and New Zealand are the primary lamb suppliers with a market share of 76.8 percent and 21.6 percent, respectively, through the first three quarters. Shipments from both suppliers are down through September. Australia lamb prices and improved drought conditions have provided a base for flock rebuilding, leading to even smaller lamb supplies available.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology outlook is forecasting above average rainfall in December to February, which should help support flock rebuilding. United States imports will be an item to watch in the coming months, because if domestic supplies are unable to meet demand then increased shipments might occur prior to Easter. Lamb and mutton imports for 2020 are expected to reach 290 million pounds with both 2021 and 2022 imports forecast at 272 million pounds, respectively, which is similar to prior levels in the last three years.
Much of the outlook surrounding the sheep and lamb industry depends on the post-pandemic recovery of the economy. Many of the issues that have plagued 2020 will likely continue into the first part of 2021. COVID-19 continues to remain front and center, and at the time of this writing cases in the United States have started to rise leading to varying degrees of restrictions. Some states have started to once again impose restrictions on capacity levels at restaurants, which is a concern for the lamb industry as this will likely limit consumer demand.
The supply of lambs on feed remains at similar levels indicating that the industry is positioning for the Easter holiday season. The timing of both the CLP and Double J plants will be critical to meet the coming supply of market ready slaughter lambs in feed yards. This will be key at the start of 2021 leading up to Easter demand.
Matching the timing of demand and supply could continue to be difficult given the domestic slaughter situation and outlook trends for the supplies available in primary U.S. suppliers of lamb. COVID-19 is also expected to provide an uncertain demand profile at least in the first half of 2021. However, trends are expected to return to normal seasonal patterns in late 2021.
Sheep and lamb slaughter for 2020 is expected to finish the year down 3.5 percent at 2.241 million head, the lowest level since 2016 (2.238 million head). Weights have also moderated slightly lower (down 1.8 percent) for the year, which will push lamb production down 5.3 percent to 140.7 million pounds. As the issues of 2020 pass, 2021 is forecast to see improved slaughter numbers with a 1.4 percent increase to 2.272 million head and combined with a marginal improvement in weights (up 0.8 percent) will give lamb production a 2.1 percent boost to 143.7 million pounds.
Similar growth is forecast for 2022 with slaughter up 1.2 percent to 2.3 million head and lamb production climbing an additional 2.3 percent to 147 million pounds.
Feeder lamb prices are expected to remain at similar levels to prior years ranging from $177 to $187 per cwt. in 2021 and $177 to $192 per cwt. in 2022. Forecasting slaughter lamb prices has proven difficult as there has not been a national price reported.
The current LMIC forecast expects lamb prices to remain at moderate levels. Timing of the new lamb plants opening and consumers gathering for Easter remain two key drivers in the short term.
For now, LMIC is keeping slaughter lamb prices as a forecast, but should slaughter lamb prices not return, it would be unwise to continue making projections that are never validated by reported prices. Those current forecasts are $238 to $248 per cwt. in 2021 and $239 to $255 for 2022.
Time is running out to register for the 2021 ASI Annual Convention – Mountains of Opportunity – which will be held online. The registration deadline is Jan. 15, and producers can go to rebrand.ly/ASI2021 to register.
Only the ASI officers and staff will gather in Denver on Jan. 28-29. All other participants will attend the 156th annual meeting of the American sheep industry through an online format that became common for meetings and educational presentations during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“We had hoped to leave the circumstances of 2020 behind us by this point, but sadly that is not yet the case,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “The pandemic forced many in livestock industries to become more familiar with available technologies, and the sheep industry is no different. We still plan to provide two days of online content that will focus on education, research and the governing of our association.”
Lamb prices suffered a horrific decline just before Easter in 2020 as the pandemic took hold in the United States. Fortunately, prices stabilized heading into the fall as the industry offset the loss of one major processing plant with the addition of two new facilities. The new harvesting operations – along with existing facilities – will be a major topic of conversation during a planned lamb panel discussion at the opening general session on Jan. 28 at 9 a.m. mountain time.
If you haven’t already, finalize plans now to join the industry during this unique – and hopefully one-of-a-kind – convention.
In May, ASI rolled out the ASI Research Update Podcast. The podcast focuses on industry experts sharing relevant sheep production practices and industry research each month. The podcast provides American sheep producers access to a wealth of information on management, production and research topics to benefit their operation.
The following podcasts are available:
• Choosing the Right Parasite Treatment with Dr. Lisa Williamson, University of Georgia;
• Breeding for Parasite Resistance with Dr. Scott Bowdridge, West Virginia University;
• Vaccination Program with Rosie Busch, DVM, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine;
• Ram Selection and Management with Brent Roeder, Montana State University;
• Breeding Season Flock Management with Dr. Whit Stewart, University of Wyoming;
• Lamb Management – Weaning Time/When to Wean with Dr. Bruce Shanks, Lincoln University;
• Nonlethal Predator Management Methods with Dr. John Tomecek, Texas A&M University and Dan Macon, University of California Cooperative Extension;
• Predator Management Tools – Lethal Methods with Michael Bodenchuk of Wildlife Services.
“As an organization, ASI is continually searching for new and improved ways to distribute information to our members. These podcasts do that in a way that is very accessible to anyone seeking high quality information about sheep production,” said Jimmy Parker, ASI Production, Education and Research Council chair.
“These podcasts add value in multiple ways as producers can gain valuable knowledge in a convenient way that fits into their schedule, while researchers gain recognition for their efforts for working on sheep industry issues. The podcasts give broad access to hard-earned data that might otherwise be overlooked by industry partners. It is truly a win for the sheep industry.”
According to ASI President Benny Cox, “Sheep producers are looking for information to help them be efficient and profitable. The ASI Research Update Podcasts offer a vast amount of information on relevant topics that producers can access at their convenience. I would encourage all producers – regardless of the size of their flocks – to take advantage of this valuable resource. I think most producers will find some nuggets of information they can put to use in their own operations.”
Upcoming podcasts will explore topics covering shearing, winter ewe nutrition, preparing for lambing, controlling internal parasites and grazing management.
ASI partners with university extension personnel to identify topics and guests for the monthly podcasts. Jake Thorne with Texas A&M University hosts the monthly podcast.
Producers can listen to ASI Research Update Podcasts from anywhere on a phone, tablet or laptop. Visit SoundCloud.com to tune-in. The podcasts can also be accessed from the Microsoft App Store and Google Play.
Recently elected secretary for the Public Lands Council, Stephen Osguthorpe is passionate about preserving public lands for generations to come. While his father bought a handful of ranch properties in and around Park City, Utah, as far back as the 1940s, the family’s massive sheep flock spends much of the year on public lands. That includes running sheep on the desert in the winter and in the forest in the summer.
I’ve always considered it a privilege to be on public lands, so I treat them like I would my private land. I want the next generation to be able to utilize those lands, so we’ve learned to take care of them. We’ve always instilled in our kids and grand kids that if you take care of the land, it will take care of you. So, we’ve always tried to be good stewards of the land. Grazing is a great tool for that. Conservation isn’t the non-use of the land, it’s the wise use of the land. And if we’re going to use that land, we have to be able to control the predators. So I’ve always been a strong advocate of predator control and a strong advocate for helping our trappers. One of the awards I’ve received that I’m most proud of is the Friend of the Trapper award that the trappers gave me in 2016.
One thing I always do is when we change rangers or forest service personnel, I call them and give them my cell phone number and tell them that if anything happens on our permits I want to be the first one to know and not the last. Communication is the key to all of this. If you have good communication with BLM and Forest Service, it can alleviate a lot of problems.
Vickie and I have seven children and 19 grandchildren now and three of my sons (Mike, Brad and Chad) have bought their own sheep and have their own outfits. One son (Roger) has a cow outfit and another son does our farming. We have farms in both Park City and in Delta (Utah). Chad has his own sheep and then we have a feedlot there in Delta close to where he lives. We feed our lambs and also my son Roger’s calves there. It keeps us all going. My dad was a veterinarian and he’d take me with him a lot when I was a little kid. I learned a lot from him doing that, and hopefully our grand kids are learning a lot from working with us in the sheep business. I’ve come to the realization that this business is born and bred into you, and I’ve certainly got the next two generations going into it full bore.
I’ve been in the sheep business all my life. I started running sheep when I was in junior high school, and just grew up with it. We also had a dairy and we were milking about 250 cows every day. My uncle and grandfather were running that and after they died, I had the sheep and dairy also. Then they widened the road into Park City and took out the dairy and my home. All I can say is thank God somebody came along and forced me out of the dairy business, because I didn’t have sense enough to get out on my own. At that point, we’d always had the sheep, but my oldest son was graduating from college and wanted to come back to the ranch. So we started a recreation business at that time called Red Pine Adventures and started running snowmobile tours in the winter on our summer range and horseback riding in the summer. That gave us a year-round opportunity for good income. We started milking the public, and that was a lot more lucrative than milking the cows.
Too bad this COVID deal hit this year and changed everything, but that’s the way life goes. We couldn’t get our herders back from Peru in March and on top of that we’ve had the worst drought we’ve ever had this summer. So, it has been a challenging year. It will be good to have this one behind this. Even though we didn’t get the herders back, the grand kids were all out of school, so we had plenty of help for lambing and shearing. The good thing about that is everyone there knew what they were doing and how to get it done, so we got through it. There is no better life than being able to work with your family every day. It’s just been a real joy to work with them and with the sheep. When we had the dairy, we didn’t have any neighbors there, so the kids all worked and played and fought together. Now they’re all married and have their own families, but they’re still close. And we run all of the sheep and ranches together. When we go to move sheep, we have our own semis and everybody shows up and we move them. Same when we lamb and shear, everybody shows up and we get the work done.
I’ve always had the philosophy that those of us in agriculture have always been price takers instead of price makers. When the sheep were ready to come off the forest, we took bids and had to sell them for whatever we could. It has been my goal to always get a premium price for our wool and lamb.
I believe that you have to be involved. It seems like we get one issue taken care of and three more pop up, and we need people willing to lead the way on dealing with these issues. It’s always a battle, but the sheep industry is worth battling for.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service announced in December a groundbreaking treatment that prevents anemia, weight loss, poor wool and meat production, and even death in sheep.
ARS researchers partnered with Virginia Tech and the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School to solve H. contortus parasite infection, which also happens to be a challenging health problem in the American sheep industry. The parasite infects the stomach of ruminant mammals, feeding and interfering with digestion, before ultimately affecting the animal’s overall health and stability.
“The H. contortus parasite has developed resistance to virtually all known classes of anti-parasitic drugs,” said ARS Researcher Dr. Joseph Urban, who led the research team in testing and implementation of a para-probiotic treatment to kill the parasite that causes H.contortus.
The worm parasite mates within the animal and its fertilized eggs pass through the animal’s waste into the soil. The larvae then develop to re-infect other unsuspecting animals, spreading the infection throughout a pasture and creating a cycle of infection that hinders animal growth, development and production.
“This is a major problem, and the newly-developed treatment is derived from bacteria normally found in the soil that can produce a protein that binds to receptors in the intestine of the parasite,” said Urban. “The treatment will then kill the parasites and reduce debilitating infection in adult sheep.”
“When the treatment was given to infected sheep at Virginia Tech, there was a rapid and dramatic reduction of parasite reproduction and survival, without any negative effect observed in the sheep,” said Dr. Anne Zajac, professor of parasitology at Virginia Tech’s Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
Para-probiotics are “inactive probiotics,” or good bacteria that can still provide health benefits. Despite the growing interest in para-probiotic use, these types of treatments are not commercially available. The treatments are currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will likely be commercially produced in large amounts once approved. This will help to protect an even larger population of animals across the country.
“Para-probiotics represent a new evolution and hope in dealing with a malignant and pervasive parasite,” said Dr. Raffi Aroian, a professor in the Molecular Medicine program at the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School. “The development of new therapeutics for this issue has been extremely difficult to come by, and I look forward to watching this new advancement unfold in the global and domestic industry.”
This project was supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Read more about the treatment in the International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance at ScienceDirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211320720300464.
State Check-off Approves Funding Proposals
The Ohio Sheep and Wool Program – Ohio’s sheep and wool check-off program – is investing more than $49,000 into sheep and wool promotion, education, research, and producer and youth programs in fiscal year 2020-21.
OSWP received 13 requests for proposals with 11 of these proposals approved for full or partial funding by the board. These programs are primarily collaborative efforts that will increase visibility of the Ohio sheep and wool industry to the consumer, as well as improve the knowledge and research base of our sheep, lamb and wool producers. The OSWP board is committed to assuring every segment of the industry is represented in the funding.
OSWP assesses one-half of 1 percent based on the value on any sheep or lamb sold by an Ohio producer and $0.01 per pound of wool produced by an Ohio producer. These check-off funds are collected by stockyards, purebred and club lamb sales, county fairs and the Ohio State Fair, wool marketing facilities, and provided by private sales from Ohio sheep and lamb producing farms.
OSWP approved programs benefit every segment of the Ohio sheep industry. Major educational programs funded include the Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium, Ohio Sheep Day, the Young Shepherd’s Assembly and other related programs and activities.
Producer related programs include funding to support a Young Entrepreneurs Educational Program, which includes funding for sheep producers to attend the Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School. Funds were approved for a major lamb promotional program at the Ohio State Fair, the long-standing program at the Ohio State Fair Taste of Ohio Café. Also approved was the Hardin County Extension sponsored Statewide Sheep Production Tour and the Morrow County Extension and Farm Bureau Sheep Production 101 course.
In the realm of promotion, the board approved a proposal from Inspire PR Group for a Holiday 2020 Integrated Communications Campaign, which can be followed through the Ohio Sheep Improvement and Ohio Sheep and Wool Facebook pages.
The board also approved two important research projects that influence every segment of the sheep industry. A study that research’s the use of soy hulls in sheep diets and a research project that will assist in revising forage fertilizer guidelines for sheep producers.
Other OSWP traditionally funded programs include the Ohio Heartland Cuisine promotional program at the Ohio State Fair, as well as the State FFA Sheep Proficiency Award.
For more information, contact the Ohio Sheep and Wool Program at 614-246-8299 or visit OhioSheep.org.
Producer Podcast Plans Second Season
California sheep producers Ryan Mahoney (R. Emigh Livestock, Rio Vista) and Dan Macon (Flying Mule Sheep Company, Auburn) started their Sheep Stuff Ewe Should Know podcast in April as a much-needed distraction from COVID-19 worries.
“I think we were both looking for an excuse to spend an hour each week talking about sheep,” said Mahoney.
Macon, who is also a county-based livestock and natural resources advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension, agreed, adding, “We have very different operations in terms of scale, breeds and grazing resources, but we’re both incredibly curious about how other folks are raising sheep – and how we might improve our own operations. In some ways, this podcast is just us recording the phone conversations we’d be having about sheep ranching anyway.”
Season one included 35 episodes covering business management, analyzing new enterprises, managing pastures, and marketing fiber and meat. Season two is in the works.
“I’m hoping we can pull in sheep producers from other parts of the world,” said Mahoney. “There’s so much we can learn from each other’s experiences.”
“We really want to hear from listeners about topics they’d like us to explore, too,” added Macon.
Sheep Stuff Ewe Should Know is available on Spotify and from Apple Podcasts. For more information, follow Mahoney (@californiasheeprancher) and Macon(@flyingmule) on Instagram.