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Ready to Continue Serving the American Sheep Industry

Susan Shultz, ASI President

The first ever ASI virtual convention was a success with more than 500 registrations and a RAMS PAC auction that generated more than $30,000. I hope you tuned in and viewed the first-class videos and learned about our industry from the panelists and speakers.

Some of the proceedings are archived and can be accessed on the ASI YouTube channel (SheepUSA1). The ASI staff and ASI Executive Board worked well as a team to provide an educational program and conduct the business of our association. It was an honor for me to work with my fellow officers Mike Corn (N.M.), Benny Cox (Texas) and Brad Boner (Wyo.) to help make it happen. I would like to welcome Ben Lehfeldt (Mont.) as our newly elected secretary-treasurer, as well as Lisa Weeks (Va.) and Bronson Corn (N.M.) as new regional directors to the ASI Executive Board.

Since this is my first column as your president, I was asked to share information on our operation and family. My husband, Bill, and I with our son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Virginia, are partners in a mixed farming operation located in western Ohio. We are the third generation to live on the family farm – which we call Bunker Hill – and reside in the farmhouse built in the late 1800s. Our land is well-suited for raising corn and soybeans, but also has an abundance of grass and pasture. In the past 20 years, we have planted nearly 15,000 hardwood trees in wetland areas as an asset for future generations. Our primary agricultural endeavor has always been raising and breeding sheep.

Similar to other Midwest seedstock producers, for 25 years we merchandized our registered Rambouillets by exhibiting at shows and sales though out the United States, meeting sheep producers and making lifelong friends along the way. In recent years, we have transitioned to raising black-faced terminal sires for use in commercial flocks. In addition to visual appraisal, we collect quantitative data on our lambs each year, process that data through the National Sheep Improvement Program and use estimated breeding values on a variety of traits to enhance our selection process. Recently, we started adding genomic information through tissue sampling to verify parenting and ascertain various genetic conditions – including the myostatin gene, a muscle and leanness indicator. In our operation, we believe that using the latest advances in both quantitative and molecular genetics is key to our success, as well as to that of the sheep industry.

Serving as officers and volunteer leaders in both state and national sheep organizations is as much a part of our family as our antiques. Both Bill and I have been engaged with numerous councils and committees through the years and have gained an appreciation for the diversity of our fellow sheep producers and their production systems. As I begin my ninth year serving on the ASI Executive Board, I am grateful for the commitments that all the leaders before us have made in order to improve our industry. There is work to be done, and I firmly believe that only by working together as a united force will we be able to move our industry forward and realize our vision for the American sheep industry.

The sheep industry has been good to our family and we value the friendships we have made through the years. Like many of you, each year before we turn in rams we check the ASI Annual Convention dates and make sure that lambing will not interfere with us being together. For 2022, please save the dates of Jan. 19-23 for our 157th annual convention. I look forward to meeting you in person and learning about your operations.

In closing, during these challenging times let us not forget to demonstrate kindness and compassion to those who have lost loved ones, endured illness, dealt with loss of income and are combating anxiety and loneliness.

My best.

Pockets of Growth Revealed in Sheep Inventory

JULIE STEPANEK SHIFLETT, PH.D.
Juniper Economic Consulting

Every year the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service conducts a survey of the sheep industry inventory. The inventory data helps state, federal and industry stakeholders identify and direct investments to promote the American sheep industry.

USDA/NASS aims to assure the availability of information on the agriculture sector to all participants. USDA reports these survey results to ensure that buyers and sellers have equal information about the supply and demand of lamb.

“In a market without this free information, large firms might well be able to invest in market intelligence that small firms and farms would not have available,” according to Effland and Coble, 2017. “Voluntary participation in surveys that gather such information is essential for USDA continuing its role as an objective unbiased provider of market intelligence and is critical for accuracy in design and implementation of farm policies.”

 

Ewe Numbers Down Marginally

In the 2021 report, total sheep and lamb inventory was 5.17 million head, down 1 percent annually, down 2 percent in five years and down 4 percent in the past 10 years. In 2021, the number of ewes 1 year and older totaled 2.96 million head, down 1 percent annually, down 3 percent in five years and 6-percent lower in 10 years.

Regional inventory data is perhaps more helpful in directing local investments. Texas remained the largest sheep state in 2021. It saw ewe numbers stabilize at 445,000 ewes. California is the second largest sheep state with 250,000 ewes and saw a 4-percent decline in ewe inventory. Wyoming – the third largest sheep state at 220,000 ewes – saw a 2-percent increase.

In total, the top 10 largest sheep states saw a 0.2 percent expansion in ewe numbers, or by 4,000 head. The top 10 largest sheep states account for 63 percent of all ewes nationally.

Broader regional ewe numbers reveal pockets of growth. While Texas and the Mid-Atlantic states saw year-to-year steady ewe numbers, the Great Lakes region continues to expand its sheep numbers, as did New England.

Eleven states reported by NASS saw a year-on-year increase in inventory numbers. Colorado saw the greatest increase – an 8-percent jump in ewe inventory to 169,000 head. Indiana was also up 8 percent to 41,000 ewes and Tennessee was up 7 percent to 32,000 ewes. The rise of ewe numbers in Colorado might be the result of the opening of a new processing facility. Access to processing facilities can be a constraint to sheep industry growth. States that saw 2021 growth were as diverse as Virginia and Pennsylvania in the East, to Michigan and Wisconsin in the Midwest, to Wyoming and North Dakota further west.

Ewe numbers and lamb crop reported by USDA/NASS can help inform marketing decisions for coming months and years. The 2020 lamb crop was reported as 3.2 million head, down 1 percent annually and down 2 percent in the past five years. Estimated federally inspected lamb harvest in January was 160,858 head, down 4 percent from the same period in 2020. Estimated lamb production totaled 7.7 million lbs., down 6 percent year-on-year. As ewe numbers decline, it is expected that lamb production will lower, but recall that an increasing number of lambs are channeled through state and custom-exempt facilities that are not reported in the federally inspected slaughter data.

In order for the industry to address the lower national ewe numbers, it must first understand the constraints to expanded flocks. The factors are varied: some producers are retiring, while others source competing on-farm enterprises, increasing cost and availability of labor, drought, predators or access to markets as constraints. Although national numbers are down, there exist pockets of growth. What supply and demand factors are driving growth in these regions?

For all its benefits, one parameter not reported by USDA/NASS data is sheep breeds. The survey does not inform us about a potential structural transformation that is occurring in some regions of the country – the growth in hair sheep numbers and the lighter-weight lamb market. USDA/NASS collects the number of meat goats and milk goats separately, however, there might be too many sheep breeds and crossbreeding to allow the industry to track hair sheep numbers. Slaughter numbers can offer some insights. A trend toward lighter slaughter weights in federally inspected slaughter and the increase in state inspected slaughter suggests the mix of lighter-weight lambs – such as Dorper and Katahdin – is increasing.

 

Number of Sheep Shorn Contracted

The number of sheep shorn in 2020 was 3.275 million head, down 1 percent from a year ago. The number of sheep shorn contracted 8 percent in five years and is down 19 percent in the past 10 years from 4.0 million head. The number of sheep shorn is contracting faster than the total number of ewes because many wool breeds – particularly in Texas – have been replaced by hair breeds.

In 2020, wool production totaled 23.12 million lbs. greasy, down 4 percent year-on-year, down 8 percent in five years and is down
16 percent in 10 years.

In 2015-20, the average amount of wool per head was 7.2 lbs. per head. In the last 10 years, wool volume per head has bounced around from 7.1 lbs. per head to 7.4 lbs. per head in 2015.

If a trend continues of lower fleece weights in the United States, this might be a reflection of more hair sheep in the mix, more medium-sized framed sheep. The Columbia breed can produce 12 to 16 lbs. of wool, but a Shetland produces 2 to 4 lbs.

 

Marketing Weights Shifting

USDA/NASS data can also inform the structure of lamb marketing in the United States. In general, many commercial producers market lambs in the fall at about 80 to 120 lbs. for finishing in feedlots. However, there are multiple marketing options available to producers, including direct sales and for lambs at different weight points.

Overall, the live weight of market lambs reported by sheep producers has been getting lighter. In the years 2012 to 2021, the lightest weight category, 65 lbs. and lighter, saw an increase of 12 percent, the 64 to 84 lbs. category gained 24 percent, the 85 to 105 lbs. category contracted by 7 percent and the weight class of more than 105 lbs. dropped by 6 percent.

Again, the inventory data suggests that marketing channels might be changing. It is possible that more producers are selling lighter weight lambs as slaughter lambs for ethnic-based markets that would normally be placed into feedlots.

 

Lighter-Weight Lamb Market Strong

Tim Baumert, sheep and goat barn manager, at the New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania spoke at the ASI Annual Convention in late January. He commented that the regular buyers at the New Holland market prefer a 70- to 90-lb. lamb but will take heavier lambs to fill orders. He confirmed that buyers are looking for fresh product and prefer to cube a carcass over buying traditional cuts such as the rack or leg.

Good and Choice 1 and 2 lighter-weight lamb prices at the New Holland auction have been mixed. Sixty- to 90-lb. lambs brought $200 per cwt. in January, down 20 percent from $251 per cwt. in December, and down 16 percent from $234 per cwt. in January 2019. Eighty to 90-lb. lambs brought an average $236 per cwt. in January, up 10 percent monthly and up 9 percent year-on-year.

Depending upon volume, lambs at New Holland might rise as Passover approaches at the end of March and the Western Easter that follows in early April.

Baumert reported that in the fall prices typically dip seasonally as volume increases. This suggests that marketing opportunities exist during spring for Easter and during the Muslim holidays, which often fall in the summer.

 

Meat Market Remains Strong

The wholesale composite averaged $455.10 per cwt. in January, up 1 percent monthly and up 9 percent year-on-year. January’s average was 99 percent of the record-high wholesale lamb average set last November. The leg gained in January, but the wholesale composite was restrained by the lower rack, loin and shoulder values.

At the ASI Annual Convention, Megan Wortman of the American Lamb Board reported that in March 15 to Aug. 9, 2020 retail lamb sales increased 31 percent in dollars and 21 percent in volume. Wortman also reported that the grocer H-E-B in Texas saw a 46 percent increase in lamb sales year-on-year in June to August 2020.

Notably, expanded lamb demand is critical to higher prices, and retail lamb consumers are characterized by a lot of first-time buyers.

Wortman explained that during the pandemic there has been more at-home cooking as many restaurants have shut down, which has prompted “increased confidence in the kitchen and interest in experimentation and trying new and even complex recipes.”

 

Wool Market Slow to Recover

The Australian Eastern Market Indicator averaged Australian 1,222 cents per kg clean (U.S. $3.78 per lb. clean) in January, up
5 percent from its pre-recess weeks and down 23 percent year-on-year.

Chris Wilcox of Poimena Analysis, speaking at the ASI convention, expects finer wool prices to rise in 2021 as production rises and demand slowly regains momentum.

Wool apparel trade was hit hard in 2020 and will take some time to recover. The broader wools have seen a multi-year slump in demand, however, and will continue to face headwinds in 2021 due primarily to lower demand.

Wilcox reported that the price competitiveness of wool relative to cotton and synthetic fibers is very good right now, which should encourage processors to blend more wool into their products.

U.S. Closing in on Scrapie Freedom

For years, a top priority of ASI has been to rid the United States of scrapie with the goal that freedom from scrapie would improve the health of our country’s sheep and open trade opportunities with countries around the world.

The American sheep industry has done an excellent job of tackling this degenerative neurologic disease that affects both sheep and goats. The National Scrapie Eradication Program, a cooperative eradication program with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service, leads the way by prioritizing education and testing, and employing both slaughter and live animal surveillance. The last diagnosed case of classical scrapie in the United States occurred almost two years ago in a goat in 2019.

An important question for the industry is when can the United States claim scrapie freedom?

The World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, officially recognizes the disease status for member countries for several diseases, including foot and mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Scrapie is not one of the diseases for which there is an OIE- recognized disease status.

“For scrapie, the OIE describes conditions that the member countries must meet to claim scrapie freedom,” said Veterinary Medical Officer Dr. Stephanie Brault of the Sheep and Goat Health Team at USDA/APHIS/Veterinary Services. “They have guidelines in their terrestrial code, the scrapie chapter, for the determination of the scrapie status of countries. In general, the chapter states that the scrapie status of a country should be determined based on a risk assessment for potential factors for the occurrence of scrapie, whether the country has awareness programs for the stakeholders, and also the robustness of their surveillance and monitoring systems.

“To meet the standards described in the chapter, a country must have systems in place for the previous seven years to mitigate the risk of scrapie introduction, including having appropriate import procedures and banning the feeding of meat and bone meal to sheep and goats. The country must have also performed adequate surveillance to detect scrapie, and not detected any cases of classical scrapie during the seven years. The goals of the NSEP are to eradicate classical scrapie from the country and meet the OIE criteria. Once the United States can claim scrapie freedom, trade negotiation with other countries for sheep and goats and their products will be enhanced.

“Currently, what individual countries do for scrapie is negotiate with each other the stipulations under which live goats and sheep or products from one country will be accepted into another country. If we were to meet the OIE criteria for disease freedom, it will allow us to claim scrapie freedom and strengthen our ability to negotiate. That’s why it is extremely important to have the support of the industry in following our program.”

There is a clear path ahead as the American sheep and goat industries navigate the future.

“It’s not anything new to say that the industry needs to support the National Scrapie Eradication Program as much as possible,” Brault said. “It’s designed to achieve that level described by the OIE to allow the United States to claim scrapie freedom.”

Animal identification certainly plays an important role in the process. After all, if an animal is diagnosed with scrapie, it’s important for animal health officials to be able to trace that animal’s journey from its flock of origin forward.

“We educate livestock producers and veterinarians on the clinical signs of scrapie and what the reporting responsibilities are as well as what the official animal identification requirements are. Those go hand-in-hand with surveillance,” said Dr. Dianne Norden, a Veterinary Medical Officer with APHIS. “You can’t find the positive cases and not be able to trace it back to its farm of origin without proper identification and records.”

Norden works closely with scrapie surveillance and added that the COVID-19 pandemic has created its share of issues when it comes to surveillance.

“We’ve been under travel limitations due to COVID-19 as well as there has been concern by some slaughter plant managers who have restricted Veterinary Services and state collectors from collecting samples at some surveillance sites. These restrictions have limited us from recruiting any new sites,” Norden said. “We have made progress in some states on how to safely collect those samples while keeping our personnel and slaughter plant personnel separated. For example, in one plant, materials to be sampled were placed in a barrel that is kept on the back dock for our personnel to pick up and sample at our site. There are more plants opening up as we try to be creative on how we can collect those samples and still keep everyone safe.”

APHIS monitors and inspects commercial venues where sheep might congregate after leaving the farm or ranch.

“Points of concentration such as livestock markets are inspected on a regular basis – at least once a year,” Norden said. “In addition to having inspectors, we provide ongoing training for animal ID coordinators to address the recent changes to the scrapie ID requirements. In March 2019 official identification became required for commercial low risk goats which were previously exempt in many states.

“We also added an owner-hauler statement requirement for slaughter animals to the existing owner-hauler statement requirements.

“Also, based on stakeholder input, we are increasing our efforts to have livestock markets and other concentration points submit mature dead, down or disabled animals and for states that aren’t meeting their state sampling minimums to collect live animal samples.”

Official scrapie identification tags– which come in plastic, metal, or electronic versions – and electronic implants have played and continue to play an instrumental role in the eradication program. At one point, APHIS provided free tags to all sheep and goat producers. As tag use became more prevalent, the program was changed to provide up to 100 free tags to new producers. Free metal tags are still available for livestock markets and dealers.

“We have not seen a significant overall change in the number of tags sold or distributed in the fiscal years 2019 and 2020 compared to the years prior to fiscal year 2018, when policy changes started to be made,” Brault said. “What this seems to indicate is that the stakeholders recognize the value of official ID to the sheep and goat industry and have continued to use the ID despite the changes in the policies.”

APHIS is currently analyzing official identification use in the NSEP and a report is expected later this year.

ASI Animal Health Co-Chair Dr. Cindy Wolf of Minnesota said the best way for producers to be compliant with scrapie regulations is to officially identify animals before they leave the flock of birth.

“Producers play such an important role in ID compliance,” she said.

While it might seem like there’s a long way to go to get to that ultimate seven-year mark, producers should realize that much of the heavy lifting on scrapie freedom has already been done. What remains is a manageable task that can be accomplished by following NSEP guidelines.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” Brault said. “Identify your sheep and support the testing of sheep for scrapie.”

Genomic-Enhanced EBVs Education on Track for 2021

TOM HODGMAN
NSIP Katahdin Breed Representative

Katahdin breeders have a new tool to accurately identify the genetic potential for several commercially important traits. This tool (i.e., genomics) is not only important for producers who sell seedstock, but also for those buying breeding rams and replacement ewes to advance the performance of their flocks.

Genomics, an advanced DNA technology, combined with current estimated breeding values, improve the accuracy of selection for several traits important to producers, such as: growth to market, resistance to parasites, and especially maternal traits like number born and number weaned.
Katahdins are the first sheep breed in the United States to have the background research available to use genomic technology thanks to the DNA reference population of nearly 5,000 lambs assembled by Dr. Joan Burke and Dr. Ron Lewis with support of 20 cooperating flocks.

Katahdin Hair sheep International was awarded a grant from the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center to facilitate commercialization of Genomic-enhanced EBVs for NSIP producers. The idea is to use the Katahdin effort as a model for other breeds to follow. In years to come, other breeds – once they establish their DNA reference populations – can simply use the Katahdin example to more easily utilize this significant enhancement to genetic evaluation. This commercialization effort – funded by NSIIC – is now underway and begins with a broad educational campaign.

Katahdin breeders are fortunate to have experts to help guide them along the learning curve toward a better understanding of genomics, its impacts on breeding selection and the steps needed to generate GEBVs for their animals. To help producers learn more, the NSIP Committee of KHSI recently developed two documents to explain the basics of genomics and to determine whether this technology is a good fit for their flocks.

The first document provides an overview of genomics, how it differs from past genetic selection and how improvements in accuracy offered by GEBVs will shave years off the time it takes to prove the genetic value of an animal. Secondly, the committee also developed a “framework” to explain the nuts and bolts of on-farm DNA sampling, as well as the potential costs, to producers.

In addition to written guidance, a webinar series is scheduled for late winter 2021. The series of four webinars will be presented by industry experts and Katahdin breeders to further help NSIP producers determine if they want to become involved. Each of the four webinars will have a different focus and will include:

• What are Genomic-enhanced Estimated Breeding Values?

• What Does the Sample/Data Submission Process Look Like?

• How Do Genomic-enhanced Estimated Breeding Values Impact Accuracy and Selection?

• How has Genomics Changed the Beef Industry? What Can Sheep Producers Learn?

Each webinar will be recorded, so if you miss one you can view it at your convenience. To learn more, producers should visit NSIP.org/genomic-enhanced-ebvs/.

Ludlam to Lead Michigan Sheep Producers

Samantha Ludlam is the new executive director of the Michigan Sheep Producers Association, replacing Maury Kaercher, who recently retired from the position after 10 years of service. Ludlam assumed responsibities on Jan. 15 after successfully assisting with the 2021 virtual Michigan Shepherd Weekend event.

Ludlam has a bachelor of science in agriculture food and natural resources education from Michigan State University and is scheduled to complete her masters this spring. She serves as the agri-science teacher and FFA advisor at Dundee Community Schools and will balance that role with the MSPA Executive Director position’s part-time duties.

“I hope to continue to strengthen the organization and its objectives, as well as focus on recruiting and retaining membership,” Ludlam said. “We have a long way to go since COVID-19 has set back some original plans and ideas, however, I do believe it has also opened the door to a lot of new opportunities for member engagement.”

Growing up in a family that is actively engaged in the organization, Ludlam brings vast and valuable experience. She has been a volunteer with the MSPA youth, has managed the organization’s social media accounts, assisted with the website and been a part of key communication committee decisions and activities. Ludlam is ready to meet the membership challenges which will be vital to MSPA’s future success.

ASI Elects Leadership at 2021 Annual Convention

Following one of the most difficult years in the history of the American sheep industry, Susan Shultz of Ohio has been elected to lead ASI as its next president. Shultz was unanimously elected during the final day of the sheep industry’s 156th Annual Convention on Jan. 29.

Shultz had served as vice president the past two years and as secretary/treasurer the two years prior to that. Also moving up the officer chain was Wyoming’s Brad Boner, who was elected vice president after two years as secretary/treasurer. The two are joined by newly elected secretary/treasurer Ben Lehfeldt of Montana. Benny Cox of Texas moves into the past president position, replacing Mike Corn of New Mexico to round out the association’s slate of officers for the next two years.

“I’m so proud to serve as ASI president,” said Shultz. “It’s such a special accomplishment for both Bill (her husband) and I because the sheep industry has always been such a special part of our lives. I welcome the opportunity to give back to an industry that has given so much to me all these years.”

Shultz operates Bunker Hill Farm with Bill, and their son, Joe, in DeGraff, Ohio. The family raises Suffolks these days, but the farm traces back to the 1930s and has been home to Shropshires and Rambouillets in the past. As an active participant in the National Sheep Improvement Program and former chair of ASI’s Let’s Grow Committee, Shultz has shown a dedication to embracing technology (including the use of estimated breeding values) to continue to improve the American sheep industry. As a seedstock producer, Shultz and Bunker Hill Farm produce black-faced terminal sires for the heavy, lean lamb market. Terminal sires from the farm have been used all across the United States, including by a contingent of Western range operators.

“I think we’ve done a good job in recent years of really engaging all of the Executive Board members in guiding our industry. These men and women are such a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of the industry. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of producers in recent years – many of whom come to our industry without an extensive sheep or livestock background. So, there’s a real need out there for education. We also need to lead our industry into opportunities to increase profits and provide for continued growth.”

Boner is a past president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association who previously served as the Region VII director to the ASI Executive Board. In that capacity he represented Idaho, Montana and Wyoming within the association. He left that position in 2019 when he was elected secretary/treasurer of ASI and now moves into the role of vice president.

A sheep and cattle producer in Glenrock, Wyo., Boner previously was chairman of the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative and has worked tirelessly for the sheep industry as a part of ASI’s Wool Council, Lamb Council and Let’s Grow Committee.

A fifth-generation sheep rancher from Montana, Lehfeldt’s family has been involved in the sheep industry for 135 years. Lehfeldt has served on ASI’s Wool Council and is a director for the Montana Wool Growers Association. In addition, he served on the American Lamb Board and has been the sheep industry representative to the National Grazing Lands Coalition.

Three current representatives to the ASI Executive Board were reelected by the regions they represent and were joined by two newly elected regional directors. Steve Clements of South Dakota (Region IV), Sarah Smith of Washington (Region VIII) and Bob Harlan of the National Lamb Feeders Association were reelected. They are joined on the ASI Executive Board by Lisa Weeks of Virginia (Region II) and Bronson Corn (Region VI), who were both elected by their regions to serve on the ASI Executive Board for the first time.

Executive Board members Laurie Hubbard (Region I), Anne Crider (Region III), Tammy Fisher (Region V) and Randy Tunby (Region VII) continue to serve in those roles to fill out the executive board for 2021.

While the ASI officers and staff convened in a hotel ballroom in the Denver suburb of Lone Tree, Colo., the remainder of the 517 registered Annual Convention attendees joined the conversation via Zoom and YouTube. ASI staff weren’t sure what to expect in regards to turnout for the virtual convention, yet registration numbers were comparable to recent in-person gatherings.

“We were grateful that the American sheep industry responded so positively to the virtual convention,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “While our time was limited, the virtual convention provided a unique opportunity for sheep producers and others in the industry to attend every council and committee meeting – something that is impossible to do under our normal convention schedule.

“The convention sponsors that we depend on financially also stepped up with contributions in spite of major pandemic-related losses in lamb and wool markets. We thank them for their support.”

Companies Look to Secure American Lamb Processing

Two of the three lamb processing plants that were represented at the Opening Session of the ASI Annual Convention weren’t even in operation six months ago, and yet all three are now major players in the industry. That just goes to show the uncertainties American sheep producers faced in getting lambs harvested in 2020.

Jeff Hasbrouck of Double J Lamb, Spence Rule of Colorado Lamb Processors and Rick Stott of Superior Farms took part in the opening panel discussion. Given the newness of their facilities, Hasbrouck and Rule used their opening remarks to introduce their operations and talk about their efforts to ramp up to full production cycles in the months and years to come. As CEO of Superior Farms, Stott has an entirely different perspective and goals, which include maintaining Superior Farms’ vast operation.

Leading off the opening remarks, Hasbrouck detailed the process of his family purchasing an abandoned lamb processing facility in Texas in response to the bankruptcy and subsequent closure of the Mountain States Rosen plant in Colorado. Double J also owns a lamb feedlot and works heavily with members of the Mountain States Cooperative – all of whom were left without a processor when MSR closed it’s doors.

“We felt like as a family that our only option was to look at something else in the industry, maybe buying a plant if one was available, where we could fabricate and cover some of those Mountain States Rosen capabilities,” said Hasbrouck of finding the old Ranchers Lamb Plant in San Angelo, Texas.

The plant was originally built in 1998 and closed to lamb processing in 2005. It reopened around 2013 or 2014 for a brief time as a beef facility. Cleaning up the abandoned and overgrown facility was a daunting task, but one the family tackled at full speed in order to get the harvesting floor up and running in January. Hasbrouck hopes to begin fabricating work this month at the facility.

The company was just getting started on putting the “fab floor” together in a usable manner when Hasbrouck spoke via Zoom at the convention.

Rule provided a brief overview of the Colorado Lamb Processors plant that opened back in September after nearly two years of construction. The “kill and chill” operation doesn’t currently offer fabricating, but played an important role in getting lambs harvested and in the freezer after MSR closed. The plant was designed to add a fabricating operation down the road if owners Mike Harper, Steve Raftopoulos and Rule decide it is necessary.

Currently the plant is processing 1,000 head a day, but Rule hopes to increase that to as much as 1,800 head a day as demand increases once the restaurant and foodservice industries get back to full strength after terrible crashes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While he didn’t have to get a new plant up and running during the pandemic, Stott said his employee-owned company put a specific spotlight on the safety of those 475 employees while keeping the company’s two lamb plants operational.

“We’ve taken a very aggressive approach about COVID and making sure that they can go home to their families in a safe way,” Stott said. “We’ve been very fortunate in that regards. And they are incredibly resilient and incredibly committed to Superior Farms and the American lamb industry.”
Stott shared the company’s motto of “fail often, fail fast and fail forward. We’ve done a lot of that this year,” he said. “I can tell you that I’ve been wrong in trying to figure out what’s going to happen with COVID about 95 percent of the time.”

Uncertain markets – especially early in the pandemic – have made it extremely difficult, Stott said, adding that Superior Farms lost 50 percent of its business in two weeks in early March 2020.

“They cancelled order after order. Fortunately, within six weeks of that, retail sales (of lamb) started to accelerate,” Stott said. “That required a pretty good shift in our production processes because we don’t process the same product for foodservice that we do for retail.”

Price volatility for lambs was yet another rollercoaster for the industry in 2020.

“That’s pretty disruptive for the entire industry: from producer to feeder to packer to retailer to our consumers, as well,” Stott said. “There were only 10 weeks in the entire year that I would say we had a balance of supply and demand, that the price was stable for more than a couple of weeks.”

But it wasn’t all bad news. There was a significant growth in retail purchases of lamb. In some cases these were consumers who had never purchased lamb before, and now “they are coming back time and time again to buy that lamb. We’re seeing this growth that we haven’t seen in decades.”

To meet that demand, Superior Farms has developed products for consumers who are new to lamb, such as pre-seasoned options. That growth has also allowed Superior Farms to develop new distribution channels through ecommerce and home delivery meals. Recent lamb buys by USDA have been a benefit, as well.

“Peter Orwick and the ASI team did a tremendous job at getting the government to buy some overstocked items that we had in the freezer,” Stott added. “That’s been a tremendous benefit to our industry as a whole.”

AWA Standards Introduced During Wool Council

The American Wool Assurance Program was introduced as a concept at the ASI Annual Convention a year ago, but the voluntary program really took on life during this year’s Wool Council meeting as AWA Standards were introduced to the full ASI membership for the first time.

In the past year, the program – developed by ASI and Colorado State University – has undergone three major reviews by an industry group that included producers, shearers, sheep specialists and buyers.

CSU’s Dr. Jason Ahola oversaw development of the program and said that discerning consumers are beginning to require assurances that the wool used in outdoor and high-end fashions has been harvested humanely from sheep that are well cared for year round. Some clothing manufacturers are already requiring wool purchases to be certified through similar programs. This certified care movement is starting to be required of all livestock industries, from beef to poultry.

The AWA Program is different from other international sheep care assurance programs in that it is producer driven. And while it focuses heavily on the time period around shearing each year, there are standards for year-round care of the flock as the program is an extension of ASI’s Sheep Safety Quality Assurance Program and Sheep Care Guide.

AWA will provide three levels of distinction: AWA Educated, AWA Process Verified and AWA Certified. ASI has begun the next step of developing an online module that will allow producers to reach the AWA Educated level of the program. ASI Wool Consultant Heather Pearce said she expects that process to be completed in April. This science-backed program focuses on education and encourages the use of best practices of American wool operations.

Once producers have completed the first level, they can move on to the second step, which is AWA Process Verified. To receive a certificate for this second level of the AWA Program, producers will need to develop and implement an operating plan (with records), as well as undergo an evaluation by a second party (possibly by a local veterinarian or a state extension agent). Producers would need to be evaluated every other year to maintain this status. Becoming AWA Process Verified will provide producers with an AWA certificate and a stencil mark on their wool bales certifying their status.

The highest level of certification through the program is AWA Certified. To achieve this level, producers will have to complete the educational module and develop and implement an operational plan (with records) just like the AWA Process Verified level of the program. However, producers wishing to be AWA Certified will also have to undergo a third-party audit and must be audited or evaluated every other year. They must complete an audit at least once every four years to retain this status. Wool producers who reach this level will receive an AWA certificate, be able to use an appropriate stencil mark on their wool bales and the AWA logo. They’ll also be listed as AWA Certified online and elsewhere.

ASI and CSU are aiming to keep the cost of a certified audit as low as possible, while engaging and training auditors who are knowledgeable about sheep production to maintain program credibility. More details on the audit process will be available soon.

With this voluntary program, producers will then be able to compete with certified wools. Price premiums have been realized by other wool programs around the world, but ASI always suggests producers discuss options with wool buyers/warehouses to make the best decision for their individual operations. ASI is also working to have the program recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To learn more about the program, contact Pearce at heather@sheepusa.org or Rita Samuelson at rita@sheepusa.org.

ASI International Wool Marketing Coordinator Christa Rochford covered the use of U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service funding in place of cancelled travel and related programs that were scrapped due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

A major project was finding a way to replicate the effective reverse trade missions that would normally bring international wool buyers to the United States to visit warehouses all across the country. The solution was to continue making the connection with new and current customers with a video series that is morphing these trips into a virtual experience by reaching out, educating and assessing the needs of customers, which can then be matched with American Wool.

Reverse trade missions in the past have resulted in the sale of as much as 800,000 pounds of wool in a single week. So instead of bringing international buyers to the United States, the virtual trade mission video project was developed to take American wool to international buyers.

A film crew visited locations from Ohio to Texas to Utah to South Dakota to Washington state via the American Wool Road Trip. The program is in its final editing phase and should launch this spring. In addition, these efforts were maximized by also using the videos in a social media campaign that reached domestic consumers with the benefits of American wool by sharing the American woolgrower’s story.

In an additional report to the council, Chris Wilcox or Poimena Analysis said the pandemic brought lower demand for clothing in general and that the demand for raw wool fell by 14 percent in 2020. Unfortunately, he said there have been few signs of recovery in the clothing market in recent months.

Lamb Industry Survives ‘Coronacoaster’ Ride

Riding the “Coronacoaster” in 2020 took American lamb producers on a wild adventure that included exhilarating highs and extreme lows and it was all thrown at the industry at a dizzying pace as producers had no choice but to keep their arms and legs inside the vehicle until the ride came to a complete stop.

The question that remains, however, is where does the industry stand after surviving the ride of its life? While producers can never recover the lost revenue of a national shutdown just before Easter 2020, new consumers have found their way to a premium protein that they might have never attempted to cook on their own in the past. The restaurant and foodservice industries are still in a shambles – especially as winter took away the option for outdoor dining in many parts of the country. But as spring dawns in the United States, there is a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.

At least that’s the way Megan Wortman of the American Lamb Board presented the state of the industry to the ASI Lamb Council during the Annual Convention in January.

“We are seeing some new opportunities and even some new customers emerging from the pandemic,” she said.

Non-traditional markets proved to be a strength for American lamb in 2020. While the ethnic market remained a strong point for the industry, those non-traditional avenues included growing sales through direct to consumer opportunities, farmers’ markets and online sales.

“They created some innovative ways to get American lamb into consumers’ hands,” Wortman said. “So, we’re really excited about the growth of all of these non-traditional markets.”

Prior to COVID-19, nearly half of all American lamb sales came through the restaurant and foodservice industries. Even those who remained open for takeout found lamb a difficult sell during the pandemic.

Retail sales, however, made a strong showing during the pandemic. Early on, consumers often found meat cases empty of the traditional beef, chicken and pork they might purchase, and that helped push some consumers toward lamb. But Wortman said the steady growth in retail sales continued long after the initial meat shortages and could be attributed to several factors, such as more people cooking at home, added free time to cook more extravagant meals and the purchase of new cooking equipment by consumers who had nowhere else to go.

Data for the year showed a high number of first-time lamb purchasers, as well as the fact that many of them returned to purchase lamb again and again throughout the year.

Tim Baumert with the New Holland Sales Barn in Pennsylvania said he’s never seen the demand for lamb that he saw in the second half of 2020, including lambs bringing as much as $3 per pound for 50- to 90-pound lambs at his sale barn. New Holland caters to the ethnic market, where lambs under 100 pounds are the top draw.

Texas A&M University’s David Anderson told the council he’s projecting strong demand for lamb, coupled with flat production which he believes will lead to higher lamb prices. With low cold storage stocks to begin 2021 and a hope for recovery of the restaurant industry, Anderson said there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021 for the lamb industry.

Balancing Challenges & Opportunities

Rabobank’s Angus Gidley-Baird provided an outlook on the global sheepmeat market from an Australian perspective in his Keynote Address to the 2021 ASI Annual Convention.

While it wasn’t welcome news for American producers, he said the Australian lamb industry is fueled by export growth as the country’s domestic consumption begins to decline.

And since China and the United States are the top export markets, more Australian lamb will soon be headed to America. The per unit returns for Australian exports to the United States tend to be higher as the country receives more of Australia’s prime lamb cuts. China is a bigger export market for the country’s mutton.

Gidley-Baird said higher prices were at least partly to blame for the decline in lamb consumption in Australia. But there are also some challenges in the lamb market that appear to be universal, he added.

Those challenges include: converting new customers and educating them on cooking lamb; managing supply and demand to not overprice the product; and managing the quality of production to meet customer expectations.

However, lamb has some advantages, as well.

It’s not constrained by religious beliefs as pork and beef are, and is in some countries considered the favored meat. Developing markets in Asia are also driving growth in sheepmeat consumption.

Agency Updates Dominate Resource Council

The partnership between the American sheep industry and Wildlife Services was a key focus of the Resource Management Council’s meeting during the 2021 ASI Annual Convention.

Jason Suckow, now director of the agency’s National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo., and former director of the Western Region for Wildlife Services, gave an overview of the agency’s recent efforts to protect the American sheep flock from predators. Among them was a collaborative effort in Montana to overcome grizzly bear conflicts. Grizzly bear depredation has increased dramatically from 12 incidents in 2002 to 149 in 2020.

“This is going to continue to be an ongoing issue and concern,” Suckow said. “And as such, we were able to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on an agreement to add new federal appropriations to Montana to provide assistance and reduce conflict.”

Five new employees were hired in Montana to address grizzly bear issues and the cooperative agreement allowed for the design and construction of 47 electric fence projects. WS has renewed that agreement with USFWS this year in an ongoing effort to slow the rise in grizzly depredation.

“We’re pretty excited about the Montana pilot project,” said ASI’s Chase Adams. “Wildlife Services has worked with Dave McEwen, Jim Brown and others with the Montana Wool Growers Association on that project.”

Suckow said WS has received additional funding in a number of areas to assist livestock producers in the year to come.

“Wildlife Services received $1.38 million for the second consecutive year to continue to provide non-lethal livestock protection services to reduce conflict with large carnivores. With that money, we provided assistance to 12 different states. Again, the main purpose of that allocation is toward the larger carnivores, such as wolves, bears and lions. We created 18 new positions across those 12 states and provided assistance to more than 200 producers with those funds.”

While everyone involved in livestock and livestock protection realizes the limitations of non-lethal methods, Suckow hopes that ongoing research at NWRC can lead to intelligent decisions and best management practices for the use of such tools.

“There is something to be said about where and when we use the non-lethal, and where we get the biggest bang for our buck,” he said.
NWRC’s Dr. Katherine Horak addressed the committee briefly on the research and development of toxicants to combat coyotes. That research is continuing into this spring.

Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover updated producers on PLC’s efforts to work with the new Biden Administration. While that relationship is in the early stage as agency appointments are still ongoing, Glover said there will be a definite focus on how any public lands decisions might affect the climate.

“There’s no better people to have public lands management conversations with than the people who are already doing it,” Glover said. “We are prepared to have those conversations.”

The council also heard updates from representatives of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Council Looks for Areas to Work With Administration

COVID-19 pandemic relief will continue to be a huge driver of budget decisions throughout the United States government, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be a “big player” said Matt Paul of Cornerstone Government Affairs in addressing the Legislative Action Council during the 2021 ASI Annual Convention.

As others mentioned during the convention, Paul also sees climate change as a key priority for the Biden Adminstration.

“You absolutely want to be involved in these conversations,” Paul said. “I think there are going to be a lot of dollars behind this and it’s going to be solution focused and job focused.”

Cornerstone’s Jim Richards said immigration reform will also be a hot topic with the new administration, and regulations concerning agricultural workers could be affected. However, ASI’s continued focus is on the H-2A specific program for foreign herders.

The Legislative Action Council also passed a new directive calling for agricultural workers to be recognized as essential workers in the areas of meat, fiber and milk to address issues that arose during the pandemic in New York state.

Benefits of EID Outlined for PERC

CAT URBIGKIT
The Shepherd

The Production, Education and Research Council had an information-filled session, starting with an update from Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle of Iowa State University on the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan, which outlines industry response to market disruptions that are expected if Foot-and-Mouth Disease is detected in the United States.

She noted that FMD is expected to be a much bigger disaster than the COVID-19 pandemic. Although not a public health or food safety concern, FMD is highly contagious, and is the major animal disease preventing world trade of animals and animal products.

The SSWP website (SecureSheepWool.org) includes tabs for livestock producers, veterinarians, packers/processors and regulatory officials. Sheep producers can use the site to develop biosecurity plans for their varied operations (from feedlots to rangeland grazing), and review the steps that will need to be demonstrated to allow for movement of their livestock.

Next on the agenda was a producer panel. Large-flock California sheepman Ryan Mahoney and Pennsylvania Katahdin shepherdess Janet Turner provided their personal experiences in using electronic identification systems in their flocks in a session moderated by Dr. Cindy Wolf of Minnesota.

Both producers cited the initial cost of the EID system as their biggest challenge, but were unanimous in their view that the information gained quickly resulted in their ability to make management decisions that far exceeded the start-up costs.

Mahoney, of R. Emigh Livestock in Rio Vista, Calif., noted that tracking footrot problems in his flock allowed efficient identification of the least productive flock members. By using EID, he identified which ewes had coarser wool, which were shorn separately. This allowed improvements in both wool yield and micron counts. Mahoney said that if EIDs were mandated, livestock producers “will be blown away” at the advancements they could make in their flock’s productivity. He said the EID system paid for itself in less than a year.

Turner, of Ewe Lamb Right Farm in Shippensburg, Penn., said EID was a time-saver for her flock management. Rather than taking three people two full days of sorting and recording data in the field, she can now run the flock through within a few hours. The bonus is with the EID capturing information, it ensures it is much more accurate than her hand-written notes, and the information is automatically uploaded to her computer system.

Turner said by incorporating EID in her farm’s management system, they now have better data on individual animals, resulting in increasing the number of animals she can make available for sale.

Dr. Anne Zajac of Virginia Tech also gave the council an update on a new parasite treatment, parabiotics, which the USDA has announced as a “ground breaking treatment” to prevent barber pole worm in sheep. Parabiotics are inactive probiotics, or good bacteria, that are normally found in the soil and that can provide health benefits to the sheep while producing a protein that binds to receptors in the intestine of the parasite. The treatment will then kill the parasites and reduce debilitating infection in adult sheep.

This breakthrough in the use of parabiotics provides a new type of product for worm control, and all nematodes should be susceptible to its use. This product will be easy to produce, according to Zajac, since the fermentation process should be relatively inexpensive. Its use could become widespread since no toxicity is expected, and there is a potential to make parabiotics with several specific proteins active against worms, while making it very difficult for parasites to develop resistance.

There is much work to be done before this product could become commercially available. Research will now focus on investigating the best formulation and dose, and a toxicology study meeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standards before clinical trials can be initiated.

Sheep Genetics USA Sets Stage for Industry Advantage

CAT URBIGKIT
The Shepherd

The Genetic Stakeholders Committee panelists focused on the groundwork being made in creation of a new organization called Sheep Genetics USA. This organization will provide the links between various segments of the sheep industry, research scientists and educators to advance the industry through genetic technologies.

“There are many things we as livestock producers can’t control, but genetics is one that we can control,” said Committee Chair Tom Boyer.

Montana’s Ben Lehfeldt explained that Sheep Genetics USA is meant to build on the success of programs like the National Sheep Improvement Program and ASI’s Let’s Grow Program, and provides an opportunity for the industry to continue improvement through providing linkages throughout various industry segments.

The identification and selection of genomes that predispose health and productivity can provide for advancements in efficiencies on farms throughout the country. Gains made through genetics can reduce the need for antibiotic and parasite control, while producing a superior product for a lesser cost.
Improving animal productivity will be based on a better understanding of the genomes so producers can select both genetics and management practices that can be optimized to improve performance.

Wyoming’s Brad Boner said by having membership consisting of people who are passionate about changing sheep genetics in the United States, the industry can move forward with one voice. He noted that organizational bylaws are in the works, and membership applications will soon be available, with no fee for membership, and members will designate on which committee they would like to serve.

Ohio’s Bill Shultz noted that incorporating genomic information will lead to better decision-making on the farm, and the unified, coordinated approach proposed through Sheep Genetics USA will allow seedstock operators, lamb producers and packers to submit huge amounts of data that will be collected and analyzed, and then fine-tuned by scientists, before that information is delivered back to the farmstead by extension personnel and other educational specialists.

Research scientists will be able to further explore and identify economically important traits to develop new selection tools for industry use, including identifying genomic regions associated with performance.

NSIP’s Rusty Burgett said this new effort should allow for science to dictate where efficiencies can be gained in moving the industry forward.

As plans for this new stand-alone, non-profit organization are confirmed, membership application and more information will be made available.

To learn more, visit SheepGeneticsUSA.org.

Lessons Learned from U.K. FMD Outbreak

CAT URBIGKIT
The Shepherd

Dr. Sam Mansley of the United Kingdom’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs led the Animal Health Committee through a review of the response to the horrifying Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001, and the lessons learned from that process.

Mansley was critical of the mathematical modeling used to create the U.K. policy to automatically cull all livestock within a certain radius of an infected premise. He said the model was based on flawed assumptions and bad science, and was created without veterinary input.

Investigations would reveal that infected animals were transported in unwashed trailers, through sale barns and crossing country borders, quickly spreading FMD to new locations and farms. The mathematical model resulted in the large scale slaughter of pigs, cattle and sheep, based on their proximity to infected premises, rather than the reality of how the disease was actually being spread throughout the region.

The result was 1.3 million animals culled, 3,369 farms going out of business and severe consequences socially, financially and scientifically. In one six-week period of intense culling during the initial phase of the outbreak, 1 million sheep were culled. Later sero-surveillance found only 1 of 155 flocks had any FMD-positive animals (9 animals in a 56-head flock).

Mansley maintains that rapid disease detection and culling of susceptible stock on infected premises are vital for bringing an epidemic under control, but drastic automatic preemptive culling was both unnecessary and ineffective.

Mansley was emotional in remembering the devastation caused by both the outbreak itself, and the government response to the outbreak.

He advised that in an outbreak, appropriate responses should include:

• Immediate national animal movement ban;

• The ban must be time-limited by providing an exit strategy;

• Backed up by welfare slaughter plans;

• Implement an agreed control policy;

• Be fast – with slaughter, disposal, C&D control, vaccination, etc.;

• Enforce biosecurity measures;

• Complete epidemiological investigations;

• Complete real-time analysis of the outbreak;

• Keep the control policy flexible.

Most importantly, Mansley noted that there are measures to be taken before an outbreak occurs.

Farms should develop biosecurity plans, have purchase policies in place to ensure they know the origin of the animals they bring onto the farm, have an isolation facility for new animal arrivals, consult with their veterinarian when developing health and biosecurity plans for the farm, and complete farm secure sheep and wool plans.

Learn more about ASI’s Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan – developed in conjunction with Iowa State University – by visiting the SSWS Plan website at SecureSheepWool.org.

Nutrition Game Plan for Uncertain Lamb Markets

CLAY ELLIOTT, PH.D.
Purina Animal Nutrition

What a year it has been for lamb markets and sheep nutrition. February 2020 brought on four-year highs for lamb prices. There was much optimism for the future.

Then the coronavirus began its disruptions in mid-March of 2020. Our ability to sell lamb dropped significantly in the early stages of the pandemic, right in the lead up to major lamb eating holidays such as Easter, Passover and Ramadan.

The upheaval in everyone’s daily lives led to a sudden drop in lamb prices. It forced many lambs to be slowed down on their feed consumption to regulate growth so a wave of heavy sheep wouldn’t go to slaughter at the same time.

The dynamics of the market are starting to improve. Lamb price recovery has gradually occurred as the world slowly found a new normal in the past few months. A feeling of confidence is returning.

Volatility in lamb pricing is always a possibility. Anytime you deal with market uncertainty, you need to have a game plan for nutrition. When you have a strategy in place, it provides options to deal with any challenges or opportunities that might arise. Here are a few considerations to make depending on what the market might be doing.

 

Slow them down

Holding back the rate of gain for lambs is a strategy to get you through down markets, but it takes careful balance. Wait too long, and you might invest more in the overall cost of gain than the animals are worth. But wait just long enough, and you can reach better market conditions and maximize profitability.

Typically, lamb feeders utilize a high energy finishing ration to provide muscle development and fat deposition. Slowing growth requires a different approach. Feed lambs a maintenance ration with high roughage, low calorie, low carbohydrate and low energy.

Feedstuffs in a maintenance ration includes fiber-based ingredients such as cottonseed hulls or soy hulls, with hay making up the balance. If lambs haven’t moved onto a feedlot yet, consider keeping them on pasture until the market turns around, depending on pasture availability. Remember to provide mineral to grazing lambs to reduce mineral deficiencies.

 

Speed them up

Add weight to lambs quickly when markets rally, particularly in peak lamb consumption months tied to holidays.

High carbohydrate, energy-dense diets consisting of grains such as corn, oats or barley work well to quickly add pounds to lambs. Growing animals can be at 3.5 to 4 percent fat without jeopardizing health.

Ramp up the amount of grain in the ration steadily over time. Otherwise, you risk damaging the rumen and causing digestive issues such as acidosis by introducing too much feed at once. Include higher amounts of fiber at the start of the feeding program and phase it out while more energy-based grains are fed to add weight and limit acidosis.

 

Alternative market considerations

Emerging food trends could pave the way to premiums as an additional source of income when traditional lamb markets are down. Millennials’ demand for organic, natural and grass-fed products presents some alternate marketing opportunities but might require changes to your nutrition program.

Research any marketing program you are considering and ensure your nutrition program will work for what is required. For instance, some organic marketing programs won’t allow grain fed from genetically modified crops or mineral containing inorganic minerals.

There’s also growing interest in local meat, presenting opportunities for locker lamb sales. Larger flocks might be able to pull a few lambs out to sell locally, but the majority will still need to go through traditional market channels.

Manage locker lambs differently from the regular flock. The goal is to add weight to locker lambs efficiently before their slaughter date.

Adjust the ration with either more energy and less fiber to put pounds on quickly or feed more fiber and less energy to slow the growth when locker dates are further away.

Providing appropriate feed to meet sheep nutrition requirements and efficiently add weight for your target market is a balancing act. Watch market prices, cost of gains and the balance sheet to confirm you’re making the right decision.

Clay Elliott, Ph.D., is a small ruminant technical specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. Contact him at CElliott@landolakes.com. Visit PurinaMills.com/sheep-feed to learn more.

Obituaries

Glen Davis Fisher, 1947-2021

Glen Davis Fisher was born Feb. 5, 1947, in Childress, Texas. He died suddenly on Feb. 8, 2021, a few days after an epic and treasured celebration of his 74th birthday and family games with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Most of Glen’s childhood was spent on the farm outside Lorenzo, Texas, working with his parents and his sisters. He graduated from Lorenzo High School as valedictorian in 1965 and went to Texas Tech University, where he met Linda Ann McBride and fell in love. They were married on May 21, 1971. After graduating from Texas Tech, the couple moved to Oklahoma State University where Glen finished his masters in agriculture economics.

While he was in Texas Agricultural Extension Service, they had a daughter, Tammy, in Uvalde, Texas. The three moved to Sonora, Texas, in May 1977 and lived on the Halbert ranch where Glen worked for his grandfather-in-law, Robert Halbert. In 1979, he went to work as manager of Sonora Wool and Mohair Company around the same time the couple welcomed a son, David, into the world. Glen was later the manager of Ozona Wool and Mohair and Del Rio Wool and Mohair for a short time. From the time he married Linda, he worked with her family on the ranch in Sonora.

He was president of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association in 2001-2002 and president of the American Sheep Industry Association from 2009-2010. He served on many committees in the sheep and goat, wool and mohair industries and was proud to have been a member and chairman of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center.

Among the many awards he received through the years, he was recognized with the ASI Wool Excellence Award, as well as the Fred T. Earwood Award from the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers. He was also honored by the National Lamb Feeders Association.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Linda Fisher; his daughter, Tammy; son, David, and his wife Stacy; and grandchildren, Madalyn and Weston, all of Sonora, Texas. He is also survived by his sisters, Joan Yoakum and husband Pat of Lubbock, Texas, Mary Rauch of San Angelo, Kay Ardis and husband Bill of Crowley, Texas; brother-in-law Patrick McBride of Guadalajara, Mexico; and too many beloved nieces, nephews and cousins to count.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Leona Pauline Bradshaw Fisher and Lindsay Floyd Grady Fisher; his sister, Burma Niell; brothers-in-law, Aubrey Niell and Walter Rauch; and his wife’s parents, Allie and Vestel Askew.

Memorials may be made to Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Memorial Fund, American Sheep Industry Association Guard Dog Fund, Sutton County Health Foundation or the First United Methodist Church of Sonora.

 

Earl DeWayne Lindsey, 1936-2021

Earl DeWayne Lindsey died on Jan. 14, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas, after complications sustained from surgery and progressing dementia. He was born on May 29, 1936, in Rankin, Texas, to parents Thomas Earl and Mary Eva (Langford) Lindsey.

DeWayne decided to plant his feet when he was a teenager, and he moved in with his grandparents in Rankin. Little did he know at 15, that small town would be the foundation of his life’s work. On June 10, 1954, he married his sweetheart Janey Shackelford. During their first five years as husband and wife, their first three boys were born, Tom, Daymond and Bill. Eight years later, Shane entered their life. Janey was beside DeWayne every step of the way as they tirelessly built their legacy together during their 57 years of marriage.

Ranching in West Texas brought many hard times, but Janey and DeWayne were never known to back down from a challenge. Together they founded and managed what has become known as the Lindsey Ranch.

During a drought in 1984, it became clear that they needed to do something different in order to continue the ranching operation. With guidance and support from DeWayne, 17,000 sheep were purchased and shipped to a leased ranch in Wyoming.

This would begin the expansion of their operations into the Northern region of the United States. During the course of DeWayne’s life, the Lindsey ranching operation has been successful in five states, with the help and dedication of his hard-working sons and their families.

DeWayne received several awards that were all attributed to his passion for ranching. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association. He was dedicated to improving the quality and value of the land. With the help of his boys, they put in miles of water lines, countless water troughs, hundreds of miles of fences and corrals. In addition to taking care of the land, DeWayne also took great pride in the genetics of his Rambouillet sheep and the quality of his wool.

Ten years ago, DeWayne lost his wife, Janey, after a tragic barn fire at their home. DeWayne had tried to save his wife and sustained severe burns across his body. After laying his wife to rest, Janey’s lifelong friend, Jimmie, offered to help DeWayne recover from his injuries. Sometime after that, their common interest brought them together in marriage. Since then, Jimmie had been a constant companion.

He is survived by his wife Jimmie, his son Tom of Rankin, son Daymond of Rankin, son Shane and daughter-in-law Shelly of McKinney, Texas, daughter-in-law Denna of Newell, S.D., his sister Barbara Fisher and husband James of Aledo, Texas, his brother and sister-in-law Mack and Marilyn Shackelford of Marathon, Texas, many grand and great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas Earl & Mary (Langford) Lindsey, his son, Bill Lindsey; his wife, Janey Lindsey; and his grandson, Anthony Windham.

 

Francisco “Paco” Iturriria, 1934-2021

Francisco “Paco” Iturriria, 86, died on Jan. 1, 2021, surrounded by his loving family. Paco was born on Jan. 28, 1934, in Lekaroz, Navarra, Spain, to Francisca Goñi and Bautista Iturriria. He was the seventh child born into a family of 14 siblings. After attending school at the Colegio de Lekaroz, he continued his education and enrolled in the Catholic Seminary in Pamplona, Spain.

In 1952 – along with his brother Miguel – Paco left his homeland to fulfill his dream and arrived in Bakersfield, Calif., at the age of 18 to work as a sheepherder for M & R Sheep Company. They joined their oldest brother, Andres, in Bakersfield, and together with brothers Fernando and Antero, began the Iturriria legacy. For six years, Paco herded and tended to sheep throughout California. In 1958, Paco, Andres and Miguel began I & M Sheep Company with Joe Mendiburu. The partnership flourished for 25 years and in the early 1980s, the three brothers began operating the business on their own.

Paco served as president of the Kern County Wool Growers Association for 25 years, president of the California Wool Growers Association, and on numerous committees for ASI. He was honored for his years of service and dedication to the industry by CWGA in 1995 as Sheepman of the Year and in 2020 as Master Shepherd.

During one of his trips to visit his family in Lekaroz, he met the love of his life, Maria Luisa Barberena Iturralde, from the neighboring town of Irurita. They were married on Oct. 23, 1971, and then settled in Bakersfield where they raised their children. Paco always looked forward to his trips to Bridgeport, Calif., with his family to visit the sheep operation during the summer.

While Paco was a proud American citizen, his love for his Basque culture remained strong. He was an honorary lifetime member of the Kern County Basque Club and took great pride in instilling the love of culture, faith and family in his children.

Paco was preceded in death by his parents, brothers and sisters Andres (Maria Esther), Maritxu, Conchita, Manuel, Antero, and parent and brother-in-laws Adolfo (Julia), Bautista, Jose María, Miguel Angel, and Jose Joaquín.

Paco is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years Maria Luisa, his children Frankie (Renee), Louis, and Julia (Raymond) Goyeneche. He was a proud Aitetxi to his grandsons Adrian, Marcos, Remy, and Rafael. He is also survived by his brothers and sisters Gloria, Bautista, Miguel (Yvonne), Fernando (Yvonne), Pazita, Txarito (Norberto), Luis Mary (Ines), Martín Jose (Isabel), his brother and sister-in-laws Lolo, Lourdes, Pili (Juan Miguel), Cristina, and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kern County Basque Club, P.O. Box 416, Bakersfield, CA 93302.

 

Thomas Lee Huber, 1935-2021

Dr. Thomas Lee Huber, 85, died Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Tom was born in Brownstown, Ind., where he earned a basketball scholarship to Purdue University. He earned his masters degree from Kansas State University and later received his doctorate from the University of Kentucky in animal nutrition and a minor in biochemistry. Tom received a post doctorate degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in animal science, where he later taught in their veterinary school for two years.

While in school in Kentucky, he met his wife Mona and they were married in 1962. After their marriage, Tom accepted a position in the University of Georgia Veterinary School where he taught for 31 years. While at UGA he received the vet school’s highest honor – the Norden Distinguished Teaching Award – and received the Block and Bridle Producer of the Year Award.

Tom had a sheep farm which he adored, where he raised Hampshire sheep. Tom served as executive secretary of the Georgia Sheep and Wool Growers for many years. He was a board member of the American Hampshire Sheep Association for 18 years, and served as their president for two years, during their centennial. Tom was a member of Tuckston United Methodist Church for almost 50 years.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Oren and Ruth Huber, two brothers, Richard (Bud) Huber, William Huber, and two sisters, Olive Huber Campbell and Doris Huber Gardin. He is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Mona Turner Huber, and many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Tuckston United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, at 4175 Lexington Road, Athens, GA 30605 or to the Thomas L. Huber Nestle Purina Scholarship Fund, at 501 DW Brooks Drive, Athens, GA 30602.

MIWW Winners Announced

Like the ASI Annual Convention, the National Make It With Wool Contest had to do things a little differently in 2021. The program held a mail-in contest and followed it up with a Zoom program to recognize the winners.

Roman Merck won the senior division with a fully lined, navy-blue pinstripe wool suit comprised of a jacket, slacks and vest. He added a floating front canvas to the jacket to create the chest curve. The jacket featured a button flap on one of the inside chest pockets to keep his cell phone secure and he also added decorative piping to the slacks waistband. Roman complimented his suit with a blue shirt, red print tie and red handkerchief for a sharp-looking outfit. He is a recent high school graduate and is now pursuing higher education for trades and art. Roman was also selected as the Senior Construction Award winner.

Cortney Olinger was the Junior Division Winner. She created a fully lined, knee-length classic red coat featuring a three-button front closure, lapel, collar, long sleeves, front pocket flaps and a back kick pleat. The coat edges were nicely finished with top stitching. Red is Cortney’s favorite color. She drafted the pattern for her pleated skirt made of a red and tan plaid. Both the coat and skirt were made of Pendleton 100 percent wool fabrics.

The lined skirt has a waistband and side zipper. Cortney used a software design program to make the pattern for her off-white wool knit blouse with scoop neckline and three-quarter-length sleeves. Cortney was also selected as the Junior Construction Award winner.

Marcie Mirgon was the Adult Division Winner. She created a beautiful red wool coat featuring a full-length separating front zipper closure, standing collar, long sleeves, side pockets and tie-belt. Her coordinating garments include a red, dark grey, and white houndstooth wool jacket and charcoal grey wool/cashmere dress. The styling of her lined jacket includes a curved lapel and collar, front button closure, princess seaming, front pocket flaps inserted in a raised waistline seam and a center back inverted pleat. Marcie’s dress has a curved neckline, long sleeves, and a back invisible zipper.

Hailey Gray of Baylor University won the Fashion/Apparel Design Division with a long, off-white wool coat with colorful shapes stitched to the shell. She created the basic pattern for her lined coat, featuring a standing collar and front snap closures, using a software program. The shapes were machine embroidered with faces that Hailey created in Adobe Illustrator. She stitched the faces onto the individual coat pieces before constructing the garment.

Hailey’s dream was to create a colorful and fun design with texture.

Special award winners included: Michaela Han of Ohio, Handwork Award and Creative Machine Embroidery Award; and Holley Schwartz of Wisconsin, Needlework Award and Outstanding Use of Mohair Award.

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