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To View the May 2023 Digital Issue — Click Here

Making Our Voices Heard in D.C.

Brad Boner, ASI President

The ASI Executive Board, staff and other ASI members from many states were in Washington, D.C., on March 27-30 for the annual fly-in to help educate and communicate with federal agencies and congressional delegations that impact the American sheep industry. I would personally like to thank all the ASI members who took time out of their busy lives to inform and educate members of the congressional delegations from their states as to the issues that are most important to ASI and our industry for 2023.
As many of you are aware, the Farm Bill will expire on Sept. 30. This year will require a fair amount of legislative effort on ASI’s part to ensure the new Farm Bill includes:
• Reauthorization of the Wool Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund, U.S. Wool Research and U.S. Pima Cotton. Specifically, sections 12602, 12603 and 12604 of the 2018 Farm Bill.
• Wool Marketing Assistance Loan and Loan Deficiency Payment. The Wool LDP base price has not been updated for 20 years. ASI has completed an economic analysis that definitively shows an increase in the LDP base price is warranted.
• Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program. SPMGP is intimately connected to the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center.
• Minor Uses, Minor Species Animal Pharmaceuticals. ASI is requesting a study by the General Accountability Office to evaluate the effectiveness of the MUMS Act of 2004 for the American sheep industry.
• Export Programs of the USDA/Foreign Agriculture Service. With more than half of all American wool exported, access to foreign markets is critical for the sheep industry.
• Climate Change and Sustainability. Agriculture is part of the solution where greenhouse gases are concerned. ASI supports addressing climate change/smart strategies in the Farm Bill through voluntary, incentive-based programs.
Other issues that were discussed with our D.C. policymakers included:
• Electronic Logging Mandate and Hours of Service regulations for truckers.
• H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers. New fee increases are unacceptable. Any guest worker program MUST maintain special procedures for sheep producers and give our members a fighting chance to compete in an increasingly difficult financial environment, while protecting both domestic and foreign ag workers.
• Reauthorization of Mandatory Price Reporting. The 3/70/20 guideline for confidentiality has negatively impacted robust price reporting in the sheep industry.
• Black Vulture Relief. ASI strongly supports approval of H. R. 1437.
• Bighorn Sheep in Domestic Sheep Grazing Allotments.
• Scrapie Eradication.
• U. S. Sheep Experiment Station funding and support.
• Wildlife Services funding and support.
In addition, meetings were held with government agency personnel including the Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Forest Service, Farm Service Agency, Wildlife Services and the Risk Management Agency.
As you can see, we had a busy schedule and as always there is plenty to do on the policy side of the equation. ASI’s structure as a group of member states plays a positive role in its ability to have access to congressional delegations all across the United States, which allows the association to be efficient and effective in its policy efforts.
A BIG thank you to all the great ASI staff and Jim Richards from Cornerstone Government Affairs for all your efforts in setting up the meetings and getting agency people to come visit with us.
I would also again like to sincerely thank all our members who took valuable time away from home and made a great effort to help this industry remain viable. We could not be as successful as we have been without these sacrifices from each of you.

Live Lamb Prices Continue Climb Up to Easter

Easter and our other spring holiday demand boosts are now behind today’s market as we get to late spring and early summer. We’re likely to see some seasonal changes in supplies and demand going forward.

One of the headwinds facing lamb prices so far in 2023 is that both lamb and yearling slaughter and lamb production have been greater than in 2022. Lamb and yearling slaughter from the first of the year through the week ending March 25 was 10.1 percent greater than the year before. Mature sheep slaughter was up
6.5 percent. With dressed weights down from a year ago by about 2 pounds per head, lamb production has increased 6.2 percent in 2023 compared to 2022. To be fair, production in 2023 and 2022 were below lamb production in the same period in 2021.
Normally, lamb slaughter would begin to decline from this time of year well into summer. Things appear to be moving in that direction already with production down 14.5 percent from a year ago during the last two weeks (early April). There might be some holiday impacts in that data but, regardless, that is a sharp decline in production.
Less lamb has been imported through the first two months of 2023 than last year, 34.1 million pounds compared to 37.4 million pounds in 2022. About 6 percent less lamb was imported from Australia while imports from New Zealand were down about 17 percent. Those two countries have supplied 98 percent of United States lamb imports so far this year. A small but interesting trend in lamb imports is that a little bit more lamb is being imported from countries other than Australia and New Zealand. In 2022, about 5.2 million pounds of lamb – 1.9 percent of total imports – came from other countries.

Lamb and mutton in cold storage grew by 3.2 million pounds from January to 28.6 million pounds in February. Storage represented a 29 percent increase from February 2022. The year-to-date lamb production increase was offset by the decline in imports – although the change in imports only reflects January-February due to the lag in data – yet cold storage stocks increased. That might be a concerning number for demand in the quarter but, the storage number is as of Feb. 1 and so it lags production data. Lamb and mutton in storage is increasing and approaching the five-year average, which covers a period where stocks were extremely burdensome on the market.

Lamb prices have shown some life, especially in the last six weeks. Heavy wool slaughter lambs at Sioux Falls, S.D., reached $181 per cwt. in the first week of April, their highest in almost a year. That price was higher than the five-year average, but still well below last year’s $214 per cwt.
Normally, heavier weight slaughter lambs would see a price decline in the weeks after Easter before climbing to seasonal highs for the year by mid-summer. Those seasonal price highs tend to be because of reduced lamb production during the summer months. That pattern should hold as production declines into the summer. But growing stocks suggest more total supplies on the market to pressure prices.
In the San Angelo, Texas, market, lighter weight slaughter lamb categories – generally 10-pound increments from 40 to 90 pounds – prices tended to peak in late February or early March for each weight. For example, 50 to 60 pound slaughter lambs got to $305 per cwt. in the first week of March before declining the rest of the month. Prices for lambs destined for feedlots continue to struggle even with lower feed prices compared to a year ago.
In general, wholesale lamb cut prices have tended to be flat or declining during the last several weeks. Single leg prices fell to $3.85 per pound the week before Easter, for their lowest weekly average price of the year so far. Lamb racks were $11.33 per pound for the same week, not a lot different from their weekly prices in the last two months.
On the retail price side, the limited available data suggests that there were more stores with lamb features for the week of April 7 through April 13. Of the 29,200 stores surveyed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, 20.3 percent of them had some kind of lamb featured – compared to 17.9 percent of stores a year ago. Prices were lower than those of a year ago across all cuts mentioned. More featuring and lower prices might get some more lamb moving in grocery channels.

Australian wool market prices continued to slide lower across all micron categories in Australian dollars. Local port loading and banking issues are contributing to lower prices. But, overall, there appears to be more for sale in recent weeks compared to a year ago. As prices have declined, more bales have been pulled from auctions as producers decided to pass on lower prices and wait to see what happens.
An important factor for American producers to note is that the wool price decline noted above has been muted in U.S. dollar denominated wool prices due to exchange rate moves. The exchange movements have led to bigger price declines than we have seen here. The end result is that prices to American wool producers are holding up better than those of other countries.
It is also likely that worries about economic slowdowns or recessions that might come later in the year are weighing down prices and adding some uncertainty. Actions by the Federal Reserve to slow the economy to bring down inflation have yet to have a large effect. Economic slowdowns or recessions would most likely lower wool prices by reducing demand for final goods. These effects won’t be limited to the wool market, but will spill over into all other consumer goods, including competing fibers.

Growing supplies – both production and storage – have hurt lamb prices so far this year. But, even with larger production, heavier slaughter weight lamb prices have increased. Production should begin to decline seasonally from now into summer adding a boost to slaughter weight lamb prices.
Worries about the overall economy later in the year will weigh on prices at wholesale and retail.
Those same concerns about a potential recession will likely hold back wool prices through the year.

APHIS & Scrapie Surveillance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is looking to increase sheep producer participation in scrapie surveillance.
“The United States is nearing the goal line after a 70-year battle against scrapie, a fatal disease that affects the brain of sheep and goats. While the current program has been very successful in drastically reducing the amount of scrapie in the U.S., we are still finding scrapie positive animals. The most recent two cases of scrapie found in the U.S. were sampled at slaughter – a sheep tested in Wisconsin in 2021 and a goat in Indiana in 2019,” read a recent statement from APHIS. “However, we were unable to trace these to the farms of origin. It is likely there are still farms with cases of scrapie.
“One of the most difficult aspects of an eradication program is finding the last few cases of the disease. This involves testing sheep and goats that are showing signs suspect of scrapie but also testing those mature animals that may be incubating the disease. Here is where we need your help. If you have an adult sheep or goat that is exhibiting signs of scrapie such as incoordination, severe continuous rubbing or other neurologic signs, or an adult animal dies or is euthanized, or is being culled – even if you know the cause of death – please contact your local state or USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services veterinarian or call 866-536-7593 right away. There is no charge for the collection or testing of the samples for scrapie. In addition, producers providing samples may be eligible for free official plastic tags as long as our supplies last.
“For a country to be considered free of scrapie, international standards require that no sheep or goats test positive for classical scrapie for seven years and a certain level of testing be done each year that represents the sheep and goat populations within the country. The annual goal set for the United States is more than 40,000 samples collected from mature (18 months or older) sheep and goat populations. Please join your fellow producers in helping us reach this goal.”
Visit to learn more about scrapie eradication efforts.

Sheep Producers Flock to Washington, D.C.

ASI’s annual Spring Trip to Washington, D.C., is always an important time for producers to make their needs and concerns known to both legislators who establish policy and the agencies who administer it. But the trip takes on added importance every four years when the Farm Bill comes up for renewal.
“We’re working pretty closely with the agriculture committee staff in a number of areas,” said ASI Legislative Action Council Co-Chair Tammy Fisher. “I think this is a pivotal time for our industry as the trade climate is very difficult. Our markets and our economy are ever changing, so it’s important that we have a voice and a seat at the table.”
Sheep producers from 16 states traveled to our nation’s capital in late March to hear program updates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its various agencies, as well as to meet with congressional leaders.
“The Spring Trip is a prime opportunity to put a spotlight on the ways that government leaders can assist American sheep producers in the future,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick. “We always welcome the chance to meet firsthand with leaders of the agencies that work every day on the front lines with our industry. It’s an important time in helping them to understand how agency programs do or don’t work for our membership.”
Among the issues discussed during the week were the need for renewal of the Wool Trust – which funds ASI’s efforts to market American wool both domestically and overseas – continued support for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, predator control and how the sheep industry can be involved in sustainability and climate-smart initiatives that have been a central focus of the Biden Administration.
“I think there are definitely opportunities for us to be a player in that area,” Fisher said.
While ASI sponsored a Spring Trip in 2022, Fisher said this was the first year in which government and congressional offices were truly open following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s actually been easier for some producers to visit with their congressional leaders back in their home districts, but we appreciate those leaders and the agencies who took time to meet with us while we were there. We’re seeing that the agencies have a real interest in helping American agriculture and the sheep industry, as well. But we need to assist them in focusing some of their proposed programs in such a way that producers will see the maximum benefits. There’s still some work to do, and a lot of that will come through the Farm Bill.”
To that end, Fisher encourages sheep producers to continue reaching out to their congressional delegations – especially members of the Senate and House ag committees – with information on the needs of the industry.
“We’ve got a lot of new members on these committees who have never had to work on the Farm Bill before,” Fisher said. “So, it’s important to reach out to them and get them our information.”
Visit for information you can share with your senators and representatives.


ASI Leads the Way in
Safeguarding Sheep Production

Director of Analytics & Production Programs

ASI is leading several efforts aimed at safeguarding sheep production and promoting business continuity in the face of a disease outbreak. Each project described below provides opportunities for sheep and wool producers to actively engage in preparedness efforts using the resources in the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan.
The goal is to provide support to producers who want to protect their flocks and minimize the effects of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak on their businesses and the American sheep industry.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is providing more than $180,000 in Farm Bill funding to support ASI to expand awareness of sheep and wool producers – as well as those that work with and support them, including associations, extension, veterinarians, transporters and regulatory officials – about FMD preparedness and the resources in the SSWS Plan.
Producers who have a deeper understanding on how to prepare for and respond to an FMD outbreak will be better positioned to protect their flocks and maintain business continuity. This makes for a more resilient American sheep industry, which benefits producers, states and consumers.
The two-year grant will build capacity for broad outreach and education through multiple virtual train-the-trainer programs for sheep association leadership, extension specialists and veterinarians. Watch the ASI Weekly newsletter for those dates.
For people who wish to become advanced trainers, financial support for up to 10 individuals will be available to deliver outreach direct to sheep producers in their state or region through on-farm demonstrations. This approach has been successful in other livestock industries for teaching enhanced biosecurity and contingency planning principles. Building a support network with knowledgeable people in our members’ local area can strengthen awareness and action.
Attendees of the 2024 ASI Annual Convention in Denver, Colo., will have the opportunity to see firsthand implementation of the SSWS Plan on a sheep feedlot and in a sheep processing plant through an in person/on-site tour. Participants will hear about lessons learned from these operations, which may be applied at their own premises. ASI is dedicated to increasing the number of people who have the training, networking and resources to provide outreach about FMD preparedness and the SSWS Plan.


In May, ASI in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Wool Growers Association will be hosting a discussion-based workshop to pilot-test the components of the SSWS Plan and permitting process of sheep with no evidence of FMD infection during an outbreak. This is the first exercise of this kind on the SSWS Plan.
During the exercise, Colorado producers and packers – along with key industry representatives – will come together to develop, test and evaluate the producer SSWS Plans to meet the Secure Food Supply permitting guidance specific to Colorado. CDA will support producers who seek to request a movement permit during an “outbreak,” identify alignment with industry capabilities, share information and note gaps in the process.
Following this exercise, a webinar will be held for stakeholders to discuss what was learned and encourage other state animal health officials to engage with their sheep industry partners to conduct similar exercises. A second webinar will be offered with speakers from ASI, CDA, CWGA and Colorado producers and packers that participated in the exercise to share with Colorado producers who did not participate the lessons that they learned, preparedness tips and how permitting will be handled during an FMD outbreak. Learning from peers in a no-risk environment provides benefits to the entire industry.

In 2022, APHIS provided $185,000 in Farm Bill funding to support ASI and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to develop movement decision criteria for sheep and cattle grazing public land allotments during a potential FMD outbreak. Sheep and cattle owners will face unique challenges to mitigate disease exposure risks on federal public lands. Ranchers identified this as a gap in the initial development of SSWS and the Secure Beef Supply Plans and these organizations want to support their members who rely on public grazing.
ASI and NCBA are collaborating with two federal public land management agencies – Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service – states, ranchers, APHIS, wildlife agencies and industry partners such as the Public Lands Council in this effort. Interagency coordination is key to managing an FMD response involving livestock grazing federal public lands to mitigate the potential adverse impacts to animal health, the environment and food security.
In November 2022, the advisory group came together to work through movement scenarios to discuss management practices, FMD risks and agency roles in developing movement decision guidance. Input from cattle and sheep ranchers from seven states, representatives from USDA/APHIS Veterinary Services, USFS, BLM, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Nevada Department of Agriculture, ASI, NCBA and PLC identified gaps and action items to further the response efforts.
Some of the key topics included the criteria around stop movement, interagency communication and capabilities, and working with ranchers impacted by quarantine with animals that are not infected with FMD.
The advisory group will meet in 2023 to exercise the movement strategies guidance criteria using various outbreak scenarios impacting public land grazing allotments. Both discussions will contribute to new guidance documents and materials specific to livestock grazing federal public lands. These resources will be added to the SSWS and SBS Plan websites in early 2024.
Each of these projects are making strides in safeguarding sheep production and promoting business continuity opportunities because of the active engagement and collaboration from producers, industry stakeholders, state and federal agencies and Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle, a consultant with Preventalytics.
To learn more, visit

In the Green
California’s Ryan Indart Grazes
His Way to Prosperity

Ryan Indart has a problem he’s never had before. After drenching rains and substantial mountain snowfall brought an end to countless years of drought in his home state, he stands in a solar array in the San Joaquin Valley and sees only two things: green grass and solar panels. More specifically, green grass shading solar panels.
Ryan’s got 1,500 sheep on this site and their job is to clear that grass from the landscape, but these highly proficient eaters have quite the mountain to climb for the first time since they began grazing such sites in 2018. Recent weather events have been a complete 180 from the vast drought California farmers and ranchers had grown accustomed to. Add that additional moisture to the valley’s already fertile soil and the grass is reproducing at the rate of a Finnsheep ewe and growing more prolifically than a Texel lamb.
“I’ve got all of these projects that I’ve procured and contracted in the last three years – drought years – and now the vegetation has tripled or quadrupled,” Ryan says. “So, the sheep are going slower and I really don’t have enough sheep. It’s definitely added some anxiety and some stress. I told my wife just the other day, I’d much rather be busy trying to find more sheep and worrying about how to get all the work done, than busy wondering how I’m going to get the sheep fed and how we’re going to pay the bills. This is a nicer problem to have, and really the complete opposite from the problems we’ve had nearly the entire time we’ve owned the sheep. Projects that I can’t graze I can usually outsource to my partners.”
Ryan bought the family’s sheep operation from his parents in 2009 and lost money more often than not in the early years.
“This was really a grassroots, boot-strap, necessity is the mother of invention kind of thing for us,” he admits. “If we wanted to survive, we needed to do something different. I wanted to be able to pay my employees and provide for my family with the sheep. I don’t know how producers in California can survive on just lamb and wool these days.”
As a farmer – his family has always grown almonds, cherries, oranges, barley and wheat – and sheep producer, Ryan would love to see many of the thousands of acres now covered in solar panels still growing crops. But running sheep in among the panels is the next best option for preserving agricultural lands.
“Some of the land they’ve built on is marginal soil, but marginal soil in central California can still produce a lot of food,” he says. “This is some of the best sheep feed in the world. Even in drought years, it’s full of nutrition. There was just less of it back then.”


“I think we’re the first sheep ranching operation in the Western states to really go all in on this,” Ryan says. “I’m trying to be a leader and bring some other sheep producers in with me. The biggest downside right now is that I’ve got too much feed and not enough animals.
“We’re doing the same thing we’ve done for generations, but now we’re just doing it under solar panels. I never thought in a million years I’d be doing something like this. The ag community and solar operators aren’t always aligned. I want to protect our agricultural interests and lands, but I realize that there are different ways to do that. I’m a chameleon in a sense. I don’t agree with all of the policies that are enacted in my state, but I have to adapt my business to work with them. Some of these lands should be irrigated and growing crops, but that’s not happening. So, what’s the next best thing? I can graze sheep on these lands and in addition to the energy they produce, we can produce lamb and wool to feed and clothe this country.”
While solar panels produce clean energy that most of the state’s residents can feel good about, grazing those lands provides Ryan with the opportunity to tout the benefits of animal agriculture, which includes reducing emissions (compared to mowing) and the use of harsh pesticides in maintaining the site.
A California native, Ryan seriously considered uprooting his family and joining sheep producer friends somewhere in the Intermountain West. It isn’t an easy life no matter where you do it, but his involvement with ASI (he’s now the Region VIII representative to the ASI Executive Board), the National Lamb Feeders Association and Western Range had shown him that other Western states tend to be more ag-friendly than what he sees coming out of the state capitol in Sacramento, Calif. But the lifestyle won out. An accomplished water polo player, he’s watched the two oldest of his four girls follow in his footsteps as they head into their teenage years. Wyoming might be more ag friendly, but good luck finding a water polo team to play for.
“Clovis (Calif.) is a great place to raise a family, and our kids are really flourishing in the schools there,” says Ryan, who’s also the assistant water polo coach at Clovis North High School. “Fortunately, God blessed us to start this solar grazing business and that’s allowed us to stay in California.”
Solar grazing and targeted grazing are growing industries throughout the country, but they’ve taken off exponentially in California to mitigate the state’s extreme fire conditions in recent years. Because of that, Ryan believes every sheep producer in the state should be looking at these opportunities.
“Some guys just aren’t interested in branching out and developing this new revenue stream, but in this state we have to be open to some new things to make it work. We have the highest labor costs in the country. Sheep producers who aren’t actively looking for grazing opportunities are really missing out, because they are everywhere. You just have to sell the benefits of your business.”


Because Ryan’s business includes grazing, lamb and wool production, tractor work and grain production, he was able to successfully transition away from the salaried H-2A range sheepherder job classification and into the H-2A hourly job classification. This allowed him to distribute his human resource dollars across multiple revenue centers and have his employees learn a variety of other new job skills – a benefit to both the employee and the employer. Also, Ryan’s family business farms almonds, cherries and oranges – crops which his H-2A employees can help attend to.
“With the range sheepherder qualification, I was really tied to having them do only sheepherder work,” he says. “My guys are happy getting to do a lot of different things. They like the diversity of the work. Some of them just want to herd the sheep, and that’s fine. But most are ready to do different things and learn new skills to provide for their families.”
The change was especially beneficial after the California Wool Growers Association lost its legal battle to exempt sheepherders from the state’s overtime rules that were put into place a few years ago. Herders hired through the H-2A program cost more in California than anywhere else in the United States.


Other than lambing, Ryan’s flock of Targhee-Finn crosses spends most of the year on solar sites. That’ll be especially true in 2023 as they look to mow down the suddenly overgrown sites. The need for less land is an added benefit for a producer who’s expanding his flock on a yearly basis these days.
“We’ve got 3,500 ewes and I think we could get to 5,000 easily in the next few years,” he says. “My only constraint is the amount of alfalfa pasture we have to lamb on. There’s nothing else holding us back.”
And while many grazing operations lean heavily on hair sheep for their smaller frames and parasite resistance, Ryan says his flock is just as well-suited for the work.
“We’ve always had wool sheep, and I don’t see any reason to change that,” he says. “The lambs I produce are highly sought after by the ethnic market in the Midwest. They grow fast because they’ve got some Texel in them, but they don’t get as big as a Rambouillet or a Suffolk. They produce a medium-coarse wool and all of that goes to Mike Corn at Roswell Wool. I don’t have any direct channels on that because I don’t need anything else to keep me busy. But I’m happy to have three revenue streams from the lamb, the wool and the grazing.”

Sheep & Solar Make Great Partners

Targeted Grazing is nothing new in the sheep industry. From the early days of public lands grazing out West to the more recent use of flocks in suburban neighborhoods all across the country, this win-win concept has proved beneficial for both sheep producers and those who paid them for the service.
But a new subset of targeted grazing has emerged in the past decade as solar arrays continue to appear on the horizon all across the country. While much of the country is in favor of the renewable energy they create, not everyone loves the sight of these sites. Add in the fact that they often are built on land that had previously been used for agricultural production, and you’ll understand why solar companies have seen some resistance.
The solution? Sheep.
Allowing sheep to graze these solar sites keeps shade from hitting the panels – which would prevent them from doing their jobs – and allows the land to still be used in production agriculture.
“There are a lot of sites planned in Ohio, a lot in Virginia, but there’s some kickback there. The same is true for Pennsylvania,” said American Solar Grazing Association Secretary Jonathan Barter of New York. He’s also a sheep and cattle producer who manages flocks on solar sites and works for Delaware River Solar, as well. “The bigger and more conspicuous the site, the more potential kickback there is. So, I think it’s a matter of weathering the growing pains as we move to larger, utility-scale solar and develop those sites to fit the landscape. It’s a very visible change to the landscape, and a lot of people aren’t happy with that.”
Barter says the addition of sheep helps squelch those concerns for many of the site’s naysayers.
“Frankly, there’s something quite attractive about driving past acres of panels with sheep grazing underneath them,” Barter added. “On an environmental level, we’re always advocating that through agrivoltaics (the use of land for both agriculture and solar photovoltaic energy generation) we aren’t really losing farmland. We’re just changing the type of agriculture on the land. And, of course, sheep do have a beneficial impact on the land that they are on, just like any ruminant does. That’s something worth stressing for those who are concerned about our environment.”
As is the case with Barter, New York’s Lexie Hain has played a variety of roles in the emerging industry. The two were among the original founders of ASGA and Lexie served as executive director before stepping down to take a position overseeing agrivoltaics and land management for Lightsource bp. In a young, evolving industry, the two are veteran leaders who can offer advice to producers looking to get into solar grazing.
“The actual work of managing a solar site is a separate enterprise,” Hain said. “We’ve had a lot of people who thought they could start a business in vegetation management with solar. But we’re in for an interesting few years as we separate the wheat from the chaff.”
If you’re just anticipating free feed for your flock and little to no time investment, then solar grazing probably isn’t right for you. But if you’re the type of producer who believes in truly managing grazing lands, then the solar industry has a site for you. In the past few years, solar companies have come to realize that a producer who just wants free ground to run sheep on isn’t the best option.
“They are now vetting farmers to understand the difference between those who just see it as free land versus those who are truly interested in targeted grazing,” Hain said.
“I’m not a proponent of just dropping sheep off and letting them graze it down to nothing,” Barter said. “I don’t think that’s a satisfactory practice at all. ASGA is promoting good management for not only the health of the animals, but also good management for the vegetation.”


“First and foremost, producers should consider the scale and physical distance to a site,” Barter said. “If you’ve got 50 sheep and you’re going to travel two hours to a site, I can tell you right now that isn’t going to pencil out. But if you’ve got a site within a few miles of home and that allows you to expand your flock a bit, that absolutely could work.”
Barter also strongly encourages producers to ask for multi-year contracts on any site they agree to graze. Unfortunately, the solar companies tend to gravitate toward one-year deals. This is especially true for anyone without a track record of grazing on such sites.
“I wouldn’t sign a contract that’s any less than three years at this point,” Barter said. “Actual revenues from solar grazing are a moving target. People ask me all the time how much these solar companies are paying, and the answer is they’ll pay as little as possible. You have to negotiate with them. Get all of the information up front. Get it all in writing and don’t sign anything without knowing what you’re signing.”
Considerations during those negotiations should include expenses such as mowing of ungrazed areas – which is often part of the grazer’s contract – and liability insurance.
“You have to have the equipment to mow – or a plan in place to deal with those areas – because the contracts require it,” Hain said. “The panels can’t be shaded. I know some producers who have brought in a landscaping company to handle that portion, but generally it’s going to be on you to arrange and pay for that.”
Usually, solar grazing will require assistance, especially if you anticipate adding solar to your current operation. Whether it’s family members or paid staff, you’ll need someone to check on the sheep daily. Depending on the size of the site, that might require moving temporary fencing.
“The average size of sites that are being planned, permitted and eventually built is growing exponentially,” Barter said. “There are a lot of utility-scale solar sites proposed and planned in the next five years.”
While sheep are still the best option for vegetation management, large sites can pose a problem for parts of the country where producers tend to run smaller flocks. Taking on such a site might mean expanding your flock or partnering with other producers to effectively graze the available land. But keep in mind that solar grazing isn’t a year-round proposition in many parts of the country, so you’ll need a place for those sheep to call home when they aren’t on the solar company’s payroll.


ASGA is in the process of developing a national certification program that will help prepare producers to get their start in this growing industry. In addition, certification might help producers new to the industry show solar companies that they’re prepared for the job.
“There’s certainly a learning curve in grazing sheep,” Barter said. “The management is an ongoing, potential nightmare that can be stressful at times.” Of course, that could be said about any livestock endeavor.
For more information, email or

Extension Educator
Andrew Weaver
North Carolina

ASI Communications Assistant

Andrew Weaver is an assistant professor and small ruminant extension specialist at North Carolina State University. He grew up in central Michigan where he was active in 4-H livestock programs. He attended Michigan State University majoring in animal science. While at MSU, Andrew was a member of the meat judging team and worked at the Sheep Teaching and Research Center. He completed his master’s degree at Virginia Tech studying terminal sire options for hair sheep producers. That research led him to West Virginia University, where he completed his Ph.D. in Dr. Scott Bowdridge’s parasite immunology lab. His research and extension interests focus on utilization of genetic tools and management practices to improve parasite resistance, performance and end-product value of small ruminants in the Southeastern United States. He also serves as co-chair of ASI’s Genetic Stakeholders Committee and on the board of the National Sheep Improvement Program.

I have a 70 percent teaching, 30 percent extension appointment. I do a lot of teaching, but then on the research and extension side of things everything’s pretty applied. A lot of it focuses on the parasites, it’s a component of everything we do because it is the biggest challenge in sheep production here in the Southeast. How do we manage the sheep in a way that we reduce exposure to parasites or if they are exposed, how do we make those animals more fit to respond to that parasite infection? A lot of it’s the interface between genetics and nutrition, how do we feed them, manage them, breed them, so that they’re not impacted by the parasite as severely.

We’ve been studying feed efficiency for about a year now, and trying to measure as many phenotypes, collect data on feed intake as well as performance traits and try to quantify efficiency to see which lambs are more efficient and if it’s something that we can breed for and make more feed efficient lambs with feed being one of the highest input costs. We have lambs that convert three to one versus lambs that convert six to one, so if we could identify and breed more of those lambs that convert three to one, we cut our feed bill in half. So that’s one of the newer projects we’re going after.

it all comes back to parasites and grass management. We’re blessed here in the Southeast to have grass almost year around. If you’re a good grass manager, you can graze just about 365 days a year. There might be a month or two that you have to get off of it depending on how many animals and how much land you have. We have forages like fescue that have pros and cons. Fortunately, fescue doesn’t impact sheep as severely as it impacts cattle. And we can utilize that some to our advantage on the small ruminant side of things and look at how we can integrate sheep into existing cattle operations. We’ve got a lot of cow-calf operations here in the Southeast. So, those producers already own the land and cows, can they diversity their operations? Producers can better manage risk by adding in a different species, because they can utilize the same land mass and have sheep and cows. You can also have more marketing opportunities. There are potentially benefits from a parasite and predation standpoint, as well. Sometimes the cows can actually provide some protection for the sheep if they are housed together.

The challenges are feed resources. Feed is more expensive here in North Carolina than in the Midwest. The vast majority of our grains come in by railcar from the Midwest and we have an additional shipping cost. We generally run at least 80 cents to a dollar over the market, and that could be challenging. Supplemental feeding is really expensive, but at the same time we can grow a lot of grass. So, we don’t have to supplement as much.

Summers get really, really hot, and parasites get really, really bad. The growing season where I’m from in Michigan is much shorter. There are still parasites up there, but the length of time in the year when parasites can really be a problem is much shorter. It may be mid-July or August. It depends on the year, but your parasite pressure may set in much later in the year. Where here, we have animals that can get pretty severely infected by April. So, we have to deal with parasites a lot longer in the year and that becomes a big challenge.

We sit here at the university, and we can sometimes get in this little bubble of our research ideas and what we’re doing but at the end of the day our goal is to serve producers. The challenges that they’re having, we want to help address those and figure out innovative new ways we can address those things. North Carolina is not the biggest sheep producing state, but I think it’s growing and there is optimism here. I get phone calls multiple times a week from people either they’re getting into sheep, or they’ve got a friend or a neighbor that’s getting into sheep and wanting to learn about management practices.

The more we can do lambing schools, handling workshops, basic management stuff that the folks in this part of the country are really after, the better. They are new and excited about it. They want to get into the sheep business. They want to be successful with it. They see opportunity in it. And I think that’s really encouraging.

We’re here on the East Coast and we have tons of lamb consumption, especially within the non-traditional trade, the ethnic market. There are a couple of plants here in North Carolina that are processing a substantial number of sheep and goats every week and marketing those animals into Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh areas, as well as up and down the East Coast. Right now, they’re bringing a lot of those animals in from out of state because you can’t find them here. They just don’t exist here.

One of my goals is how can we increase production here in North Carolina, so that we can meet their slaughter demand and they don’t have to truck lambs in from other places to meet their quotas. So, I guess there’s a lot of optimism for the future and opportunity out there.

Association News

Apply for SHF Scholarship

ASI’s Sheep Heritage Foundation is once again accepting applications for the Sheep Heritage Scholarship. The scholarship will award $3,000 in financial support to a graduate student pursuing a sheep-related study that will support the advancement of the American sheep industry, lamb and wool.
Graduate students involved in sheep and/or wool research in such areas as animal science, agriculture economics or veterinary medicine are eligible to apply. Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate school in the United States and must be a United States citizen.
Students should complete a scholarship application and submit it with two letters of reference and proof of graduate school acceptance/enrollment. The deadline to apply is May 31.
Visit for the application.

Concerns About BLM Changes

In late March, the Bureau of Land Management published text of a proposed rule that makes significant and concerning changes to the agency’s authority under the Federal Land Management and Policy Act. The Public Lands Council – of which ASI is a member – has both substantive issues with the proposal as well as the concerted effort to avoid advance feedback during the drafting of the proposal. The rule was developed entirely by agency staff, without consultation or input from grazing permittees or other regulated stakeholders.
PLC addressed its concerns as follows:
“Apply land health standards to all BLM-managed public lands and uses: This concept is amenable to PLC, as PLC and our partners have long held that land health standards should not just apply to grazing allotments, but all BLM lands. Under existing regulation, BLM only uses these standards to evaluate and make decisions about grazing activities – not any other use of the multiple-use landscape that affects land health. This has led to grazing being the scapegoat for surface disturbance and poor land health outcomes that were caused by recreation, drought, wildlife, invasive species, and a host of other issues. Applying this concept across the landscape will create a more equitable representation of land health and ensure BLM can prioritize funding and resources adequately. This concept needs to be refined in future iterations to ensure that grazing permittees do not fall to the bottom of a long list of priorities simply because grazing allotments are healthier than other areas.
“Clarify that conservation is a ‘use’ within FLPMA’s multiple-use framework: This elevation of conservation as a ‘use’ under FLPMA is the primary concern in this rule. In grazing regulatory revisions in the 1990s, BLM attempted to insert conservation use in the grazing regulations as a means to decrease grazing levels across the West. In this proposal, BLM offers the concept of a ‘conservation lease’ as a means by which to create value for conservation activities on federal land, as the BLM is required to manage BLM lands for public value. Thus far, BLM has described conservation leases as a way to allow surface disturbing activities or NGOs to lease landscapes for compensatory mitigation or other restoration activities. While BLM maintains this ‘rule does not prioritize conservation above other uses, it puts conservation on an equal footing with other uses,’ BLM has repeatedly justified decreases in grazing activities because other use provides more ‘benefit.’ PLC remains entirely opposed to involuntary reductions in grazing and will oppose any efforts by BLM to that end.
“Revise regulations to ramp up identifying and designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern: The White House has directed BLM and other agencies to incorporate wildlife habitat connectivity in to their planning activities, and this provision is in direct response to that order. Currently, there are a number of radical environmental groups who have proposed widespread designation of ACECs as a subversive means of radically restricting management tools, including grazing. PLC remains entirely opposed to significant expansion of ACECs either in acreage or in authority, and will engage BLM on this concept in this proposed rule and others upcoming.”
The comment period will elapse on June 20. During the comment period, BLM intends to host three in-person meetings across the West, and two virtual meetings. For information, contact Kaitlynn Glover at
Source: PLC

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