- March 2023
- President’s Notes
- LMIC Offers Sheep & Lamb Outlook
- Wool Production Stabilizes, Prices Still Volatile
- Mid-States Wool Growers Closing in Fall of 2023
- ASI Awards Shearing Grants
- Loans Available Through NLPA
- Sheep In Spotlight At Range Conference
- Apply Now for NLFA Leadership School
- ASI Elects Officers, Executive Board in Fort Worth
- Animal Agriculture Depends on Sustainability
- Lamb Council Looks at Frozen Product, Grading and Labeling
- Producers Honored With ASI’s Annual Awards
- Wolves and Grazing Regulations Looming Issues for Producers
- PERC Puts Spotlight On Targeted Grazing
- Integrative Parasite Management Includes Genetics
- Animal Health Committee Discusses Response Strategies for Producers
- Keep Coccidiosis At Bay This Spring
- Fighting Antibiotic Resistance
To View the March 2023 Digital Issue — Click Here
As the newly elected president of this great organization, I thought as part of my first column I should tell you all a little about myself. My wife, Laurie, and I live and work on our family’s ranch near Glenrock, Wyo. Our son, Ryan, manages the day-to-day operations of the ranch.
About 60 percent of the animal units we run come from sheep. We have Targhee-Rambouillet ewes that are bred to pasture lamb, starting in mid-May. The other 40 percent of our animal units are made up of Angus cows. Half are commercial cows and half are registered seedstock. We have an annual bull sale in March at the ranch.
Ryan’s twin sister, Meghan, and her husband, Jake, live in Casper, Wyo., where Jake is a physical therapist and Meghan does the very important job of being mom to grandsons, Meyer and Owen. Being a grandparent is one of the greatest joys of our life! Our oldest son, Braden, and his wife, Amanda, also live in Casper where Braden works for a local trucking company. We enjoy following their kids, Logan and Kaylie, in all their school activities. As I am sure it is with many of you, family is a huge part of our life and we are so blessed to have them all close to us giving us the opportunity to spend time with them all.
I have served on the board and as president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association. I also served on the board of directors and as president of Mountain States Lamb Cooperative.
A synopsis of our stated goals for ASI in 2023 include:
1. Continue to be a proactive force on legislative issues effecting sheep producers.
This year is a “Farm Bill Year” so in addition to our regular legislative activities at ASI, much time and effort will be placed making sure the new Farm Bill contains those items that are properly supportive of the American sheep industry.
2. Continue the financial review study committee.
Continue to identify and vet potential sources and options for future funding.
3. Increase communication within the ASI organization and with outside stakeholders.
Communications is always an area that can be improved. It is very important that we have great communication with our industry members, affiliates and partners in order to be the most effective and efficient in all our efforts.
A few examples are:
a. Promote the benefits that ASI delivers to all producers. Continue to market and promote ASI’s website, the
Sheep Industry News, ASI Research Update podcast and ASI Weekly newsletter as sources of valuable information.
b. Develop a framework to ensure the success of the Young Entrepreneur committee on the national level.
c. Continue quarterly meetings with state executives.
4. Continue to work closely with ALB and NSIIC in order to capitalize on the strengths of a unified Industry.
As always, ASI will continue to put tremendous efforts toward growing wool markets both domestically and internationally in an effort to grow the number of customers for American wool around the world.
I look forward to serving this GREAT organization and its most amazing people for the next two years. If I can be helpful, please reach out to me.
LIVESTOCK MARKETING INFORMATION CENTER
The annual sheep inventory report was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service giving further insights into supplies of the American flock. On Jan. 1, all sheep and lambs totaled 5.020 million head, down 45,000 head – or less than 1 percent (0.9) – continuing the marginal downward trend in supplies.
The breeding sheep and lambs reported a decline of 45,000 head – or 1.2 percent – to 3.665 million head. The decline in the breeding flock was slightly above historical trends, which have typically been just below a 1-percent decline.
Looking further into the breeding flock, NASS reported ewes
1 year and older at 2.870 million head, down 1.4 percent or 40,000 head. Replacement lambs were 635,000 head, down 5,000 head or less than 1 percent (0.8). Ram inventories held steady at 160,000 head.
From a year earlier, market lambs increased slightly by 0.2 percent – 3,000 head – to 1.280 million head. Declines in the under 65 pounds and 65 to 85 pounds categories were more than offset by gains in the 85 to 105 pounds and over 105 pounds categories. Over 105 pounds market lambs were 483,000 head, up by less than 1 percent (0.8) or 4,000 head. The 85 to 105 pounds category increased 13,000 head (4.9 percent) to 279,000 head from last year. Lower levels were seen in the under 65 pounds and 65 to 85 pounds categories, down 2.9 percent (10,000 head) and 2.1 percent (4,000 head), respectively, to 335,000 and 183,000 head.
A 3,000 head decrease in the number of market sheep to 75,000 head led to a total market sheep and lambs of 1.355 million head, which is even with the prior year.
Lamb Crop and Lambing Percentage
The American lamb crop fell by 1.6 percent – or 50,000 head – to 3.110 million head with California reporting the largest decrease of 25,000 head – 10.4 percent – to 215,000 head. The Texas lamb crop fell 5,000 head – 1.4 percent – to 345,000 head, while Wyoming decreased 10,000 head – 4.2 percent – to 230,000 head. Colorado, Idaho and Montana all had declines in their lamb crop of 5,000 head.
South Dakota, Oregon and Utah held steady with a year ago while Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Minnesota saw gains from 1,000 to 5,000 head. The national average lambing percentage tallied at 106.9 percent, which is in line with the historical average during the last 10 years and slightly better than last year’s 106.8 percentage.
Summary and Market Outlook
Taking a step back from the details of the report, we can glean that supplies are still on a general decline with all sheep and lambs down 0.9 percent and a breeding flock 1.2 percent lower. Productivity – based on the lambing percentage of 106.9 percent – is holding steady near the 107 percent average mark during the last 10 years. Looking into 2023 and 2024, there are three main factors LMIC is expecting to influence the forecast for sheep and lamb inventory levels and prices: 1. drought and feed; 2. lamb demand; and 3. lamb imports.
Drought and Feed: Drought is expected to persist into 2023 with much of the western United States continuing to grapple with drought effects on feed and forage supplies, especially hay. The latest Drought Monitor map – released on Feb. 9 – is showing D3 and D4 (Extreme and Exceptional Drought) stretching through a large portion of Kansas and Oklahoma. Pockets of D3 and D4 drought are also in parts of northern Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wyoming and even over to Nevada, Utah and Oregon.
The continued drought only worsened the hay supply situation. Nationally, Dec. 1, 2022, hay supplies were down 9 percent from last year and more than 6 percent below the previous record low. Alfalfa production decreased 2.6 percent due to a record low number of harvested acres.
A similar story can be said for other hay production, which declined 8.6 percent due to smaller yields and lower harvested acres. The lower hay production has led to record hay prices, which has limited available feed and forage. This is expected to increase feed costs and potentially limit profitability in 2023 and 2024.
Lamb Demand: In 2022, per capita lamb consumption at the retail level was 1.28 pounds per person, which is the second highest since the earlier 1990s, behind 1.36 pounds per person in 2021. LMIC is expecting per capita lamb consumption to be about 1.27 pounds per person in 2023 and 1.23 pounds in 2024, largely based on stabilizing lamb demand, post-pandemic.
While per capita consumption levels are expected to remain above 1.2 pounds per person, the lamb cutout value has also tracked above typical levels, an indication of lamb demand strength.
At the start of 2022, the lamb cutout value was above typical levels at $618 per cwt., but gradually moved lower to about $475 at the end of the year. At the start of 2023, the lamb cutout value has been averaging $465 per cwt., more than $100 above typical levels.
Relative strength or weakness in the lamb cutout value moving through 2023 will be an indicator of lamb demand and a factor underlying slaughter and feeder lamb prices.
Lamb Imports: In 2022, total lamb imports were 278 million pounds, up 5.2 percent from last year. Australia accounted for three quarters (74.8 percent) of total lamb imports in 2022 at 207.5 million pounds – an increase of 6.2 percent. Imports from New Zealand increased by less than 1 percent (0.8) to 64.9 million pounds, accounting for 23.4 percent of total imports last year.
As of this writing, Australia was projecting record lamb production of 567,000 tonnes (1.25 billion pounds) in 2023, which they expect to flow into higher export levels.
The United States market will likely be a destination where Australia will be looking to send lamb in 2023. This is expected to keep lamb imports in 2023 at a level similar to the 278 million pounds imported in 2022.
Based on the points discussed above, LMIC is forecasting sheep and lamb slaughter levels to hold about even with 2022 – just under 2.1 million head. Producers are likely to continue facing drought related impacts which will drive production decisions. In 2024, sheep and lamb slaughter are forecast to decline less than 1 percent to just over 2.0 million head, which is based on the expectation that the breeding flock will decrease about 1 percent, but the lambing percentage will hold steady around 107 percent yielding a lamb crop just below 3.1 million head on Jan. 1, 2024.
Feeder and slaughter lamb prices in 2023 and 2024 are expected to track closer to pre-pandemic levels. Feeder lamb prices (three-market average Colo., S.D., and Texas) are forecast to be $181 to $189 in 2023, with marginal improvements in 2024 to $181 to $193 per cwt.
Slaughter lamb prices (national negotiated live) are forecast to range from $137 to $145 per cwt. depending on the quarter. Prices are expected to improve in 2024 with a range of $145 to $157 per cwt.
ASI Director of Analytics & Production Programs
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the annual sheep inventory report, which stated wool production totaled 22.22 million pounds in 2022, down 1 percent – 227,000 pounds – from 2021. The decline was due to less sheep shorn at 3.17 million head as the average wool production per head was steady at 7.0 pounds.
This was the smallest year-to-year decline in the number of sheep shorn and wool production since 2015. On a state basis, California was the top producer at 2.23 million pounds, followed by Wyoming (2.17 million pounds), Colorado (2.10 million pounds) and Utah (2.02 million pounds).
Australian wool prices have been steadily improving since last summer, as the market is showing indications that manufacturers are intending to or are close to returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Market demand continues to favor finer, better-style wools with prices showing the most gains in recent weeks. Coarser wools are still struggling to find price support in the current market environment.
Appreciation in the Australian dollar in recent months has had an impact on American wool prices, however, the U.S. dollar is expected to remain strong in 2023.
Since the start of the new year, the Australian Eastern Market Indicator has climbed 67 cents kg clean – 5 percent – with prices across all micron categories except for 26 micron posting notable gains. In January, the Australian EMI averaged 1,342 cents kg clean, 4 percent lower than the prior year but 10 percent stronger than in 2021.
In early February, the EMI reached A$6.35 per lb. (US$4.43 per lb.), the highest weekly price since the first week of July of last year.
Prices for the finer wool market – 17 to 21 microns – in January were a bit mixed, with prices for 17 to 19 microns below a year ago while 20 micron and 21 micron wools posted 4 percent year-over-year gains.
The supply side is most likely supporting the 21 micron wools since Australia is not a large producer of these wools. Prices for finer wools have been gaining in value as the season has progressed. While the market for coarser wool has seen some price increases recently, it is still struggling as there is not much demand for these wools, with 26 to 29 microns averaging 20 percent lower than last January.
It is still a challenge to predict the wool market given the economic environment. The current demand outlook is optimistic and is providing support to the wool market. If demand continues to improve, prices should increase further.
However, there is still much uncertainty in the market as inflation rates and interest rates remain high, while high energy prices in some markets – such as Europe – continue to have an impact on the wool market.
Just five years after celebrating its 100th anniversary, Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative has decided to cease operations later this year. The cooperative’s board voted in favor of the closure in December 2022. A letter to producers went out in January 2023.
But the company is continuing to take wool until May 1 with hopes of liquidating remaining wool by this fall. The building – a state-of-the-art setup that opened in 1995 – and land it sits on in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Canal Winchester will be sold. That will be the easy part, given the growing nature of the area.
“When we built it, the place was surrounded by farms,” said Mid-States General Manger Dave Rowe. “But it’s a high-growth area now.”
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the American wool market. This is especially true for the medium to coarse wools that make up much of what Mid-States brings in on a yearly basis.
“The wool market has been more than difficult the last three years,” Rowe said. “Even before Covid, the market was struggling. It’s been difficult for everyone involved. We’ve seen a decrease in sheep numbers as well as producers moving to hair sheep. Costs are up and whether you want to believe it or not, inflation is very real.”
Rowe said much of the wool he’s taken in since 2019 is still sitting in the warehouse. But he’s working diligently to move as much of it as possible.
“Some of the buyers have been very good at helping us with that,” he said. “We’re still taking wool until May 1, but we don’t see a lot of wool in the spring in this part of the country. We tend to have more coming in late summer and fall as our producers are getting ready to lamb in the fall.”
But Mid-States isn’t just a wool warehouse. The cooperative also operated a supply store that has long served the Midwestern sheep industry. The store will close, as well, but continues to operate with the inventory on hand.
“Without both sides of the operation contributing to the bottom line, it just isn’t feasible to keep either of them,” Rowe said. “We’re glad that we were able to serve customers through the store for so many years, but there’s no way to salvage one part of the business without the other. And besides, the sign out front says, ‘Mid-States Wool Growers.’ That’s who we are, and we can’t be that anymore in the current wool market.”
The loss of infrastructure is a tough blow for the entire American sheep industry, but will bring about new challenges in the Midwest especially.
“The Mid-States Wool Cooperative has been a valuable asset to sheep producers for generations not only in Ohio but throughout the Midwest,” said ASI Past President Susan Shultz. “Mid-States was the warehouse where we marketed our wool and purchased our supplies. I was honored to help represent ASI at their centennial celebration and it brought back fond memories of all the good people past and present who have represented Mid-States, including Paul Getz and Don Van Nostran, respected leaders in our industry.”
Mid-States operated differently from large warehouses in the Western United States. Because it brought in wool from mostly small farm flocks, Mid-States generally worked with shearers and producers to coordinate the collection of wool.
Shearers would take the wool home and stockpile it for months at a time. That allowed Mid-States to collect larger quantities of wool at regional hubs, but the increased cost of trucking was always challenging.
“A large percentage of our wool isn’t just coming through the door on its own,” Rowe said. “We might get 30,000 pounds of wool from three to four stops, but there’s quite a few producers in that amount.”
Through its 105 years in business, the cooperative survived wars, depressions, and previous downturns in the economy and the industry. Rowe said it was nice to celebrate the 100-year milestone in 2018, and that it wouldn’t have been possible without the loyal support of producers and employees along the way.
“There are a lot of people who should be celebrated that made that happen,” he said. “Now, we just want to thank everyone who has supported us through the years.”
The American Sheep Industry Association announced this week that eight shearers and two mentors will receive funds through the association’s shearer grant program. Grant recipients were chosen by members of a select committee from ASI’s Wool Council.
The program – first introduced in 2022 – will provide $1,500 to each developing shearer to help cover the cost of equipment and other expenses as they work toward improving their shearing skills. Shearers will receive $500 at the beginning of the program and work with a mentor to gain confidence and improve shearing quality and speed. At the completion of the program, the shearers will receive $1,000. Shearing mentors will earn $1,500 to help cover the costs accumulated while mentoring students.
Shearers for the program shear in the East, Midwest, Mountain States and the West. Students selected for the 2023 program include:
• James Powers of New York (pictured at left).
• Mark Burenheide of Nebraska.
• Todd Dixon of Montana.
• Tirzah Gunther of Ohio.
• Leslie Sullivan of Vermont.
• Erik House of Arizona.
• Dakota Wilson of Montana.
• Leeland Prock of Oregon.
Mentors accepted into the program include Mary Lake of Vermont and Mick Hofmann of Arizona.
National Livestock Producers Association
The National Livestock Producers Association Sheep & Goat Innovation Fund Committee took action at its recent meeting to leave its interest rates available to projects to improve the sheep and goat industries unchanged.
“We are in place to assist the U.S. sheep and goat industries,” said Pierce Miller, chairman of the committee. “With runaway interest rates recently, we wanted to show our commitment to our industry and those needing loan assistance by not raising our rates.”
The fund is the result of a joint effort of the American Sheep Industry Association and the National Livestock Producers Association.
“We are working to make loans to producers, processors and manufacturers to help to stabilize and build the industry,” Miller said. “The fund has already helped the industry by establishing loans that have reasonable risk but may otherwise not be considered by most banks.”
The goals of the fund are to:
• Make capital available for enhancing business methods and services.
• Improve marketing efficiency and product quality.
• Promote coordination and cooperation within the industry.
• Create opportunities for adding value to sheep products.
• Grow the sheep and goat industries in the United States.
According to Miller – a Texas sheep producer – the fund is being used to benefit all sectors of the sheep and goat industries.
“Currently loans have been made in many areas, including genetic development, sheep and goat dairies, lamb and goat meat processing, and fiber processing,” Miller said. “The sheep and goat industries are in need of creative ideas that will add value to sheep and goats and the products they provide. The fund encourages industry members to evaluate the immediate needs in their area, gather support from others who recognize those needs, and work together to find the most effective solutions to local concerns.”
The purpose of the fund has been to assist in financing projects beyond the farm gate; however, recently the fund was given the ability to make term loans to producers for the purpose of flock and herd expansion.
“We are able to make simple, five-year term loans for breeding animals with a fixed interest rate,” said Miller. “Our committee will consider any worthwhile project that will benefit our industry.”
For more information or an application please contact the NLPA Sheep & Goat Innovation Fund at 800-237-7193. The application is also available at SheepandGoatFund.com.
The Society for Range Management hosted a Range Sheep Production Systems workshop as part of its 2023 Annual Meeting in mid-February in Boise, Idaho. The workshop included a panel discussion featuring Western sheep producers Reed Anderson, John Helle, Bianca Soares and Mike Guerry. Other speakers at the conference included: Montana’s Brent Roeder; the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station’s Brett Taylor and Hailey Wilmer; Wyoming’s Derrick Scasta; California’s Dan Macon; and Idaho’s Melinda Ellison.
Applications are now available for the National Lamb Feeder Association’s Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School. Applications for the school are due by April 1 and should be emailed to email@example.com.
The 2023 school will be conducted in Columbus, Ohio, on
July 9-13. There is no fee to apply, but individuals must be 20 years of age or older to attend. Preference will be given to young producers ages 20 to 40. Students of the school are responsible for their own travel to and from the tour site, as well as a $250 registration fee that covers all subsequent meals, lodging, supplies and other tour-related expenses.
The application is available at LambFeedersusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2023-HWSILS-Application.pdf.
As he works through the transition process to step away from a daily role on his family’s fifth-generation ranch outside Casper, Wyo., Brad Boner stepped into a new role during the ASI Annual Convention in mid-January in Fort Worth, Texas.
He will serve as ASI president for the next two years after unanimous election on Saturday, Jan. 21, by the ASI Board of Directors. Boner joined ASI’s officer team in 2019 when he was first elected secretary/treasurer after representing Region VII on the ASI Executive Board. He was elevated to vice president in 2021 and now takes over as president from Susan Shultz of Ohio.
“I thought about this day occasionally the last few years,” said Boner. “But it’s not something I thought about much before today. We’re blessed with such great people in this organization, and it’s so much fun to work with them to lead the industry. There’s no backing out now, so here we go.”
The family ranch includes both ewe-lamb and cow-calf operations along with selling Black Angus seedstock. Brad and his wife, Laurie, have three children who all live close to the home place, but only Ryan works on the ranch on a daily basis. Ryan’s involvement allows his parents to spend additional time with their grandchildren.
“This generational transition is an interesting process,” Boner said. “As was alluded to by a few other speakers this week, there comes a point where it’s time for the next generation to step up and start doing what they can do. That’s where we’re headed. Plus, that grandparent thing is pretty cool stuff.”
Boner is joined on the ASI officer team by Montana’s Ben Lehfeldt as vice president and California’s Joe Pozzi as secretary/treasurer. Pozzi – a former member of ASI’s Executive Board from Region VIII – ran unopposed for the secretary position.
“I’m looking forward to working with Joe,” Boner said. “What an innovator and entrepreneur he is in this industry. I believe he’ll be a great addition to our team for the next several years.”
In addition, Virginia’s Lisa Weeks in Region II and New Mexico’s Bronson Corn in Region VI were reelected to second terms on the ASI Executive Board. Lynn Fahrmeier of Missouri was selected to represent Region IV, while Ryan Indart of California was elected from Region VIII. Steve Clements and Sarah Smith of those respective regions were term-limited and not eligible for reelection. The National Lamb Feeders Association elected Kate Harlan of Wyoming to fill the NFLA representative spot on the ASI Executive Board. She replaces her father, Bob Harlan, who also wasn’t eligible for reelection.
That team will have to hit the ground running in 2023 as Congress debates funding for the next Farm Bill. The ASI Executive Board established a list of goals for 2023 late last year and the top priority is to continue to be a “proactive force on legislative issues effecting sheep producers.”
Priorities for the industry in the new farm bill include issues such as reauthorizing an updated marketing loan program for wool, extending the wool manufacturing Sheep Production and Marketing Grant program, and Wool Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund/U.S. Wool Research in addition to funding U.S. Department of Agriculture export programs.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time this year on the Farm Bill,” said Boner. “I just have to keep plugging away at everything I can to keep this industry moving forward. We’ve been blessed with a lot of great leadership in the past, so there’s some pressure not to disappoint.”
The ASI Board of Directors approved more than two dozen policies to govern the association for the next five years and welcomed comments from Rep. August Pflugar of Texas and USDA Deputy Under Secretary Katie Zenk regarding federal priorities of the nation’s sheep industry.
The next ASI Annual Convention is scheduled for Jan. 10-13, 2024, in Denver.
Animal agriculture is a sustainable component of our global food system, according to Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, director of Colorado State University’s AgNext program, and trends indicate that documenting the ecosystem services it provides will rise in economic importance in the future.
While there are different views on sustainability, Stackhouse-Lawson defines it as continuously improving the social, economic and environmental stewardship of the animal agricultural system. The result ensures a safe and nutritious food supply.
When it comes to the public’s view of climate change and its contributing factors, science and emotion are on equal footing. But when it comes down to competition between the two, emotion wins every time, she said. In the public debate over greenhouse gas emissions, contributions from grazing ruminants such as cattle are increasingly targeted, despite the fact that domestic animal agriculture emissions are responsible for only about 4 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
What gets overlooked is that livestock allows humans to produce food on land that is unsuitable for cultivation while enhancing ecosystems, Stackhouse-Lawson said, and the rangelands they graze store 20 percent of the globe’s soil organic carbon.
That’s part of the story we in animal agriculture need to tell, but it’s important that we have good data to back our claims, she said. As more companies make commitments to net zero or carbon neutrality, financial institutions are using green bonds, green loans and other systems under a “sustainable finance” umbrella, so animal agriculture has much to offer for companies focused on natural capital.
With more than 1,400 publicly traded companies stating their commitment to achieve net zero emissions or carbon neutrality at some point in the near future, our financial institutions are increasingly turning their attention to the climate impacts, she said.
For example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed that publicly traded companies be required to disclose their Scope 3 emissions data in corporate filings.
That would mean that in addition to direct greenhouse
emissions from sources a company owns or controls – called Scope 1 – it would be required to also account for indirect emissions from purchased electricity – Scope 2 – as well as all other indirect emissions that occur throughout a company’s value chain – Scope 3.
Yet when a company commits to net zero, it rarely knows how or has plans to achieve these Scope 3 emissions reductions – even though these emissions account for more than 90 percent of emissions for consumer food companies.
To achieve the Biden Administration’s goals to reduce climate impacts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed adoption of alternative manure strategies and other methane-reduction efforts, as well as expansion of on-farm generation and the use of renewable energy. Other priorities for the ag sector include development of climate-smart agricultural commodities and increased investments in agriculture methane quantifications.
That’s one of the reasons why Stackhouse-Lawson’s AgNext program is so important. The CSU facility includes a Climate-Smart Pen installation that is the largest public institution research facility of its kind. The facility design allows for the evaluation of dietary and management strategies that impact animal emissions, efficiency and sustainability. Incorporating grazing and feedlot research in one facility allows researchers to conduct full system evaluations of animal production sustainability and ecosystem health, and to determine the scalability of solutions.
Pressure to take action on animal agricultural emissions is coming from consumers, regulators, banks and investors, and carbon markets. With climate a focus of sustainability for the foreseeable future, the importance of accurate measurements of the impact of animal agriculture will be critical.
“The most important thing we can do for soil organic carbon in rangelands is to preserve these rangelands,” Stackhouse-Lawson said, while restoring degraded lands and practicing adaptive livestock management.
But we must be able to measure and demonstrate outcomes in the process, and it appears that the developing carbon market will be paying a premium for these efforts. Already, assets under the environmental, social and governance umbrella have reached $41 trillion globally, and are expected to reach $50 trillion by 2025.
With global markets investing in sustainable products, animal agriculture needs to put itself in the position to invest in its own
sustainability. Stackhouse-Lawson predicted that within two or three years, the carbon market will be developed to such an extent that producers will be financially incentivized to adopt climate-smart practices.
ASI Wool Production Programs Manager
ASI Wool Council members began Annual Convention week not in Fort Worth, but 200 miles west in San Angelo, Texas. A hub in the American wool industry, San Angelo is home to wool scourer Bollman, the Bill Sims Wool and Mohair Research Laboratory and to several wool buyers.
Jan. 17 began with a morning visit to the Bollman wool scouring plant – the only commission scouring plant in the United States to complete the first stage of woolen processing. Chargeurs in South Carolina is the only domestic topmaker for worsted spinning and fabrics.
Participants watched wool tumble through the opener and float along the scouring line before being dried and baled. Bollman’s Ladd Hughes also discussed the different income avenues Bollman has tried in working to diversify the operation, as well as the challenges of freight costs and differing regulations between countries.
Next, the Wool Council was off to the newly updated wool testing lab that will serve as the commercial lab for the United States. The Bill Sims Wool and Mohair Research Laboratory has tested wool for many years, however, in recent years it has expanded its capacity and capabilities by installing new instruments and machines. ASI assisted the lab in bringing expertise to the United States to maximize efficiencies as well increase testing capacity. An in-depth look through the lab allowed the Wool Council to discuss the future of the lab and its ability to meet the needs of American producers.
Opened for commercial testing since last May, the lab has worked closely with the New Zealand Wool Testing Authority to become more efficient, increase its capacity and ensure results are accurate.
The Wool Council’s afternoon was spent with warehousemen, processors and buyers discussing highlights and challenges in the industry. The conversation included some good natured teasing between buyers.
Opportunities for the industry include assurance programs – such as ASI’s American Wool Assurance program – and exporting to more countries. The majority of American wool is exported. Industry challenges were evident, including: the need for infrastructure in the United States; the backlog of wool and other challenges creating down markets globally; the need for well baled wool – which should weigh 400 to 500 pounds to make shipping efficient; wool with no paint or chalk marks, which often does not scour out and limits how the wool can be used; and well prepared wools.
The words “versatile” (as in being versatile for markets), “youth” (as in we need to include our youth) and “quality” (as in making the best products we can) were brought up numerous times.
“We need to be versatile, know what the processor wants, and them go get it,” Hughes said.
The industry tour continued into the following day with a visit to Anodyne. A multi-generation wool merchant, Anodyne provided Wool Council members the opportunity to see how the company blends wool to meet the demand to deliver wool year round – not just during the wool selling season – for both domestic and international markets.
The Wool Council then boarded a bus to Fort Worth to join the rest of the industry at the ASI Annual Convention.
Wool Industry Meetings
Before the main wool meeting got rolling in Fort Worth, a few new sessions were held including: an American Wool Assurance Level I training; AWA Assessor Meeting; and a forum for sheep shearers and wool producers.
Animal welfare was a main topic of discussion during the AWA sessions and resulted in new producers becoming Level I accredited and AWA second-party evaluators becoming recertified.
Discussion was abundant at the shearers forum where the American Sheep Shearers Council shared its newly updated website, in addition to challenges and possible solutions centering on the need for more: shearers and resources for producers; shearing schools; and how wool pool shearings could occur.
Wool Council Meetings began in earnest on Jan. 19. In a packed room, ASI Deputy Director Rita Samuelson emphasized how losing the majority of the wool textile industry has led to the necessity to export wool. Wool exports have become imperative during the last 20 years because the domestic textile industry does not have the capacity to consume all of the American wool produced. ASI uses U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service funds to market American wool. Consultants around the world help build these important export markets.
Tosha Clark with USDA/FAS further explained how this funding works. The plan for export strategy shows where and how marketing efforts are being made, such as Western Europe, South America, China and South Asia. Through the years, ASI has used $1.5 billion in Ag Trade Promotion funds to bolster export markets.
Speaking of marketing, ASI’s Christa Rochford woke everyone up with several short American wool videos being shared on social media. To see these videos for yourself, be sure to follow Experience Wool on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. While these videos and social media are working to intrigue all consumers, small growers and mills are also working to engage consumers.
Phil Lindsay with RH Lindsay Wool Merchants explained how there are more than 200 mini-mills located in the United States and the small farmers using these mills are working to share American wool’s story.
“Small farmers are billboards throughout the East,” he said.
These mills might not run 24/7 and the farmers might not have as many sheep, but they are an important part of the industry.
Servicing small grower wool testing and now commercial wool testing, Reid Redden from the Bill Sims Wool lab gave an update on the lab’s progress. Through a virtual tour, Redden explained how the lab is able to provide commercial wool testing for micron, yield and vegetable matter. Currently, it takes seven days for a sample to work its way through all of these procedures, but they are working on increasing efficiencies and decreasing that time. Submission forms can be found at SanAngelo.TAMU.edu.
Make It With Wool Director Lynda Johnson wrapped up the Wool Council meeting expressing how important fundraisers and other funding are to the program. She offered a sincere thank you for the funding the Wool Council provides.
The Wool Policy Forum began the following morning with some surprising information from Ben Hostetler of Mountain Meadow Wool. Hostetler shared snippets of how brands are selling emotional stories to customers and, therefore, how important transparency and traceability have become.
Hostetler also discussed how Mountain Meadow has worked with the University of Wyoming on a study to find a practical and cost-effective solution for traceability of American wool.
“If we can trace it and prove it, then we can give that premium back to producers,” he said.
With funds for producers in mind, Adam Bonner from USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Texas spoke next about the USDA Loan Deficiency Program. More than $5.5 million was aided to producers through LDP in 2022. To be eligible for an LDP, wool growers must have ownership of the wool and should work with their local FSA office to complete necessary forms. It is recommended that forms be filled out before shearing. Ungraded payment rates are currently set at $0.40/lb. grease weight and is set in the Farm Bill. A directive was established later in the meeting to address the issue.
To discuss more USDA assistance, ASI Consultant Sandy Johnson shared the importance of export marketing assistance using various international marketing programs available through USDA. ASI applies for and receives more than $1 million per year from FAS for export markets – creating a huge impact on exports and, therefore, overall market prices. While there are plenty of regulations and requirements, Johnson shared how performance, success stories and program evaluations are all important to keeping this funding.
Moving to the topic of sustainability, Erin Recktenwald from Michigan State University discussed research on sheep sustainability. Essentially, the more productive one sheep can be, the more environmentally sustainable. This can be improved by being more efficient and managing lands well.
The final Wool Roundtable meeting began with discussion on how the American Wool Assurance program is progressing with participation, auditors and traceability and how the next year will focus on involvement and generating wool buyer and processor recognition.
Shearer and wool quality programs are other areas of focus for ASI’s wool production programs.
Ashley Bullock of Burlington Industries – which produces wool fabric for the U.S. military – talked about the company’s struggles through Covid and the Domestic Non-Availability Determination exemption allowing wool military items to come from international mills. A DNAD allows a contractor to use non-American products for Department of Defense contracts, which otherwise a contractor is required to use ALL American products thanks to the Berry Amendment.
This DNAD expires on Dec. 31, and Burlington has made great progress to date in once again meeting demand for wool fabric. Bullock further emphasized how domestic infrastructure is important and that consumer spending is impactful for the entire industry.
After a record-setting year in 2021, lamb prices took an unwelcome turn in 2022 – a fact that was on full display in discussions at the Lamb Council’s meeting during the ASI Annual Convention.
“We won’t sugarcoat it, we’ve got a lot of challenges ahead,” said American Lamb Board Executive Director Megan Wortman in her report to the council.
Retail sales of lamb were down 4.7 percent in 2022 as inflation meant consumers had less income to spend on premium meats. Price was the No. 1 barrier for consumers in purchasing American lamb. In addition, the foodservice sector continued its struggles in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic as restaurants closed, reduced hours and simplified menus – all of which had a negative impact on sales of American lamb.
But there are reasons to be optimistic in 2023 and beyond. While consumer diets are changing, many still see red meat as a healthy part of a balanced diet. They might be eating less meat, but focusing on higher quality when they do. Lamb is a perfect option for such consumers. Furthermore, the growth of value-added meat products could be a boon to the industry in more ways than one.
Consumers prefer the convenience of such products, which they generally purchase frozen. And that could lead to more acceptance of frozen lamb by consumers, which would make it easier for producers and packers to provide a year-round supply of American lamb.
“We believe there are opportunities in this area, and certainly one of the biggest challenges to getting consumers to buy our product is ensuring they can find it year-round,” Wortman said.
Wortman pointed to an ALB-sponsored study that showed consumers are open to frozen meat products. Frozen meat reduces loss risk for retailers as the product has a longer shelf life than fresh options.
Meat shortages during the pandemic also led to many consumers purchasing larger quantities of available meat (when it was available) and freezing it at home for future use. The study also indicated meat buyers’ preference for American meat might outweigh their concerns over fresh versus frozen product.
The inclusion of lamb in online meat delivery services (Allen Brothers, D’Artagnan and Crowd Cow) is also pushing consumers toward general acceptance of frozen meat, as most ship frozen meat with dry ice and advise customers to keep products frozen until they are ready to use them.
The move toward frozen product would certainly prove beneficial to an industry that sometimes struggles to provide a consistent supply of domestic lamb throughout the calendar year.
“We as producers know there’s good frozen product out there,” said Cody Hiemke of Niman Ranch during a subsequent panel discussion with meat packers. “We, as an industry, say we should just kill that lamb now and sell it frozen. But there’s an expectation with the consumer. If they buy chicken and pork fresh, then they should be able to buy lamb fresh. I think that’s the expectation.”
Frozen versus fresh wasn’t the topic of the panel discussion, but there’s no doubt packers would benefit from processing lambs as they’re available and freezing that product for future sales.
The panel was tasked with discussing how packers use the current lamb grading and labeling standards, but the discussion touched on everything from electronic camera grading to the need to open more foreign markets for American lamb.
That led to random thoughts from the council’s Lamb Grading Standards Working Group, which was given the job of looking at how current lamb grading standards might affect the industry’s ability to sell American lamb. The working group consists of ASI Lamb Council members Reed Anderson, Nick Forrest, Don Hawk, Karissa Isaacs and Dan Lippert.
“I feel like the industry needs to focus on harvesting the lambs when they’re at their prime,” Hawk said in his comments. “That’s the important factor that kind of gets overlooked a lot.”
Anderson sparked the initial conversation on the topic because most lamb imported into the United States is not graded, yet it’s taking market share from graded American lamb.
“We have a small packing plant and market between 500 and 600 lambs a week,” Anderson said. “We do a little bit of grading if we have a customer that wants it. But for the most part, they don’t ask. We never have a problem with any kind of quality.”
The council also heard how grading and labeling standards are implemented from representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service and the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service.
The ASI Annual Awards Luncheon on Jan. 20 offered the association and its members the opportunity to recognize some of the industry’s most impactful contributors. Producers from Minnesota to Oregon were honored as part of the festivities.
McClure Silver Ram
Idaho’s Jeff Siddoway was presented with the McClure Silver Ram Award. The award is dedicated to volunteer commitment and service, and is presented to a sheep producer who has made substantial contributions to the sheep industry in his/her state, region or nation.
Siddoway was chosen for his contributions as both a sheep producer and a member of the Idaho State Senate. He’s also petitioned the federal government regularly for support of the once-endangered U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, which was taken off the federal closure list in 2019.
“I honestly can’t remember doing any of that,” Siddoway said after a list of his contributions to the industry was read during the ASI Annual Convention Award Luncheon. “All I remember is getting up early in the morning, putting my boots on and doing whatever had to be done that day.”
A fifth-generation rancher, Siddoway has demonstrated a lifelong devotion to the American sheep industry at both the state and national level. He has previously served as president of the Idaho Wool Growers Association and on a variety of ASI councils and committees. In his home state, he worked through his role in the state legislature to increase funding for sheep education and extension programs at the University of Idaho.
“Who really deserves all the credit is my wife, Cindy, and she got this same award about seven years ago, in 2016” Siddoway said. “All of you who know how our operation works, Cindy just about takes care of everything except the physical end of the operation. And sometimes she even has to do that. She does all of this work and doesn’t get enough recognition from her darn old husband. Well, today you’ve got it, and you have my love.”
Siddoway also thanked his son, J.C., who works with him in the family ranching operation. “He’s the greatest son a guy could ask for. He has his priorities lined up and he’s just a hard worker.”
In fact, he credited his son for his involvement in state politics.
“When you get to a certain age and your dad is around all the time telling you what we’re going to do, you just kind of get tired of that,” Siddoway recalled. “So, I started looking for ways to get away from that, and I had the opportunity to run for a senate seat in state legislature. I decided it might be a good deal for him and for me, too. I did that and served 12 years.”
Having attended meetings of ASI – and its predecessor organizations the National Wool Growers Association and the American Sheep Producers Council – Siddoway has participated in approximately 50 years of industry meetings at the national level.
Dr. Stanley Poe was recognized with the Distinguished Producer Award.
Poe has raised Hampshire sheep nearly his entire life as 11 bred ewes arrived on the family farm in 1945. Along with his wife, Carol, the couple raised four sons on the farm. Two of them – Stanley Poe II and Kalen – still work regularly on the place and were back home in Franklin, Ind., to finish lambing the flock’s 350 brood ewes.
“I think we’re going to be around for a while,” Poe told the crowd of sheep producers during the Industry Awards Luncheon at the convention. “Poe Hamps appreciates this greatly. We never gave it any thought about having to stand here and reflect on it. We’ve now dedicated the farm totally to Hampshire sheep, and it appears it will be that way for some time with these two grandsons coming on.”
Poe Hampshires has been a leader in the use of artificial insemination within the American sheep industry. While a veterinarian handles the actual procedure, the family designed and built an on-farm facility that allows for artificial insemination of up to 100 head a day. Through the years, they’ve grown to providing AI and embryo transplant services for other sheep producers in a handful of states.
For many years, Poe worked off the farm with Elanco Animal Health. Once he retired, he was free to become more involved in the sheep industry. He’s a past president of the Indiana Sheep Association and has regularly represented the state on the ASI Board of Directors.
“Carol and I have transferred the farm and the sheep to our oldest son and his wife,” Poe said in Fort Worth. “The second son is with Indiana Farm Bureau and deals in the cattle business. The third son is in Lexington, Kentucky, in government relations. Our fourth son, Kalen, is not far from the farm and works for Kemin Industries in addition to helping Stanley. He started his own flock of Hampshires and does a lot of livestock judging around the country.”
Oregon’s Jeanne Carver picked up the Industry Innovation Award for her efforts on the wool side, where she became the first Responsible Wool Standard-certified producer in the United States. She’s since secured wool from nearly a dozen Western producers to create a stockpile of certified American wool as the demand for such increases daily from manufacturers around the world.
“These growers are the reason I am winning this award,” said Carver of the sheep ranches that are now RWS-certified and part of the Shaniko Wool Company farm group. Today, Shaniko Wool is the only North American provider of Merino/Rambouillet wool certified under the RWS.
“I am speechless, but very honored and humbled by the recognition,” said Carver. “The ranchers who are part of Shaniko Wool are industry leaders at both the state and national level.”
In 2022, Carver further expanded the reach of her Shaniko Wool Company by signing an exclusive licensing agreement with NATIVA – a brand of the Paris-based Chargeurs Group – which is one of the largest wool suppliers in the world.
The new Chargeurs-Shaniko Wool Company joint regenerative wool program was formally introduced to global apparel markets in November of 2022. Backed by Blockchain technology, NATIVA Regen-Shaniko is fully traceable from farm to end product and dual certified under the RWS and NATIVA Regen, a third-party certified standard developed by Chargeurs. This is the only wool grown in North America that is certified under the RWS at both farm and mill levels. Chargeurs’ domestic wool scouring mill in Jamestown, S.C., earned RWS certification in 2022.
“The work I am doing today with these family sheep operations is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” said Carver. “They are good people doing great work, supporting rural communities and our U.S. textile industry. Together, we are stronger. It’s a great privilege.”
She’s also developing a carbon initiative that might allow producers to benefit financially from the Biden Administration’s focus on climate change programs.
Peter Orwick Camptender
Longtime ASI Animal Health Committee Co-Chairs Jim Logan and Cindy Wolf shared the Peter Orwick Camptender award. The two have co-chaired ASI’s Animal Health Committee for nearly 30 years. The dynamic duo of animal health guided the industry through a variety of disease-related issues, including efforts to help the United States reach scrapie-free status.
Logan, DVM, might have retired from his role as the Wyoming state veterinarian a few years back, but he continues to provide guidance and expertise to the American sheep industry.
“I want to thank my wife and family,” said Logan in accepting the award. “I also want to thank the many presidents of ASI who appointed Cindy and me. Obviously, they couldn’t find anybody else for the job. Thank you for appointing us and giving us the opportunity. I want to thank our committee members over the years because we didn’t do this by ourselves. The work accomplished was a group effort. You just don’t get any better-quality people than what we have right here at ASI, from the leadership to the staff, the committee members and the members of the organization. So, thank you for the opportunities you’ve given us. It’s been a real privilege.”
A lifelong sheep producer, Logan dispersed his flock in 2012 to free up time to concentrate on his veterinarian duties. But sheep remained an important part of his professional duties. Logan and Wolf provided the American sheep industry with a perfect blend of skills in leading the charge on animal health issues.
“I had the regulatory experience, where she was coming in with the education and teaching experience,” Logan said when first notified of the award. “We just always seemed to work well together.”
And the American sheep industry benefitted from their partnership.
Wolf, DVM, worked on the academic side of the industry with the University of Minnesota. While her interests were originally in large animal medicine – specifically dairy cattle – she cultivated her knowledge at the university into an appreciation for small ruminants. Since that time, she’s been a tireless advocate for the sheep industry.
“I just wanted to thank whoever nominated us, all of you in this room and all of our industry partners who have come to know me and Jim,” Wolf said. “You put your trust in us as we have suggested direction regarding sheep health issues.
“I’d also like to thank my family. You never see them because they’re always home taking care of things, yet they’ve been here almost every step of the way. ”
Wool Excellence Awards
As was the case with the Camptender Award winners, the Wool Excellence Award winners were a dynamic duo for many years. Dr. Ronald Pope and Faron Pfeiffer were longtime coworkers at the Bill Sims Wool and Mohair Research Laboratory in San Angelo, Texas. It was only fitting that they were honored together at the Wool Recognition Lunch during the ASI Annual Convention.
“I’d like to thank everybody that I’ve ever been involved with in the wool industry,” Pfeiffer said. “They are super great people. I mean, there’s a couple that might come to mind, but for the most part everyone has been super, super nice. I’m very humbled to receive this award, and I appreciate it very much.”
Pope was honored to share the award stage with his longtime friend.
“This should have been Faron’s day,” Pope said. “He did so much for the industry over the years in his diligent and dedicated work at the Texas AgriLife Research Center and the Bill Sims Wool Lab. He’s just a true professional.”
After hearing a list of his achievements in the industry, Pope was humble in his acceptance speech.
“I’m a little bit embarrassed. Y’all realize that I got paid to do what I did. It wasn’t something that I was just doing out of the goodness of my heart. I do have a passion for wool, and I have a few abilities. This industry is made up of a tremendous number of people. There’s a lot of people out there (in the industry) who we’ll never know their names. They’ll never be in a position to be honored. Everyone gets up every morning and goes out and does their job. I was just doing my job. On behalf of all of you out there who will never have the opportunity to be recognized, but diligently go about your job, I accept this recognition.”
KLST-TV of San Angelo, Texas, won the Shepherd’s Voice Award for media contributions to the industry. In addition, Brandon Manning and Ed Kline were recognized for their contributions to ASI’s pilot project on electronic identification in a commercial market with Delta (Colo.) Sales Yard during the past two years.
The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center took the opportunity of the Awards Luncheon to recognize retiring board members Marsha Spykerman of Iowa and Frankie Iturriria of California for their years of service.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services
Deputy Administrator Janet Bucknall addressed the Resource Management Council during the ASI Annual Convention, giving an update on the agency’s damage prevention program.
Bucknall explained that Congress has allocated $4.5 million for Wildlife Services to implement its nonlethal work in about a dozen Western states. The agency uses this funding for a variety of nonlethal actions for predator deterrence, from installing electric fences to deter wolves and grizzly bears, to funding range riders to patrol and protect livestock.
Bucknall said the program has also expanded to include beaver
deterrence measures, such as the installation of devices to prevent beavers from flooding private property. She said the nonlethal initiative is simply part of the integrated predator management program implemented by the agency.
Much of the discussion with the council focused on wolf management, with this predator species under federal protection in most of the states.
Bucknall said that when wolf recovery programs were initiated, the federal government committed to helping livestock producers weather the effects of that action.
“We’re sticking with that commitment,” she said, “standing beside you, to protect livestock and protect wolves.”
Wildlife Services is currently revising its standards of evidence used in the process of wolf depredation investigations, a concern for producers whose compensation claims depend on the determinations rising from those investigations.
Bucknall said that Wildlife Services believes it needs to use a consistent process in its investigations and found that the program within the range of the Mexican Wolf – Arizona and New Mexico – needed some improvement.
Emphasizing the importance of the standards of evidence, producers noted that they are eligible for compensation only for animals confirmed as wolf kills and are not compensated for dead stock that are deemed only as “probable” wolf kills. Bucknall pledged to keep talking and working with producers as the depredation investigation process is revised.
Litigation over the legal status of gray wolves in most of the country is ongoing, according to an update from Lawson Fite of Marten Law, which means conflicts between wolves and livestock will remain a concern for the foreseeable future.
Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover told meeting participants that while the public focus is often on legislation under consideration by Congress, work is going on every day in agencies, and this administrative work is where most of the action is for producers.
An example is the Bureau of Land Management’s revision of its grazing regulations, Glover said, which the BLM is hoping to release in draft form this spring.
Glover said it is critical that producers engage with groups such as ASI and the Public Lands Council as the regulation revision process moves forward. Glover noted that the Biden Administration is focused on those with lived experiences, so they want to hear from individuals.
“Your engagement in this administration process is absolutely key,” Glover said. “Your voice is really the only one in these discussions that matters.”
The group heard good news as well, with Western Resources Legal Center providing legal assistance to natural resource user groups, while educating law school students about natural resources law, according to Dustin Van Liew.
The public and government agency interest in using livestock grazing as a management tool has increased the number of local grazing partnerships, said Ben Lehfeldt of the National Grazing Lands Coalition.
Texas A&M’s Dr. John Walker said that ASI’s updated targeted grazing handbook is in the process of being revised and should be ready for release next year. Written for a broad audience of those wishing to operate a targeted grazing business, and those who want to hire credible contractors, the handbook is a “how-to” guide, with advice and recommendations from practitioners.
With a new targeted grazing manual in the works at ASI, it made sense for the Production, Education and Research Council to convene a panel of targeted grazers to discuss the various avenues for success in an ever-expanding aspect of the American sheep industry.
Municipal lands, private lands and solar arrays have all proven to be reliable income sources for targeted grazers in recent years as government agencies and the general public look for natural ways to control weeds and reduce fuel load in the face of growing fire risks.
The concept isn’t completely foreign given that Western ranchers have been grazing on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permits for decades. But the ability to turn that concept into free feed and a revenue source is changing the business model for some longtime producers.
Third-generation rancher Ryan Indart of California might be targeted grazing’s biggest proponent after the addition of solar grazing dramatically changed the fortunes of his sheep operation.
“We lost money seven of the first 10 years,” Indart said of purchasing his family’s sheep and farming operations. “And 2018 was the worst year I’ve had professionally. I looked at my wife and said, ‘We’ve got to do something different.’”
That same year he got a phone call from a solar operator interested in having his flock graze the company’s solar array.
“I took all of my chips and went all in,” Indart said. “I was able to turn the business into a service provider. I’m both a rancher and a service provider. We’re doing all the same things that other ranchers do on a commercial scale, but we’ve added this separate enterprise. For seven to eight months out of the year, I don’t have to pay for that feed. That’s why I’m able to stay in California and continue to ranch in California.”
That enterprise provides free feed for the flock’s 3,500 ewes in addition to the money solar operators pay Indart to have his sheep graze the site. As solar arrays pop up on a daily basis all across the country, the sheep industry is uniquely situated to benefit from the United States’ push toward clean energy.
“They have to mitigate the fuel load under those panels to fulfill their insurance contracts,” Indart said. “They have to hire someone to mitigate that danger. It’s either me or a mowing company. But they aren’t environmentally friendly. We’re the green alternative, so we’re selling that. And it works.”
But solar operators aren’t the only ones turning to sheep producers. State, city and local governments are seeing the value, as well. California has long been a leader in using sheep and goats for targeted grazing of open space, parks and suburban neighborhoods, and it’s a trend that is catching on.
The Helle family of Montana is well known for fine wool and the Duckworth clothing line they developed. Grazing in the mountains is a age-old tradition for their flock, but they’ve branched out in recent years to work with the city of Missoula, Mont.
“Last year was one of the first times we’ve ever been paid to graze,” said fourth-generation rancher Weston Helle. “They own a bunch of open space that was just covered in weeds. Being in the city is something new for us. It started with leafy spurge control and now we’re more into fire fuel reduction.”
While goats aren’t welcome in solar arrays, they make great grazing animals in open space. Hailey Gosnell of Goatscaping in Texas runs both sheep and goats while grazing both public and private lands around the Lone Star State.
“Our animals are handled so often now that they are used to the job and all of the loading and unloading,” she said.
She uses electric net fencing to corral the animals at a grazing site, while Indart said his operation tends to use three or four-strand electric wire fences. Given the Western range nature of his family’s operation, Helle said he uses a “Peruvian fence,” that is made up of Peruvian sheepherders, herding dogs and horses.
It just goes to show that there are a variety of opportunities in targeted grazing and countless ways to operate within that realm.
The council also heard an update on ASI’s electronic identification pilot program with the Delta (Colo.) Sales Yard (see the January Sheep Industry News for details). In addition, California’s Rosie Busch, DVM, and producer Ryan Mahoney discussed the upcoming changes to antibiotic use in food animals. For more on those changes, turn to page 38 of this issue.
Parasite management and Western range breeds was the subject of a presentation by Jake Thorne, sheep and goat program specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife (and currently working on his doctorate through the University of Idaho) at the Genetics Forum during the ASI Annual Convention in Fort Worth.
While many associate barber’s pole worm with hot, humid areas of the country, this nematode has been working its way through the arid West. Thorne explained that the worm needs warm weather – 50 to 90° F – forage and moisture such as rain or dew. In the West, it’s found in irrigated fields, smaller pastures and areas subject to constant grazing such as near water sources in larger pastures. The parasite causes anemia, bottle jaw and death in sheep.
What sets the barber’s pole worm apart from other gastrointestinal parasites is its extremely high rate of prolificacy, Thorne said, noting a single worm’s ability to produce 10,000 eggs per day.
“That’s much higher than any of the other worms,” he said, which is a key factor in its resistance to anti-parasitics as well. “It’s a formidable opponent for the sheep industry,” Thorne said.
It’s the most economically significant parasite of sheep and goats throughout most of the country.
It’s important to understand the life cycle of sheep worms, Thorne said. Adult worms lay eggs which pass onto pasture in dung. If the weather is suitable, the larvae hatch. Within 6 to 10 days, the larvae migrate in films of moisture from dung pellets onto pasture. The infective larvae are then eaten by sheep, and the larvae in the gut develop into adults in about three weeks, at which point the cycle can begin again, perpetuating parasite infections.
While many things impact susceptibility to parasite infection, Thorne said there are resistance and susceptibility differences between sheep breeds. Breeds that were developed in more parasite-rich environments such as the Caribbean are known for having a natural parasite resistance. In contrast, Western white-faced range sheep breeds are much more susceptible.
Thorne explained that parasite resistance is the ability of the sheep to mount an immune response to neutralize the parasite before it develops into a full-blown infection.
Thorne said producers should think about the sheep that they put into situations such as smaller pens or irrigated pastures with good forage – often they are animals that need some special care such as ewes that have just lambed, or just-weaned lambs.
“Those are often the classes of sheep that are most susceptible,” he noted.
Treatment for these parasites is based on three classes of dewormers:
• Nicotinic agonists such as Levamisole or Prohibit;
• Macrocyclic Lactones such as Cydectin and Ivermectin; and
• Benzimidazoles such as Valbazen and Safe-Guard.
Since barber’s pole worm is resistant to all classes of dewormers in the United States, it’s important that the treatment program is vigorous.
Thorne said producers should use a full dose of dewormer from at least two of the dewormer classes listed above, while being sure to use products from two different classes of dewormers rather than simply two types of dewormers from the same class. He also recommended that drench be used rather than injectables. Thorne emphasized that producers need to read the product labels and follow the instructions in using drugs on their animals.
A final option is the use of copper oxide wire particle bolus, which has been shown to reduce barber’s pole worm infections and may increase the efficacy of commercial dewormers. Find more information about COWP at wormx.info, the website of the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control.
Thorne said that an integrative management program for parasite control should include combination dewormers using a selective treatment, pasture management practices such as rations, forage heights and types, and genetic selection that includes culling susceptible stock and purchasing stock using estimated breeding values for parasite resistance. Thorne advised that the best tool to increase parasite resistance is to use NSIP’s EBVs in selection.
Thorne advised that producers cull out sheep that are carrying high parasite loads, as research indicates that 20 percent of the sheep are carrying 80 percent of the worms.
In other Genetics Forum business, Rusty Burgett presented an update on achievements for the National Sheep Improvement Program in 2022, noting there are now more than 524,000 sheep and goats with estimated breeding values in the NSIP genetics database.
Polypays lead with more than 110,000, followed by Katahdins with nearly 108,000, and Targhees with about 98,000. Suffolks, Rambouillets and Dorsets also have substantial numbers, with Hampshires and Shropshires at lesser numbers.
Genomic-enhanced EBVs are also being established, Burgett said, with Katahdins taking the lead on this new data. A three-year research project led by Dr. Joan Burke of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Research Center enlisted a group of 20 cooperating producers to submit DNA samples resulting in a genetic database of more than 5,000 Katahdin lambs.
This formed the genomic reference population for the Katahdin breed, which was used to develop the first G-EBVs for sheep in the United States, further improving the ability to identify superior breeding stock.
Producers participating in the NSIP program are reaping financial benefit from participating in NSIP, Burgett indicated, citing last year’s sales results. The Center of the Nation Sale included 98 rams that sold for an average of $1,461, and 27 ewes that sold for an average of $859 – the highest sale gross and average price since the sale began 17 years ago.
Burgett moderated several fascinating panel discussions with both genetic researchers and sheep producers. A panel of federal scientists discussed some of the most significant findings of their genetic research projects, including those on correlated traits such as how udder structure affects mastitis, opportunities to maintain genetic diversity within sheep breeds, the identification of parasite-resistant genes, and identification of a gene that influences Ovine Progressive Pneumonia virus infection.
The producer panel focused on record-keeping systems, how they have evolved and are used on farms and ranches. The data collection – shared with programs such as NSIP – has helped increase the financial returns from their flocks. From helping to identify the least productive sheep for culling, to identifying high-performing animals to perpetuate, producers from Iowa to Texas spoke of how they have incorporated data into their management regimes.
Data collection is what leads to increases in productivity and profitability. Ron Lewis of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln directs the Sheep GEMS research project which focuses on both genetics and performance data from 3,000 sheep from four breeds, tying the two types of data together. A key element is collecting performance records from NSIP-member flocks that reflect an animal’s productive efficiency, robustness and climatic resilience.
Traits defining robustness and climatic resilience are largely absent in American sheep genetic evaluations, Lewis said, but the GEMS project seeks to address this limitation. Measures that indicate robustness and climate resistance will include lamb survival, ewe longevity, udder health and gastrointestinal parasite resistance. The breeds involved in the research are Katahdin, Polypay, Rambouillet and Suffolk.
By the time Cache Valley Fever is detected in your flock, it’s generally too late to do anything about it, Dr. Reid Redden of Texas A&M AgriLife told members of the Animal Health Committee meeting in Fort Worth, noting that the virus can be devastating to a lamb crop.
“Most of the damage has been done by the time you know there’s a problem,” Redden said.
CVF was first detected in the Cache Valley of Utah in the mid-1950s, but has become more widespread. The virus is similar to Blue Tongue and Rift Valley fever and is transmitted by mosquitos. The timing of the infection is a determining factor in the severity of the disease, Redden explained.
CVF often appears in a January lambing scenario with the birth of malformed lambs – but the infection occurred weeks before. If the ewe is infected prior to 28 days of pregnancy, it will result in embryonic death. If infection occurs between day 28 and day 35, then the fetus is likely to have severe abnormalities in the central nervous system. If infection occurs between days 35 and 45, the lambs are likely to be born weak, perhaps will less severe malformations.
Signs of CVF include abortions, dystocia, weak lambs and stillbirths. Dystocia (difficult births) is a major issue in a flock infected with CVF, Redden said, noting it can be very difficult to get the lambs out and in some cases the humane action is to put down the ewe. Congenital defects in the fetal lamb include poor muscle development, twisted backs, rigid legs and shortened jaws, Redden said.
Sheep that are most susceptible to CVF are naive sheep such as ewe lambs, Western ewes and sheep grazing in new wetlands.
With no treatment or vaccine, prevention during the mosquito season is important, Redden said, such as avoiding wet pastures or delaying breeding until after a hard frost eliminates most of the mosquito threat.
Redden’s presentation was one of several important animal health updates to the group, and many sheep producers participated in a discussion about a shortage of small ruminant veterinarians and the challenges that poses as antibiotics are switched to prescription-only availability.
Establish a Relationship
Washington veterinarian Jill Swannack gave her view as a practitioner, recommending that sheep producers find a veterinarian or two now, and throw some business their way.
“Reach out before you need them,” she recommended, to establish a client relationship, even scheduling a flock visit before any problems arise. “Get these relationships established now, before there’s an emergency.”
Ron Phillips of the Animal Health Institute explained the complex process for drug development and approval for food animals in the United States.
Food animal drug products take much longer to gain approval than those for companion-animals, Phillips said, taking up to a decade and $100 million in costs for a new food animal drug to get to the approval stage.
The animal health market has boomed in recent years, rising from $9.9 billion in 2016 to $13.8 billion in 2021, Phillips said, but 63 percent of the product market is companion animals – not food animals – even though there are 400 million companion animals and 10 billion food-producing animals.
While drugs for human use are regulated by a single agency – the Food and Drug Administration – animal health product development and approval is subject to review and regulation by three agencies, including the FDA, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Animal health drugs must be proven to be both safe and effective, which is achieved through a complicated three-stage development process by the companies providing data packets to regulatory agencies.
Those data packets must establish that the animal health drug is safe for both humans and the target animals, as well as provide for environmental and product safety.
In addition, studies must prove its effectiveness in the target animal, Phillips said. Phillips suggested that there needs to be greater global harmonization of regulatory data requirements, since much research and development of these drugs takes place in Europe or Australia, but those results are not accepted by regulatory officials in the United States.
It’s also important to maintain existing animal health products on the market, Phillips pointed out, citing the movement of antimicrobials to veterinary prescription only status.
Diane Sutton, DVM, of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Veterinary Services provided an update on the National Scrapie Eradication Program, noting that the nation must be free of scrapie for seven years to be officially declared scrapie free, and must demonstrate it has an adequate surveillance program in place.
With the surveillance program in place and the last scrapie case detected in January 2021, Sutton said, the United States has another five years to go before the eradication program can be declared a success.
Lastly, USDA epidemiologist Natalie Urie, DVM, reminded sheep producers that the National Animal Health Monitoring System will initiate its national study of the health and management of American sheep flocks in 2024. The survey will begin in January 2024 and will involve farm visits in the top 24 states involved in sheep production.
During the course of seven months, researchers will visit about 5,000 farms and ranches in this voluntary program as they collect biological samples and conduct fecal parasite and pathogen testing. Participants will receive individualized results, but results will be grouped at the regional level prior to releasing the national survey results.
DON MEIKE, 1929-2023
Wyoming rancher Don Meike – who served as president of the National Wool Growers Association – passed away at home in Kaycee, Wyo., on Feb. 2, 2023. He was 93.
Don was born to Peter and Naomi (Streeter) Meike on May 8, 1929. Don and his brother, Peter “Peto” Meike, continued to operate the Meike Ranch in Kaycee, Wyo., since forming a partnership with their father in 1949. The century ranch was established in 1901 by the brothers’ grandfather, Emil Meike. While major portions of the ranch land have been sold in recent years and the brothers moved out of the main ranch home, they continued to oversee operations as they produced sheep and cattle on a smaller scale.
While Don enjoyed the social aspect of the industry, Peter was often content to stay home on the ranch and tend to the animals.
“They were equal partners in the ranch, and they were a perfect combination of skills,” said Don’s niece, Lisa Keeler. “They complimented each other very well.”
The Meikes were well-known for their efforts at successfully grafting lambs within their extensive shed lambing operation.
“If they had a ewe who could support twins but only had a single lamb, they wouldn’t just graft one lamb. They’d put that ewe’s lamb on another ewe who might only be able to support one and graft a set of twins to the first ewe,” said Keeler, who worked on the operation at various times and now lives on a small piece of the family ranch. “If she could raise twins, she got twins. Every ewe got the lambs they could handle to maximize their potential.”
In 1978, Don was elected secretary of the National Wool Growers Association – a forerunner organization to today’s American Sheep Industry Association. He went on to serve as both vice chairman and chairman of NWGA in the years that followed. He was also a past president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Wyoming Livestock Board.
“Everything he did was based on improving not only his operation but the entire sheep industry,” Keeler said. “He was always ready to try new things. Lots of people called him for advice through the years, and he was straight forward with what he knew to work and what he knew didn’t work. He utilized the practices that he endorsed.”
Despite his advanced age, Don was active in state and national sheep industry meetings until the Covid-19 pandemic limited his travel. But his influence within the industry won’t soon be forgotten.
“He was just someone who was always there and willing to help,” recalls Jim Magagna, a past president of both ASI and the Wyoming Wool Growers. “He was highly respected by everyone who knew him, and he was always very generous financially both in and out of the sheep industry.”
According to a story in the March 1981 National Wool Grower, Don graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and served in the United States Air Force. Don and his brother were instrumental in establishing Meike’s Bunkhouse, a senior housing facility in Kaycee that they dedicated to their parents and grandparents.
Don was a big supporter of the Kaycee Sheepherders Rodeo, the Deke Latham Memorial Rodeo and was inducted into the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame.
He is survived by one brother, Peter Meike of Kaycee; one sister Emma Lee Koch also of Kaycee; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters, Helen Keeler and Barbara Wolcott.
Don was a longtime board member of ASI’s Sheep Heritage Foundation, and as such memorial contributions may be made to the foundation in his name. Visit SheepUSA.org/about-joindonate-donate for more information on the foundation.
It’s that time of year when we start to shake off the winter blues and look toward a warmer, sun-soaked spring. A change of seasons, new lambs on the ground – what’s not to love?
But spring weather also inevitably brings…mud.
And wet, muddy environments can be a breeding ground for coccidiosis, one of the most common and damaging diseases in sheep, particularly in young lambs. Coccidia are protozoa that can cause damage to the animal’s intestinal tract so food is not absorbed well.
Coccidiosis can be detrimental to flock health and performance. Learn how to identify symptoms and maintain a clean, dry environment to help manage coccidiosis in your flock.
What causes coccidiosis in sheep?
Coccidiosis can be caused by parasitic protozoa in the genus Eimeria. The Eimeria are host-specific, and those that infect cattle will not cross over to sheep or goats. The life cycle of coccidia is complex, with its reproduction occurring in the animal’s intestinal cells.
Conditions that can increase sheep’s susceptibility include extreme weather changes, an unclean environment and stressful events such as transportation, nutrition deficiencies, feed changes, weaning, illness, parasites and lactation.
Watch for symptoms of coccidiosis
The symptoms observed depend on the species of Eimeria, how many are present, the animal’s age, production status, stress level and environmental factors. Young animals might be more susceptible than older animals. And, adult animals can have coccidia but not show any symptoms.
Due to the damage to the cells lining the intestines, the primary symptom of coccidiosis in sheep is diarrhea. Diarrhea might have a dark, tarry appearance and, in severe cases, large blood clots might be seen. The hindquarters and tail might be covered with manure. Additionally, the performance of sheep will suffer due to possible loss of appetite, weakness, abdominal pain or fatigue.
Some animals might die before showing signs of coccidiosis if exposed to a large amount of coccidia in their environment. Even though sheep might recover, there could be long-lasting effects due to intestinal damage that can cause general unthriftiness, decreased growth, inferior sheep milk production and a greater predisposition to other diseases.
Managing coccidiosis in your flock
A veterinarian should be consulted to develop a program for coccidiosis in your flock. Following the veterinarian’s directions during an outbreak is critical to help the flock overcome the disease.
Coccidostats can help decrease the shedding of coccidia through the feces. Two medications available to help manage coccidiosis are decoquinate and lasalocid, an ionophore. Any medications must be used at least 30 days before lambing and at least 30 days before weaning to help protect lambs during this stressful event.
Additionally, using a coccidiostat at the right time in the production cycle does not replace proper hygiene but rather complements it. If an outbreak does occur, following your veterinarian’s prescribed program will ensure that the medications used will be effective.
Maintaining a clean, dry environment
The best way to manage coccidiosis is to create an environment that’s clean and dry with reduced stress. If lambs are in pens, keeping the bedding dry and the ewe’s udder and teats clean is critical in reducing a lamb’s chance of ingesting coccidia when nursing. On pasture, provide shelter and prevent feces from accumulating where ewes and lambs congregate.
In addition to clean bedding, drinking water should be fresh and clean and waters and feed troughs should be disinfected, if possible, to reduce potential ingestion of coccidia. Waters and feeders should be designed to prevent sheep from walking in and defecating in the troughs.
Keep both newborn lambs and ewes growing and performing this spring by implementing these steps to manage coccidiosis in your flock.
Visit PurinaMills.com/sheep-feed to learn more. Clay Elliott, Ph.D., is a small ruminant technical specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. Contact him at CElliott@landolakes.com.
If you are an avid reader of the Sheep Industry News or had the opportunity to go to the ASI Annual Convention in 2022 or 2023, we’ve been talking about efforts to address antibiotic resistance. Chances are you already know that by this June – in about four months – antibiotics that we now get over the counter at our local feed store or in the farm supply catalogues will require a prescription from your vet.
You might even know why this change is coming, but if not, reach out to me and we can talk about it. There are many different sides to this problem. Put simply, just as you are primarily responsible for the health and well-being of your sheep, the Food and Drug Administration has made veterinarians the primary stewards of these life-saving veterinary drugs. Transitioning to using a veterinarian as a partner in your flock health program – rather than only when things go wrong in emergency situations – might have benefits beyond keeping antibiotics working for many years to come.
I have not been to one farm or ranch that is identical to another. Not once. That is really the fun part of my job as a veterinarian. When it comes to addressing the health of your flock, there are many different ways we can adjust management to control or prevent diseases within an operation that limits the need for antibiotics. One size definitely does not fit all.
This is why it is so important that your vet becomes familiar with your operation in order to be able to give you the best advice for you and your animals. Additionally, establishing the veterinarian-client-patient relationship is required by state and federal law for your vet to provide a diagnosis and make treatment recommendations. Maintaining their veterinary practice license – aka their livelihood – depends on following this law.
Don’t have a vet in your area?
The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners has a directory of members that can help you find a vet who has experience working with sheep and goats. This is by no means a complete list. There might be vets in your area that work with your neighbors or other producers in the region. Start talking to fellow producers about how they work with their vet. I have several colleagues that have an extremely wide practice radius and drive many hours – or even fly – to farms and ranches that recognize the value of their services for annual flock health checks.
Why pay for a vet to come out when you don’t need them at the time?
Chances are, your vet is a busy person. While it might be difficult for you to find a vet in your area, this means vets that are working with livestock are booked and traveling that much further to serve clients. If you have a good relationship with your vet and they are familiar with your farm or ranch, they can usually get you the help you need faster than if you are a new client or haven’t talked with your vet in several years.
Where do you start if you don’t have a problem?
Develop a flock health plan. Have the vet out for a routine service like scanning for pregnant ewes or evaluating breeding soundness of rams. Resources like ASI’s Sheep Care Guide are available on the website, or herd health and treatment plan templates like the ones developed by the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine can help make sure you are prepared to discuss your operation with your veterinarian and the conditions that might affect your sheep in the coming year. Revisit these plans with your vet annually. Most operations experience changes from year to year; be it weather, forage resources, animal numbers, etc. Describe what has worked and what hasn’t and adjust your plans as necessary.
Being a livestock veterinarian is hard work and extremely fulfilling, especially since we get to work with great people. Remember, we are all people, working to provide a premium, safe and wholesome product for our friends and families.
For more resources to help you prepare for this change, go to Sheepusa.org/fda-guidance-ending-over-the-counter-antibiotics or scan the above QR code with your phone.