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Let’s Work Together to Secure the Future

Brad Boner, ASI President

I am writing this column while attending the Livestock Marketing Association’s Convention in Oklahoma City. The executive board of LMA has deemed it important to their members to begin an initiative that looks to incentivize producers to stay in business and to assist the “next generation” to take over that business when the time comes.
In order for this to happen, we need to seek out solutions to strengthen producers’ bottom lines and incentivize the next generation. The livestock industry must unify around these solutions and then educate and inform with one voice our political representatives, government agencies and others who support us on these solutions. The ASI Executive Board and staff agree wholeheartedly with LMA’s efforts and ASI’s willingness to join the livestock industry in this effort is the reason for my attendance here in Oklahoma City.
Producer profitability has been negatively impacted by overregulation, labor costs, land costs and availability, along with unfunded mandates from government agencies. Without a doubt the livestock industry can accomplish more by working together on important topics than any one group can do individually.
We will probably not agree on every topic, but the leaders of ASI believe we can certainly agree on several important topics that will help increase producer profitability and incentivize these operations to remain in the livestock business. If all the groups who represent the livestock industry can include those important issues in their “asks” of our political representatives and government agencies, then the unified voice will give us a greater opportunity to have favorable outcomes on these issues.
A few of the issues that are being discussed as potential areas to unify around include, the death tax, lack of incentives to keep land in livestock and forage production, and efforts to level the competitive playing field when it comes to competition for land and the margins associated with that land.
Through these efforts, it is our mission as livestock producers that we will continue to provide consumers with the highest quality and safest food supply in the world and thereby secure the food independence that is critical to maintaining the freedoms we enjoy today for future generations of Americans.
Until next time, keep it on the sunny side.

Stuck in Predictive Neutral

As the dog days of summer begin to hit, the lamb supply chain is coming into the annual stall of prices and production. But not all segments of the supply chain are steady to bearish. In fact, some parts are still showing bullish promise.

At the retail level, recent reports show increased activity by stores across the country. The activity index is a measure of the absolute frequency of feature activity equal to the total number of stores for each advertised lamb/veal item – e.g., a retailer with 10 outlets featuring 3 lamb/veal items has an activity index of 30. At the start of June, the activity index was 3,840, which is up from the previous weeks and up from a year ago (3,710).
The reports indicate weighted averages for certain cuts that are reportable and being featured. Loin chops were up to $13.14/lb. in early June, which is higher than last year ($8.99/lb.) with rib chops at an eye-popping $26.99/lb. Other products – shoulder blade and bone chops – are holding steady compared to a year ago. This is a positive sign and shows steady to strong demand for lamb products at the retail level.
In the wholesale market, the national lamb cutout value is holding steady at $472.16 per cwt. in early June. Throughout this year, this price series has been oscillating around the $470 per cwt. mark, which is higher than the previous five-year average that saw prices hovering around $405 to $415 per cwt. Additionally, this year’s trend has been opposite compared to last year, where the market had prices trending downward and bottoming out at $431.45 per cwt. at the tail end of June 2023 before climbing to current levels through the last quarter of last year.
Support for this increased value can be found in the shoulder, leg and loin cuts, with all three holding steady throughout this year. The one cut that has been falling in recent weeks is the rack. Toward the end of May, prices were $1,118.44 per cwt. and have trended steadily to $1,058.73 per cwt. Historically, rack prices hold through the rest of the year, so watching this price series will be indicative of what to expect later in the year for the wholesale value and retail prices.

Through this year, lamb and yearling slaughter is more than 723,000 head. That puts the market at 2.15 percent more lambs and yearlings compared to last year. The market is averaging 34,400 head per week. Dressed weights are averaging 62.9 pounds this year, which is down from 64.5 pounds last year, and the previous five-year average of 68.3 pounds.
The combination of lighter weights and higher volume compared to last year leaves total lamb production relatively unchanged compared to a year ago. Thus, with supply holding steady and with wholesale cut prices remaining steady to higher, this is another indication that demand is steady to higher from the packing side to the consumer in the supply chain.
Prices for slaughter lambs have also been positive compared to a year ago. The three-market average (Colo., S.D. and Texas) for 60- to 90-pound slaughter lambs is more than $220.38 per cwt. midway through June. Throughout this year, the three-market average monthly prices are averaging $36.57 per cwt. higher compared to last year.
In Texas, 100- to 150-pound slaughter lambs are at $199.24 per cwt. and averaging $75.75 per cwt. higher on a monthly basis compared to last year. In South Dakota, the same weight class is currently at $177.61 per cwt. with a monthly average of $60.19 per cwt. higher compared to last year. In Pennsylvania, the same weight class is at $275 per cwt. and averaging $61.50 per cwt. per month higher compared to last year. Thus, the demand from the retail side is providing support for higher slaughter prices compared to a year ago, and if the historical trend holds true, prices will stabilize around these levels through the rest of the year. Demand will be a key indicator moving forward for these prices.
Monthly feeder lamb prices for the three-market average are currently at $273 per cwt. Compared to last year, the same story in the slaughter lamb prices holds true with feeder lamb prices averaging $107.72 per cwt. per month higher than last year. As demand is working from the consumer side backwards toward producers, prices have been positive this year for those producers. The current price levels through this year are the highest since 2022, thus, hopefully this is creating profitability at the farm level for producers.

With higher prices, the natural question is based around trade, and how much lamb product we are importing. Historically, the United States imports the most volume each year during the March and April holiday months.
The most recent reports indicate that in April, the U.S. imported 25.8 million pounds, which was down compared to the previous month of 27.1 million pounds. Total imports for the year, so far, are at approximately 97 million pounds, with a monthly average of 24.2 million pounds per month.
In comparison, this year’s totals are above last year’s total at this time – 74.5 million pounds – and the previous five-year average of 80.4 million pounds.
Similarly to other parts of the market, imports historically hold steady through the summer months into the fall, thus, unless something unexpected happens, imports should remain at these same monthly levels.
From an export standpoint, the U.S. exported 173.9 metric tons – $1 million in value – of lamb in April, which valued at the same and is 20.3 metric tons higher than a year ago. In total, the U.S. has exported 769.7 metric tons this year, which is lower than last year’s 828.5 metric tons.

May is a busy time in the American wool market with most wool warehouses hosting annual sales. Domestic prices were published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for three consecutive weeks in May compared to only one week a year ago.
Prices were below a year ago across all microns, with finer microns averaging higher than coarser wools. Wool sold on a clean basis in May averaged $2.74 per lb. (microns 20 to 23) compared to $3.38 per lb. last year and averaged about 44 percent higher than wool sold on a grease basis.
The international wool market has had neutral signals throughout the first part of the year. At the start of January, the Australian Eastern Market Indicator was at $3.70 U.S. per lb. and decreased to $3.38 U.S. per lb. by the end of March, to only then increase and oscillate around $3.42 U.S. per lb. in May.
In the first part of June, the EMI was at $3.48 U.S. per lb. Across all microns, prices have steadily increased in the last few weeks with finer wools seeing the largest price increases.
In the wool export market, the United States exported 427.7 metric tons – $1.3 million in value – in April, which is 255.5 metric tons higher than last year in the same month. In total, the United States has exported a total of 1,310.7 metric tons of wool with January – 430.6 metric tons – and April having the highest monthly totals since summer of 2022.
Given the high EMI in January, and stable to modest price gains this spring, it’s not surprising to see the export numbers from the United States throughout this calendar year. In the coming month, some markets will be on break. Along with an uncertainty of world supply, the wool market prices in the coming weeks will be interesting to watch.

For American producers, the continuation of higher prices throughout the lamb supply chain is a welcome sight. Drought has subsided in some parts of the country and demand appears to be relatively strong at the retail level.
The title of this article is based on being stuck in neutral, and currently that’s okay. With expected steady import numbers, steady slaughter supply and steady prices, there seems to be some longevity on the positive side for producers, which hopefully turns into increased profit margins for producers, as well.

 NSIP Hires New Executive Director

The National Sheep Improvement Program Executive Committee announced in mid-June that David Scales has accepted the role as executive director. He will begin his duties full-time this month working from his home in Charlotte, Mich.
Scales grew up with sheep and cattle on his home farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is interested in draft horses. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a minor in crop and soil sciences, with an emphasis in agribusiness management.
“Ever since college, I’ve had a strong interest in genetics,” Scales said. “The data provided by NSIP is a valuable tool in the toolbox for sheep producers. As varied as the sheep industry is all across this country, NSIP can provide valuable information that can help them all. I have a strong belief in the science and the technology, and its ability to help sheep producers.”
His first experience with NSIP was in a genetics course where the students played Cyber Sheep. Scales worked at the MSU sheep barn and was active in the day-to-day operation, which included data collection for NSIP.
While at MSU, he was treasurer of Block and Bridle, served as a teaching assistant for Intro to Dairy Management, and coauthored two articles on neonatal pig supplements published in the Journal of Animal Science.
Post-graduation, Scales was the assistant farm manager at Reproduction Specialty Group, working on the cutting edge of reproductive technologies in sheep and managing 200 donor and 1,200 recipient ewes. For the past six years, he has been the flock manager at Wheaton Hampshires, a complex operation with 100 purebred Hampshire ewes and 120 recipient ewes.
During the interview process, Scales shared his use of Estimated Breeding Values to develop and select maternal genetics in the recipient ewe flock. His success in making his employer a believer in NSIP as an end user of the technology is a testament to his capabilities.
“I’m hoping to work with all sheep producers to continue to develop NSIP into a tool that can help both seedstock and commercial flocks. This is a tool that every sheep operation can benefit from if they’re open to listening to what the data has to say.”
Scales also has experience working with volunteer boards such as the Michigan Cattleman’s Association and was elected to the Michigan Sheep Producers Association board in January. He has been the sale coordinator for the Michigan Beef Expo Sale, which last year grossed $370,000, so he has some sale management and marketing experience.
The selection committee was looking for a self-starter with excellent communication skills, a customer service mindset, and an understanding of NSIP and the American sheep industry. NSIP wanted someone who can educate and promote, and who has the intellectual capacity to work with abstract concepts and collaborate with research partners.
The NSIP Executive Committee feels Scales has all these attributes and will be a good fit to take the organization to the next level.

Reverse Trade Missions Spur Wool Sales

One of the best ways to market American wool is to bring buyers straight to the source. ASI uses funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service to do just that nearly every year. And 2024 is shaping up to be especially busy.
“These trade missions play a vital role in promoting American wool, educating buyers and facilitating introductions to the U.S. exporters, warehouses and growers,” said ASI Director of Wool Marketing Rita Samuelson. “Most importantly, they result in the purchase of American wool.”
A wool buyer with Marzotto Wool in Italy traveled to the United States in mid-May to take part in the first reverse trade mission of the year. He was accompanied along the way by ASI Wool Consultant Bianca Losekoot and ASI Wool Production Program Manager Heather Pearce. Marzotto specializes in luxury fibers and is a top maker and spinner. The company uses approximately the same amount of wool in a year that is produced in the United States each year – approximately 22 million pounds.
On this trade mission, the buyer met up with Terry Martin of Anodyne Wool in Salt Lake City before traveling to Park City, Utah, to visit the Osguthorpe family’s Red Pine Land and Livestock Company.
“This helped them understand the expanse of the United States and its grazing lands,” Samuelson said.
Will Griggs of Utah Wool Marketing hosted the next stop on the tour. Griggs was preparing for a wool sale and domestic buyers were on hand to examine the available lots and prepare to bid on each of them the next day. The international buyer got a firsthand look at each of the lots and the wide variety of American wools that would be offered during the sale. It also provided an additional opportunity for the Marzotto representative to interact and build relationships with domestic wool buyers, including Rick Powers and Jason Bannowsky of Wool Partners Inc.
Because the buyer was interested in certified wool, ASI partnered with Oregon sheep producer and Shaniko Wool’s Jeanne Carver to arrange a visit with Colorado producer Julie Hansmire. Both produce Responsible Wool Standard-certified wool. A past member of ASI’s Wool Council, Hansmire provided insight on her operation. The buyer was able to look across the landscape and see ewes grazing open lands with herders and guard dogs to protect them. This provided a close-up look at how sheep are raised in the American West and allowed Hansmire to share her production practices.
Visits to Lazy 3X Ranch and Etchart Sheep Ranch followed. At Lazy 3X, the buyer was able to see how feed is produced for their livestock and at Etchart, the buyer took a tour of the lambing barns and saw how lambing works in that operation. Overall, the buyer was impressed with the high quality of wool in the area and appreciated the opportunity to see RWS-certified wool.
The second reverse trade mission of the year began two weeks later with a visit by buyers from Golden Sun Wool and Hengtai, both of China. They were accompanied on the trip by ASI Wool Consultant Kitty Gu and Pearce. The buyers flew into San Francisco and met there with Guy and Christian Groenewold of Groenewold Fur and Wool Company. After purchasing several containers – approximately 220,000 lbs. of greasy wool – they flew to San Angelo, Texas, to meet with many of the major players in the American wool industry.
In San Angelo, they were greeted by Darrell Keese of Keese International, as well as Powers, Bannowsky and Martin at their respective offices. Each stop along the way included the sale of additional American wools.
The buyers also got a look at Bollman Industries’ scouring and warehouse operation in San Angelo and made a stop at the Bill Sims Wool and Mohair Lab at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center.
“While the goal of these trips is to drive sales of American wool, providing buyers with a look at the American wool industry as a whole has benefits, as well,” said Samuelson. “It’s important that they see the infrastructure that is in place to support American wool growers. That builds additional confidence in our product.”
Hengtai cards wool, and was looking for fine, shorter staple length wool with lower vegetable matter – which isn’t significantly removed during the carding process. Golden Sun combs wool, so the company’s buyer was looking for good staple length – 3.5 inches or better – fine and coarse wools. Both buyers said there is little market for medium type wools in their country.

As mentioned, ASI partners with USDA/FAS to market American wool in a variety of ways. FAS has a handful of programs that are designed to market American agricultural products overseas. In the case of wool, this has been especially important since the 1990s when companies began moving manufacturing to China and other countries where labor and production costs are lower.
“We’re very thankful to the Foreign Ag Service for providing these valuable programs that assist ASI to market American wool to overseas wool companies,” said Samuelson. “There was a time when American wool producers could sell all of their wool clip to United States-based textile companies, but the loss of domestic wool mills in the 1990s required our industry to pivot. Prior to that time, we didn’t export much wool, but now we export approximately 60 percent of all domestic wool that we produce.”
FAS offers five programs that provide funding for ASI in this area:
• Regional Agricultural Promotion Program: Provides funding for projects that enable exporters to break into new markets and increase market share in growth markets.
• Foreign Market Development Program: Provides cooperator organizations with cost-share funding for activities that build international demand for U.S. agricultural commodities.
• Market Access Program: Helps finance activities to market and promote U.S. agricultural commodities and products worldwide.
• Quality Samples Program: Helps U.S. organizations provide small samples of their agricultural products to potential customers overseas.
• Agricultural Trade Promotion Program: Provides cost-share funding to help U.S. agricultural exporters develop new markets and mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ trade barriers.
RAPP is the newest program, and ASI was recently awarded up to $1.2 million to market American wool in diversified, high-potential markets during the next five years. RAPP funds must be used in new and emerging markets, which in the case of American wool will include India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and South America.
“It’s important that we continue to develop new markets for American wool,” Samuelson said. “China has long been the leading buyer of the wool that we ship overseas, but the trade war and the pandemic showed us that we can’t rely solely on China to buy all of our wool. We’re seeing manufacturing move to some of these other areas, and we need to be positioned to market our great, all-natural product to those countries, as well.”
Additional reverse trade missions are in the works this summer and could include buyers from Bulgaria, South Africa and India.

ASI Submits ALB, NSIIC Nominations

The ASI Executive Board recently submitted nominations for openings on both the American Lamb Board and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board of Directors.
The nominees for openings on the American Lamb Board included: Jimmy Parker of Alabama, John Lemondes of New York, David Fisher of Texas, Lane Jensen of Utah, Steve Schreier of Minnesota and William Nelson of Colorado.
The 13-member board was established to maintain and expand the market for sheep and sheep products with industry funding via the American Lamb checkoff. ASI coordinated sheep industry development and support of the checkoff with implementation in 2002 and two nationally approved referendums in the ensuring years.
Visit to learn more.
The nominees for openings on the board of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center included: James Percival of Ohio, Randy Kinney of Minnesota, Steve Clements of South Dakota and Matt Benz of Kansas.
The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center was established – at the request of ASI – as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and administers a grant program designed to improve the competitiveness of the American sheep industry by strengthening and enhancing the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products.
Visit to learn more.
ASI is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified nominating organization for both ALB and NSIIC. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will work with the Secretary of Agriculture to select the individuals for all ALB and NSIIC openings later this year.

Gov. Little Cabriejo Ranch Builds Western Operation in Rural MissouriRemembers His Sheepman Roots

Two hours from any town you’ve ever heard of and four hours from Missouri’s population centers in Kansas City and St. Louis, the Cabriejo Ranch is well on its way to becoming the center of American lamb production in the Eastern half of the United States.
“We try to think of ourselves as kind of a Western producer,” said Reuben Hendricks of the family operation his father, Trent, started in 2010. “Central Missouri isn’t really the West, but we came here from Eastern Pennsylvania, so this is out West to us.”
Described as a visionary producer by those who knew him, Trent Hendricks had a lot of plans for the land he purchased in Koshkonong, Mo. Unfortunately, he passed away in the fall of 2022. But in his 49 years on Earth, he wasn’t afraid to set his plans aside when he saw opportunities arise.
“He was the first person in the sheep industry that I ever heard talk about solar grazing,” said ASI Executive Board Member Lynn Fahrmeier of Missouri. “This was years before I heard anyone else talking about it.”
He went from supplying hair sheep to the ethnic trade to selling Western-style, wool fat lambs to packers from Texas to Pennsylvania. And he did it all while keeping the family operation somewhat off the sheep industry radar. Sure, the feeders he worked with and the packers buying his finished lambs knew his operation, but he remained relatively unknown to anyone he didn’t regularly do business with.
“We aren’t very public facing,” admitted Reuben. “Life’s just a bit easier when everyone’s eyes aren’t on you. But we’re pretty excited to see where the sheep industry goes in the years to come. We feel good about it, and we’re proud of the operation we’ve built here in Missouri.”
Trent worked with the Savory Institute – which focuses on holistic management of grazing lands – and implemented regenerative grazing techniques in his own operation. He served on the boards of directors for the American Grassfed Association, the Grassfed Alliance and the American Solar Grazing Association, as well.
In his absence, his wife, Rachel, son, Reuben, and daughters, Lilly, Helena, Giselle, Jordana and Isabella, have maintained the operation he spent a dozen years building before his death.
“We put a pause on some projects when Dad died,” Reuben said. “We had everything lined up to start doing our own manufacturing on some wool products. We put a pause on that and some other things to really focus on our core business. We produce finished lambs and cattle. That’s our focus.”
The family relocated from Pennsylvania to south-central Missouri in 2010 for a variety of reasons.
“We had more of a dairy background,” Reuben said, “but we’ve always been in sheep. Dad moved here for the opportunity. The land was cheaper. At the time, it was some of the last land you could really pay for with cattle. And if you can pay for it with cattle, then you can do a lot better with sheep. There was opportunity here, which is how we happened to land in what most people would consider the middle of nowhere. We’re definitely attached to the land now. Dad passed away working on this land, so that makes it special.”
In addition, the headquarters is centrally located to three facilities that routinely process the ranch’s lambs. It’s 800 miles to the Double J plant in San Angelo, Texas, 700 miles to Wolverine in Detroit, and 900 miles to Marcho Farms in Pennsylvania.
“Our operation is fairly mobile, so where the headquarters is isn’t really that important,” Reuben said. “We have a network of producers who are finishing lambs for us, and they’re located all over the country. Toward the end of Covid, we had lambs as far away as Georgia and Wyoming – at the same time. There’s only so many of us here on the ranch. We manage the place here and work with these producers to provide two loads of lambs a week all year round. We’re constantly shipping lambs all over the country.”
The family has worked to bring new producers into the sheep industry by providing a guaranteed income for finishing its lambs. Those producers are provided a support system that includes veterinary contacts and program management tools.
Thanks to Trent’s involvement with the Savory Institute, the family encourages its producers to develop holistic management practices that benefit not only the sheep, but the land, as well.
“We want people to be totally vested in what we’re doing,” Reuben said. “It’s important as farmers and ranchers that we learn how to take better care of our animals and our land. Stewardship is important to us. We want to leave everything better than when we found it. We feel the same about the producers that we work with.”
Knowing up front what they’ll earn on finishing the lambs is a key factor in convincing former cattle, dairy and hog producers to get into the sheep industry.
“They have great facilities and a lot of livestock experience to bring to the table. They’re just looking for something that makes more financial sense, and our lamb finishing program works for a lot of them,” Reuben said. “We can guarantee a good price for finishing those lambs. When the markets are crazy high, it might still just be a good price and not a great price. But we’ll stick with you when the prices are low and still get them a good price. We aren’t printing gold, but we want our producers to always get a decent price for their efforts.”
The family continues to recruit new and existing producers into its network of lamb feeders. Interested producers should contact Reuben at
It’s not unusual these days to hear about a wool sheep producer who is transitioning to hair sheep. After all, wool prices are low – if you can sell it at all – and shearers are expensive and hard to find. But the Hendricks family went the opposite direction and moved from a large-scale Dorper operation to a flock based in Merino, Rambouillet and South African Meat Merino.
“We transitioned the last of our flock to wool genetics in 2018, and have been just wool sheep since then,” Reuben said. “The biggest reason we’re interested in wool is the performance. The lambs wean heavier and we can finish them heavier. We’ve always gotten more lambs per ewe from wool genetics than hair genetics. It absolutely takes more work to raise wool sheep, but we feel like that work is worth the effort. We average 180 to 185 percent lamb crop and in our experience the wool ewes live longer. We don’t quite average twice the lifespan, but it’s close.
“Sometimes, the hair genetics are a little bit more hardy. Wool ewes need a little more attention, especially around here where we have a lot of parasites. We also found that wool animals have better feet, even though that seems to be the antithesis of what most people claim about hair genetics. Our wool sheep aren’t as heat resistant, so we have to be careful when we’re handling and shipping them in the summer. We shear a bunch in the summer, and we’ll start at 2 in the morning and finish up at 8. But we can do that because we do a lot of our own shearing. We also have our own trucks, so we can do a lot of our sorting and loading at night.”
The family has looked into following in the footsteps of the Helle family in Montana and manufacturing its own clothing and other specialty products with its fine wool. But that was one of several projects that got put on hold after Trent’s passing.
“When you look at Duckworth and Filson, those are the kinds of products I want to wear every day,” Reuben said. “Manufacturing in the United States is very costly, and difficult. We already make some stuff for ourselves out of our wool, so we’d like to expand that if we get the chance.”
In the meantime, the family is selling raw wool locally for craft and gardening uses. While it doesn’t generate the income that most fine-wool producers would like, it helps offset the cost of shearing.
“We’d love to get paid in gold bricks for our wool,” Reuben said. “But that’s not the way it works right now. We’re starting to see more demand for it just here locally, so we’ll take that. We don’t have all the answers yet on the wool market, but we know there’s opportunity there.”
Looking at opportunities with value-added products and targeted grazing, Reuben said the goal is for the lambs to be free money.
“It drastically changes your cost on lambs if they don’t have to pay for the ewe or the ewe’s feed,” he added. “We think targeted grazing can play a big role in that. Solar grazing is definitely a big deal for the industry, and it’s a great way for people to get into sheep because they can take a five-year grazing contract to the bank and get a loan that they can pay off even if the lambs just break even. With solar, the competition to secure land is pretty hot right now, and that’s part of why we’ve backed off it a little bit and are looking more at targeted grazing.”
The family is always happy to see land managed responsibly, and grazing plays a vital role in achieving that goal.
“It might be next year before we start really picking up some of these other projects we put on hold,” Reuben said. “As everything settles down for the family in the next year or two, we’ll see what we have time to do. My dad used to joke that instead of hiring labor, he’d just marry it. My mom handles a lot of our accounting, and I’ve got five sisters that are all involved in the ranch. My oldest sister, Lilly, just got married, and I just got engaged. Dad’s dream was always to have enough work to go around that everyone who wanted to be involved with the ranch could work here full time and make a career out of it.”

Farm Bill Inches Forward

The proposed Farm Bill text – which passed the House Agriculture Committee in May – addresses many critical needs for the American sheep industry.
“This text from the House Ag chair provides real support to our sheep producers,” said ASI President Brad Boner of Wyoming. “The text is favorable toward the sheep industry in areas such as foreign animal disease management, drought and feed losses, foreign market development programs – which we are heavily reliant on for marketing American wool – as well as the wool marketing loan. The wool marketing loan is the only sheep-specific risk management tool that is available to American wool growers, so it’s important that the program can respond to the current wool market.”
The Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024 proposes to:
• Substantially increase the existing marketing loan rate for American wool, which has not been adjusted since 2002.
• Increase funding for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program, which is connected to funding for the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center and its grant programs.
• Double funding for foreign market programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. These programs include the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program, both of which provide support for marketing American wool to manufacturers overseas.
• Direct additional resources toward bolstering the three-legged stool to protect American livestock against foreign animal diseases.
• Establish permanent baseline for a new Agricultural Fiber Products Trust Fund, which includes additional funding for wool apparel manufacturers and wool research and promotion.
The wool industry got a special call out during Rep. John Rose’s (Tenn.) opening remarks, where he applauded the inclusion of baseline and increased funding for a new Agricultural Fiber Products Trust Fund, which greatly benefits wool apparel manufacturers and general wool promotion and research.
ASI joined a coalition of agricultural associations in praising the inclusion of Section 12007 in the text, which would negate the affects of California’s Proposition 12. The California initiative prohibits the sale of pork, veal and eggs produced from animals not housed according to the state’s arbitrary requirements. In May 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only Congress has the authority to step in and protect American agriculture from the regulatory chaos proposed by laws such as Proposition 12.
“We strongly urge Congress to include this critical provision in any Farm Bill reauthorization to prevent an unworkable patchwork of 50 conflicting state laws throughout the country that snarl interstate commerce,” read a letter from the coalition to Congressional leaders.
The text from Chairman Thompson was marked up and passed the House Agriculture Committee in late May by a vote of 33-21. Visit
discussion_draft_ffns.pdf to read the full text of the proposal.

In mid-June, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition Ranking Member John Boozman (Ark.) released a high-level Farm Bill framework outlining the Senate Agriculture Republican’s key priorities across all 12 titles of the Farm Bill. In a press release, Boozman touted the framework as putting, “more farm in the farm bill.”
Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) rolled out the Senate Democrats Farm Bill framework in May. At this point in time, neither party in the Senate has released bill text nor announced when a potential markup can be expected. Visit to learn more about each of the Senate’s proposed frameworks.
ASI welcomes forward progress in the process of getting a Farm Bill passed and signed into law.

Meet the Exec. Board

Sitting in the living room of the home his grandparents retired in, Lynn Fahrmeier talks of spending his entire life – except for four years of college at the University of Missouri – in a 200-yard radius of Fahrmeier Farms.
“The farm has been in the family for about 125 years,” said Lynn, who is the Region IV representative to the ASI Executive Board. “My great grandfather immigrated from Germany to the St. Louis area and then came out here to the Kansas City area with a lot of other immigrants. My grandfather added to the farm, my dad added to the farm, my sister and I have added to the farm. We’ll see what my son (Samuel) can do with it in a few years.”
Lynn’s dad attended a one-room school just 200 yards from the old farmhouse he was raised in and often just walked home to eat lunch. When the school was closed years later, Lynn’s grandfather purchased the property, and it was converted into a home for Lynn’s mom and dad. Lynn grew up there before eventually moving into a newer home that his grandparents built for their retirement years.
The Katahdin sheep in the nearby barn are a relatively new addition to a farm that is now being worked by a fifth generation of the family.
“When I came back after college, I thought I was going to come back and have a big hog operation,” said Lynn, who majored in animal sciences. “I’m too young – even though I’m 62 now – to remember the poultry industry integrating. But I lived through the integration of the hog industry. If I could have had a crystal ball, we would have gotten out of the hog industry sooner and put up some contract finishing barns or something. We suffered through two collapses in the hog market before we finally got out.”
Lynn was 34 when he married Donna in the mid-1990s. Needing some additional income to support the family they wanted to have, the new couple started looking into sheep.
“But, I didn’t want to shear them,” he admitted. “So, we heard about this crazy kind of sheep that had hair instead of wool. We started investigating – which was harder to do back then before the internet – and found the Katahdins. The Katahdin association only had about 150 members at that point, but there was a small concentration here in Missouri and in Kansas. So, we visited four or five operations and bought a starter flock from a couple in Kansas. We kind of fell in love with the animals and the people. Since then, we’ve been up to as many as 200 ewes, but we’re at about 130 right now.”
With a background in cattle and hogs, Lynn was surprised to learn that the sheep industry hadn’t really adopted the use of genetic selection at that point.
“Quantitative genetics was just a given in the swine and beef industries,” Lynn said. “Nobody bought bulls or boars without genetic data. Everyone knew that was the way you did it. I got into the sheep industry and went to the Fortmeyers in Kansas to look at these lambs. I told Laura that I needed some data and she just hugged me. She said, ‘You’re the first sheep producer that’s ever asked me for that.’ She was an early proponent of the National Sheep Improvement Program, back when Dr. Dan Morrical of Iowa State University was running it through the Hereford association.”
Lynn would later serve as both a board member and chairman of NSIP.
“I have been put in these leadership positions mostly because I have a big mouth,” Lynn joked. “I was on the Katahdin board for six years, two of which I was president. I was on NSIP for eight years and served two years as chairman. Then someone by the name of Steve Clements had the brilliant idea to ask me to be on the ASI Executive Board. I’m up for re-election in 2025 and would like to serve two more years on the board, but that’s where it stops. I’m not going to be president of ASI at any point in the future.
“We need good producers to keep stepping up and filling these leadership positions. That’s not to say that I am a good producer. I just think I was outspoken enough that Region four elected me to represent it on the Executive Board. I’ve appreciated working with ASI and learning more about the sheep industry in general, including wool production. Wool is a great fiber and I have learned to appreciate how hard it is to produce fine quality wool and how it is used in garments.”

After tripling the size of the row crop operation and adding sheep to the family farm, Lynn is eyeing one last major change: solar panels. He’s recently signed a contract to put solar panels on the farm. It takes on average seven years from signing the contract to actually having panels up and running, and only 50 to 60 percent of those initial contracts are carried out to fruition.
“When we looked at the numbers, we had to do it. Their cash rent per acre is REALLY good,” Lynn said. “We were talking with Samuel at the time about coming back to the farm. He had a corporate job after college, but wanted to come back and work on the farm, so we were trying to figure out how to make that work for everyone when this deal came up.
“It will take up to seven years to happen, and if it happens, that’s 40 years of solar panels. So, I’m only going to realistically cash half of those checks. But I know the land will remain in agriculture. We’re taking corn and soybean ground and converting it to pasture. And the way I look at it, the solar panels are just shade structures over that pasture. And we have the first right of refusal to graze that land if they choose to graze it.”
As a farmer first, Lynn envisions a time when researchers might develop fruits or vegetables that can be grown under the panels to maximize the agricultural use. But for now, he’s happy to see the positive impact the solar boom is having on the sheep industry.
“It blew me away to see how fast this segment of the industry is growing, and it gives us the potential to expand the sheep industry in the United States for the first time in 50 years,” Lynn said. “I understand that it’s a huge shift in the industry. It’s possible that the largest NSIP flock in the country in two years will be in Georgia. If Silicon Ranch’s flock grows to the size they think it needs to for them to graze all of their land, it’s going to be huge.”
Seeing the impact solar grazing has already had on the industry, Lynn pushed to have the American Solar Grazing Association as presenters at the Production, Education and Research Council’s meeting during the 2024 ASI Annual Convention. He was co-chair of that council last year before moving over to the Lamb Council this year.
“And this isn’t just a thing in the Eastern half of the United States,” Lynn said. “We’ve heard from Ryan Indart about the impact its had on his business in California. They’re building these things all over the country now. If sheep were to go under every solar panel in the country, we wouldn’t have to worry about lamb imports. We would raise enough lamb in this country to meet the demand. It would mean lamb prices would go down, but we could raise the lamb cheaper. I don’t think we’ll end up with sheep under every panel long term, but for now, it’s all about sheep.”
One other aspect of the industry that has Lynn excited is the new generation of extension specialists and researchers who have come into the industry in the past five years.
“Six or eight years ago, we had a lot of people who were active in that part of the industry who were retiring,” he said. “A lot of young people have really stepped up and moved into those roles now. I don’t even know where they all came from, but we’ve got a great group of young minds out there now that are looking to move this industry forward. It’s pretty exciting to have them involved.”

Sheep Industry Briefs

ASI has been awarded a National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program grant for $111,110 to evaluate the traceability of livestock marketed in an auction market setting utilizing electronic identification in a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak through collaboration with industry and state partners.
The purpose of this agreement is to demonstrate how electronic ID systems when utilized in a livestock auction market setting can enhance animal disease traceability and decrease the response time during a Foreign Animal Disease outbreak.
ASI will accomplish this by simulating two FMD outbreak trace exercises of animals (sheep, goats and cattle) sold through Oregon livestock auction markets.
The first exercise will be based on the current animal ID system used by the livestock auction markets to provide rapid animal movement traceability information to the state animal health official. The second exercise will follow implementation and/or enhancement of the electronic animal ID system at the auction market(s).
Three multi-species (sheep, goats and cattle) auction markets ranging from small to large scale will be invited to participate. It is critical that auction markets provide animal movement information in an effective manner to minimize the impacts of a disease outbreak.
In collaboration with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, this project will demonstrate how an electronic animal ID system can generate the needed information required by state and federal animal health officials for tracing movement of livestock within and across state lines during an FMD outbreak. This will be accomplished by demonstrating how the time required to trace animals is different between the initial FMD exercise trace and the second FMD exercise trace after implementation of an electronic animal ID system.

A key aim of Sheep GEMS is to assist American sheep producers to enhance the sustainability of their flocks by improving lamb survival, ewe longevity, udder health and parasite resistance.
A terrific way to gain a sense of progress toward that objective is to hear it from producers engaged in the project.
A pair of presentations have been posted on the Sheep Genetics USA website at about the project. One is a brief introduction to the project by Dr. Ron Lewis of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The other is a roundtable discussion moderated by Dr. Jake Thorne of Texas A&M AgriLife with four participating breeders who represent each of the breeds involved: Kathy Bielek (Katahdin), Todd Taylor (Polypay), Russell Kott (Rambouillet) and Jeremy Geske (Suffolk).

Pfluger, Barrasso Show Support for M-44
Rep. August Pfluger (Texas) and Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) expressed concern last month over non-statutory report language in the Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations package that prohibits the purchase or deployment of M-44 devices.
The two penned a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressing the importance of the devices for ranchers in their respective states.
“Over the last several years, increased predation across the nation has contributed to declining volumes of domestic livestock herds. In fact, in Texas alone, it is estimated that predation of sheep and goats results in approximately $25 million annually in revenue losses,” read the letter to Vilsack.
“It is estimated that if Texas and Wyoming ranchers could better control predation, it could result in over $100 million in farm gate sales. In Wyoming alone, predator losses amounted to 47.3 percent of all sheep and lamb deaths.
“In Montana, coyotes killed over 1,500 livestock in Fiscal Year 2023 with many more going unreported as there is no coyote depredation compensation program. It is imperative that Congress and the Department of Agriculture work in harmony to ensure producers have access to the resources they need to address aggressive predators.
“While we work in Congress to ensure prohibitions are not enacted in future legislation, we urge the USDA to continue production and supply of M-44 devices for government trappers and licensed private applicators. The continued production of M-44 devices is well within the law and is important to ensure ranchers have access to this safe and effective predation tool.”
ASI President Brad Boner thanks the members that joined the letter to USDA, including Reps. Jake Ellzey, Jodey Arrington and Chip Roy of Texas and Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, as well as Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Ted Cruz of Texas and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.

The Dairy Sheep Association of North America is making plans for an in-person Dairy Sheep Symposium this fall. The symposium is scheduled for Nov. 7-9 in Chicago, Ill. This will be the first in-person gathering of the association in five years.
The three-day event will include two days of presentations, producer panels and small group sessions focused on dairy sheep nutrition, sheep milk processing, dairy sheep management and the marketing of sheep dairy products.
The third day will include a tour of Ms. J & Company – a sheep dairy milking 500 ewes a day in Wisconsin. The tour will include a hands-on demonstration of skills that producers can take back to their own operations.
The symposium will be conducted at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, located near Chicago O’Hare International Airport. DSANA has reserved a block of rooms at a symposium rate of $179 per night.
Visit to learn more.

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