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Scholarship Deadline is Approaching

Brad Boner, ASI President

While it might apply to a small percentage of Sheep Industry News readers, I’d like to point out that the deadline for the Sheep Heritage Foundation Scholarship is quickly approaching at the end of this month. The $3,000 scholarship is available to students pursuing graduate work in sheep or wool research with studies in areas such as animal science, agriculture economics or veterinary medicine.
The deadline to apply is May 31, and details are available at
The scholarship has certainly proven to be a predictor of success within our industry. Many of its past recipients are now playing vital roles in leading innovation and research within our industry. Those of you who attend the ASI Annual Convention or a handful of state meetings around the country will recognize these names: Richard Ehrhardt (1991), Brad Freking (1993), Tom Murphy (2013), Whit Stewart (2014) and Todd Taylor (1996).
Ehrhardt, Stewart and Taylor are playing instrumental roles in their positions at Michigan State University, the University of Wyoming and the University of Wisconsin, respectively. Freking and Murphy are on staff at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb., and involved in day-to-day sheep research as they collaborate with their peers throughout the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Research Service.
Even some of the more recent winners have already established themselves as leaders in our industry. Chad Page (2018) is the sheep and goat specialist at Utah State University, while Christian Posbergh (2016) is an assistant professor for sheep production at Montana State University. Jake Thorne (2020) is leading many of the extensive sheep programs at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in San Angelo, Texas, and hosts our ASI Research Update podcast most months. In addition, Jaelyn Whaley (2019) is an extension sheep specialist with South Dakota State University.
These are young people who are guiding sheep producers in some of the largest sheep producing areas in the United States, and they were all recognized with the Sheep Heritage Foundation’s scholarship. I’d say the selection committee – made up of past ASI presidents – has a pretty good track record when it comes to awarding promising young students who will go on to success in our industry.
Who will add their name to that list in 2024? It could be you. Or a promising student you know. I encourage any students pursuing advanced degrees to apply before it’s too late. Let’s make the selection process as difficult as possible for this year’s review committee.
And to whoever might be announced as the 2024 winner, I’m expecting big things from you in the future.
Until next time, keep it on the sunny side.

Demand Still Big Determinant For Market

Now that we are past the Easter and other holiday markets, normal and seasonal price patterns usually suggest diverging market prices between heavier and lighter slaughter lambs. These seasonal price patterns are created by seasonal supplies and holiday needs. Demand is likely the most important factor going forward this year, followed by lamb supplies.

There are several factors worth considering when thinking about demand in the current market. Retail lamb price – or own-price in economist’s terms – indicates the amount people buy. When prices increase, consumers buy less, they reduce their quantity demanded. Growing (or shrinking) demand – often called a shift in demand by economists – is driven by several factors including: income, population, prices of competing meats, and changing consumer tastes and preferences.
These demand shifters can be thought about in terms of today’s economy and its implications for lamb demand. It’s probably safe to say there are mixed signals in the economy. On the good side, gross domestic product – representing the size of the economy – is growing at better than 3 percent per year. Unemployment is historically low. Real wages adjusted for inflation are increasing. Historically, a growing economy and low unemployment boost demand.
High and rising beef, pork and chicken prices likely help lamb from a competing meat standpoint. On the bad side, inflation and higher interest rates have taken a chunk out of people’s budgets. Some consumer’s budgets just don’t allow for spending on higher priced items. Personal savings are declining as a percent of disposable income and consumer debt is rising.
On balance, there is some underlying support for demand in the form of a growing economy, low unemployment and rising wages, and those three factors should provide some reason for optimism. But some consumers are, no doubt, priced out by high prices. Retail lamb prices as measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly retail featuring data indicate that prices increased from about $7.75 per pound in January to almost $10 per pound in March. But, the January retail featured lamb price was lower than the retail Choice beef price reported by USDA – suggesting that, at times, lamb can be competitively priced.

Lamb production and slaughter exceeded year ago levels in the first quarter. Federally inspected lamb and yearling slaughter was 4.8 percent larger during the first quarter compared to a year ago. Mature sheep slaughter was up a whopping 8.4 percent. Weekly mature sheep slaughter doesn’t usually peak until April or May, so that high level might have some implications for ewe numbers going into next year.
Lighter federally inspected dressed weights mitigated the effect of larger slaughter on lamb production. Lamb production was 1 percent larger in the first quarter than last year. Slaughter has likely peaked for the year, with weekly Federally inspected slaughter hitting just more than 44,000 head in mid-March. It should decline into mid-summer. Likewise, lamb production should decline in coming weeks, likely hitting below 2 million pounds per week by mid-summer.
On the price side, prices for lightweight, 60- to 90-pound slaughter lambs during the first quarter exceeded those of a year ago in almost every week, peaking at more than $260 per cwt. before Easter.
Heavier, 100- to 150-pound slaughter lambs – whether measured using the national negotiated live or Sioux Falls markets – ranged from $60 to $100 per cwt. higher than those last year throughout the first quarter. Most wholesale cuts – with the notable exception of racks – had prices well above the depressed prices of a year ago.
The fact that live lambs, the cutout and most wholesale cuts were able to achieve higher prices than a year ago in the face of larger lamb production and slaughter indicates some positive demand for the product. And tighter supplies should continue to support prices in the coming weeks.
On the trade front, the monthly lamb import data for February was released on April 5. Lamb imports for the first two months of the year are up 29 percent (9.9 million pounds) compared to last year. Australian-sourced imports are up 33 percent and New Zealand lamb imports are up 23 percent. Imports do tend to increase leading up to Easter, indicating that March imports might be expected to be ahead of last year, as well.
The draw down in cold storage stocks this year compared to last year suggests some positive lamb movement. The increase in imports coupled with increased domestic lamb production during the first quarter of the year makes the price gains even more impressive.

The same demand shifters discussed above for lamb apply to wool – and any other product. Currently, U.S. GDP growth is the fastest among developed economies, so the slow economic growth in the rest of the world is likely impacting finer wool prices.
As of early April, wool prices have declined in each of the last three weeks across almost all micron levels using the Eastern Market Indicator price in U.S. dollars. The finest – 17 and 18 micron – wools have declined by about 5 percent in the last three weeks, while other microns have declined 3 to 4 percent.
The total number of bales offered for sale is little changed in March of this year compared to March 2023. The just more than 44,000 bales offered during the last two weeks in the Australian market were the most since the second sale week of the year during the week of Jan. 19.
To wrap it up, lamb prices have been largely above a year ago in the face of greater supplies during the first quarter. Demand – driven by broader economic conditions – will be key to lamb and wool prices in coming weeks and months.

Guidance Criteria for Public Lands Grazing During FMD Outbreak Released

Managing livestock grazing on federal public lands in a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak will pose unique challenges for ranchers and animal health officials. That is why ASI received U.S. Department of Agriculture National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program funding to work with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other stakeholders to develop movement decision criteria guidance that addresses the unique scenarios that would arise for federal lands grazers.
Resources are now available at the and websites under the Public Land Grazing pages.
“With about half of the U.S. ewe inventory that seasonally graze on permitted federal grazing lands, this project provides needed information for ranchers and decisionmakers. The rancher’s and other stakeholder involvement on the advisory group is greatly appreciated. Their input helped ensure the guidance created represented the realities and capabilities of this important sector of our industry,” said ASI President Brad Boner.
“Having raised cattle on both public and private land for almost my entire life, I know firsthand how important Western cattle production is to the national industry, and how complicated disease preparedness can be when we start talking about federal grazing allotments. For the first time, there are now resources that specifically consider those unique challenges and give detailed guidance to producers ranching on federal lands,” said NCBA President Mark Eisele.
An effective FMD response involving federal public lands will require interagency collaboration. Together, ASI and NCBA assembled an advisory group of federal public land grazing stakeholders. Guidance that is now posted on the websites above was developed through two years of virtual and in-person meetings with sheep and cattle producers who hold federal grazing permits, the Public Lands Council, state animal health officials, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
This guidance provides resources to livestock producers to voluntarily prepare before an FMD outbreak. Using “real time” scenario exercises, guidance was improved to provide decisionmakers with necessary information to ensure animal needs and response goals are met.
Some decision criteria include assessing adequate feed/water, mitigating interactions with wildlife and implementing just-in-time biosecurity. More information is available in the Movement Decision Criteria for Industry and Regulatory Officials Managing Cattle and Sheep Grazing Federal Public Lands during an FMD Outbreak document on
A webinar, hosted by USDA, will be held on May 13 at 2 p.m. eastern time with presentations by ASI and NCBA describing this project and resources. Register today at:
ASI and NCBA appreciate the time and effort put in by the advisory group, as well as Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle – consultant with Preventalytics – in the creation of materials. ASI and NCBA each provide unique resources for sheep and cattle producers to prepare for, respond to and enhance their resiliency for a foreign animal disease event. This collaboration across the sheep and cattle industries with state and federal partners demonstrates impactful results to secure business continuity and a safe food supply.

The United States is currently free of the FMD virus. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan and Secure Beef Supply Plan for continuity of business provide opportunities for industry partners to voluntarily prepare before an FMD outbreak. If FMD were found in domestic livestock, regulatory officials will limit the movement of animals and animal products to try and control the spread of this very contagious animal disease. During this time, control areas will be established around infected premises and movement restrictions will be implemented.
Given the nature of federal lands grazing, containment of livestock and mitigation of risk will require different strategies than private land containment measures. When the control areas encompass part or all of a public land grazing allotment – in one or more states – there are unique challenges for sheep and cattle producers to mitigate disease exposure risks. FMD is not a threat to public health or food safety.

Wool Testing, LDPs Available to Producers

Whether testing wool for commercial sales or for genetic improvement, several laboratories within the United States are here to help.

Core testing determines average fiber diameter, wool base and vegetable matter base required for commercial wool sales. Standardized sampling procedures must be followed.
Core samples can be sent to the Bill Sims Wool & Mohair Research Laboratory at 7887 U.S. Highway 87 North, San Angelo, TX 76901-9714. You can call the lab at 325-657-7348, send emails to or visit the lab online at

Individual testing determines the average fiber diameter and/or yield – among other calculations – of an individual fleece. Data can be used for selection and genetic improvement, sorting fleeces or to simply better understand one’s wool.
Testing is available through several entities throughout the United States. For a complete list, visit:

With shearing underway in much of the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Assistance Loan and Loan Deficiency Payment programs can provide welcome assistance to wool growers. Now is a good time for producers to sign up with their local Farm Service Agency office for these programs.
Whether the wool will be sold, delivered to a wool pool or kept in storage, growers may be eligible for an LDP. However, growers must sign up with their FSA office while they have beneficial interest – before selling, delivering to a wool pool or disposing of the wool. Wool must be in storable condition through the date when the LDP is requested.
Currently, the ungraded LDP program – which is used most by producers – offers a 40-cent (per pound greasy) LDP. Marketing Assistance Loans are also available at various rates. For current rates, examples of production evidence and more information, visit Producers with questions about the Wool LDP Program can contact their local FSA office.

National Lamb Feeders Association Learship School Visits Oregon

The National Lamb Feeders Association conducted its Howard Wyman Sheep Industry Leadership School in Brownsville, Ore., March 25-27, as NLFA President Reed Anderson and his wife, Robyn, played host to producers with a wide range of sheep industry experience.
Nearly 20 producers – ranging in age from young to old with a few in-between – slogged their way through a typical cold, wet spring week in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to see the area’s unique grass seed grazing operation. The three-day school started with a tour of the Andersons’ Kalapooia Valley Grass Fed Processing plant, which harvests lamb and beef. The Andersons opened the facility a decade ago when they – like many in the sheep industry – struggled to find reliable processing options for their animals.
Discussions on the area’s rye grass seed fields and how they are utilized for sheep grazing permeated much of the school, but time was also designated to look at wool handling, shearing, artificial insemination of sheep, foot rot and more. Dan Gutzman and Ethan Hanneman of Pendleton Woolen Mills – which has a rich history in the state of Oregon – also joined the group to discuss the company’s continued investment in new wool processing equipment.
“When I arranged this thing, I forgot it was right before Easter, which is kind of our biggest time of the year,” Anderson said. “But I’ve been involved with ASI, the American Lamb Board and NLFA for a long time, so I like to get people out here to see the things I talk about at some of those meetings. In Linn County here, we’re the grass seed capital of the world, and we use sheep to graze that grass seed. I’ve been to some of the other leadership schools around the country and everyone focuses on their niche, well this is our niche. Typically the leadership schools are in July, but the sheep will start to leave this part of the world here shortly. We wanted to have the school here while there are still thousands of sheep in this valley.”
The lush, green pastures that left even mature ewes standing belly deep in grass were certainly a draw for several of the school’s attendees.
“The fact that Reed was putting it on, and it was going to be a lot about grazing operations that are completely pasture based is a big part of why I’m here,” said shearer and sheep producer Michael Estes. “This is my busy time of year as a shearer, but I wanted to see producers who are running mostly on pasture here. I wanted to see how a bigger producer is doing it and what the economy of scale is like and how it works.”
While Estes’ small mixed flock – Shetlands he’s crossbreeding to add size – is mostly a pasture operation, the dry conditions of his place in central Oregon present different challenges on a daily basis.
“If I get 11 inches of rain a year, I’m lucky,” he said. “We did have a really wet winter by our standards, so we should get to grow some grass this year. My goal in the next three years is to get up to 200 ewes.”
Kylie Jones traveled from Indiana to attend the school and said the rye grass fields of Western Oregon are a bit different from the rye grass she’s used to back home.
“It’s six inches at its biggest growth,” she said. “Seeing the sheep on the rye is just so cool to me. It’s amazing to see how fat these girls can get grazing on it.”
University of Wyoming graduate student Dylan Laverell said the Willamette Valley is a place he’s longed to visit in recent years.
“It’s always good to go somewhere and see green grass,” he said. “Belly-high grass isn’t something we can relate to in Wyoming.”
Like Estes, Trish McRae traveled in from the eastern side of the Pacific Northwest (in Washington State), and often shared the vast difference producers in Eastern Oregon and Washington face when compared to the lush fields in the western halves of those states.
“It’s fun to see sheep up to their bellies in green grass because we just don’t ever see that,” she said despite the fact that she’s only five to six hours northeast of where the school took place. “People were really surprised at what Eastern Washington looks like when we were passing phones around and looking at photos of our operations. They just assumed the whole state is a high rainfall area, and it really isn’t.”
While green grass was the star of the week, every producer in attendance found something besides the awe-inspiring views to take back to their own operations.
As a shearer, Estes was also excited to hear Anderson’s presentation on pelletizing wool.
“I shear a lot of small flocks and have people begging me to take their wool,” he said. “I have access to a ton of wool, a lot of which would be great for making into pellets.”
Fifth-generation rancher Kelton Olsen was attending the school for the second straight year, and left town with some practical knowledge that will be put to use back in Utah.
“We had a speaker yesterday (Glenn Krebs) who talked about using salt baths to graft lambs. I graft lambs like you wouldn’t believe, and I’d never heard of that. I had to go straight over to him and get him to explain the process because I’m definitely going to integrate that into my operation. If I can successfully graft a few more lambs because of it, then I just paid for my trip.”
The process involves bathing a ewe’s lamb and the lamb you want to graft in a warm, salt-water bath. Olsen said he was told to put in a bit of the afterbirth – from any ewe – and scrub both lambs well in the bath. The salt encourages the ewe to lick both lambs.
“Sometimes it’s the small things, the little things we pick up that can make a big difference in our own operations,” he said. “I’ve never heard of that before, but it kind of makes sense.”
Touring Anderson’s processing plant was also educational. The plant was built with two specific sides – one to process lamb and one to process cattle.
“People have told me that they’re set up to process lambs but not cattle, or vice versa,” Olsen said. “And I always wondered how different it could actually be. The two sides of this plant were hugely different.”
Anderson said he believes there’s an opportunity to build more facilities like the one he invested in a decade or so ago all around the country.
“I think these size plants are what we really need right now,” he added. “It hasn’t caught on just yet, but I think it will at some point.”
Because livestock guardian dogs don’t work well in the grass seed fields, area producers rely on trappers to keep predators at bay. Laverell was impressed with a presentation by Ron Henthorne on the various traps and snares he uses.
“I very much enjoyed that discussion,” Laverell said. “We use dogs a lot in Wyoming, so getting to learn about the different ways he traps predators was kind of a new concept for me.”
Ultimately, all agreed meeting producers from around the country and exchanging ideas is the most impactful aspect of the school.
“Between all of us, we have a fair amount of knowledge,” said Washington state producer Levi Freeman, who runs sheep in the San Juan Islands and has attended multiple leadership schools in recent years. “That’s what keeps bringing me back to these. It’s the people I meet and the amount of knowledge I can soak up in a short amount of time.”
Among the newer producers attending the school, McRae welcomed the opportunity to network with others in the industry.
“We’re only five years into this, so we’re really just getting started. “Everyone here – including the students – has a wealth of knowledge and they’re so willing to share it all. I appreciate that.”
ASI and ALB provided NLFA with additional financial support for the school. The next leadership school will be in the Sacramento, Calif., area in the summer of 2026.

Developing A Successful Coyote Management Program


Many state and federal predator control programs began in 1915 as demonstration programs, but were expanded following the ban of toxicants in 1972. The federal government – in cooperation with state governments and other stakeholders – created predator control programs in numerous Western states as a means of providing a degree of accountability and professionalism to these programs.
The predator control programs were implemented to replace banned toxicants such as Strychnine and Compound 1080. Following the ban on toxicants, coyote populations increased exponentially in many Western states despite extensive efforts to control their numbers. This increase in coyote numbers was the primary catalyst for the development of many of these predator control programs.

It is important to understand that the justification for any predator damage management program is based on what livestock and resource losses would be in the absence of such a program.
Although there are a number of studies that have been conducted to measure livestock and resource losses in the presence of existing PDM programs, there were five studies which measured losses to domestic sheep in the absence of PDM programs. One of these was a study conducted in southwest Montana in the 1970s that measured livestock losses in the absence of PDM efforts. This study was unique and important from that standpoint. It was referred to as the Cook Ranch Study and the results were published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Coyote populations were allowed to build up around the Cook Ranch for a year prior to the study. Livestock losses were evaluated and documented on the ranch for three years following this coyote population buildup. The results of this study showed the average annual lamb loss on this 1,000-plus head ewe operation to be around 26 percent for the three years of the study – with coyotes being the primary cause of predation. This study also revealed two other important factors contrary to popular belief. First, coyotes did not single out the sick and the weak lambs and many lambs were killed by coyotes and never fed on.
This study proved what many in the PDM business have long understood regarding what the losses would be in the absence of these PDM efforts. At one point, the study was in risk of being discontinued due to the costs of livestock loss reimbursement, but funding was obtained and the study was continued for three years. Another important observation this study revealed is that once coyote populations were allowed to build up in this area – both preceding and during this research – it was extremely difficult to reduce those coyote populations back to their historic levels. This in turn led to additional predation in subsequent years.
Bodenchuk et al (2002) presented a summary of the five sheep studies, two goat studies and one calf analysis – all conducted in the absence of predation management. For the sheep studies, the average lamb loss was 18 percent, while the average adult sheep loss for those studies was 6 percent. In the two goat studies, predators killed 50 percent of the goats in one study before the landowner canceled his cooperation. In the other study, predators killed 100 percent of the goats. Calf predation in the absence of predation management was studied in Utah, where producers experiencing losses – not all cattle producers experience loss – had an average of 3.6 percent calf loss before control was initiated. With management in place, losses can still occur, and the authors reported an average of 5 percent lamb losses, 3 percent adult sheep losses, and 0.5 percent calf losses with management in place. Clearly, an effective predation management program is necessary for those producers experiencing losses.
Predation management has direct, spillover and intangible benefits (Shwiff and Bodenchuk 2004), with direct benefits to livestock producers and indirect benefits to wildlife.
Direct benefits are measured in livestock saved. It is impossible to measure what did not occur, but by comparing losses observed in the absence of predation management to the losses observed in the presence of predation management, managers can estimate the savings. Bodenchuk et al (2002) calculated savings nationwide for predation management clients from 1999, based on the expected and observed loss rates for calves, goats and sheep using the 1999 market value of those animals. The direct savings for that year was valued at $62.6 million or a 3:1 benefit/cost ratio.
Indirect benefits for wildlife have been evaluated in several instances. Shwiff and Merrill (2004) calculated benefits to pronghorn from coyote removals directed at calf protection at between $75,000 and $185,000 annually for two research years in Wyoming.
Most Western states have federally managed PDM programs – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, state-managed wildlife damage management programs or county managed PDM programs. Some states such as Montana and Wyoming have a combination of both federal- and county-managed PDM programs.
Like any other program, the success of these programs is determined by the knowledge and experience of those overseeing them, the qualities of the employees providing the service, and the availability of funding.

The funding for coyote damage management in many of these programs comes from various sources. These programs rely on a combination of funds derived from self-assessed producer support – i.e. local brand fees on livestock or a per acre assessment as is common in Texas – county funds, state funds and federal funds. South Dakota’s state managed WDM program includes significant funding from sportsmen and women. Adequate funding has always been one of the biggest challenges facing most of these predator damage management programs.
In many cases, wildlife also benefit from coyote removal for livestock protection, particularly in cases where coyotes are being removed in places and at a time of the year when deer, antelope and ground nesting birds are being born. Coyote population control in these areas is particularly beneficial during the years when deer and antelope populations are in a mode of recovery following winter or disease die offs.
Numerous studies have proven this although in many states, wildlife dollars are not funding predator control to the levels they should be. Nevada includes a predation management fee as part of license applications and Utah provides additional support for predation management in areas where wildlife populations are not meeting objectives. Because the South Dakota program is administered by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, sportsman’s funding is integral to the program and wildlife management objectives are considered statewide.

The success and/or failure of various PDM programs in recent years have proven to be directly related to the knowledge and the experience of the leaders responsible for overseeing these programs. Some of the most important qualities of an effective PDM program leader are:
• Predator/coyote damage management field experience.
• Excellent communication and people skills.
• Political savvy.
• Honesty and Integrity.
• Solid understanding of predator biology, as well as wildlife management principles and practices.
• Background/knowledge of agricultural related issues.
• Understanding the importance of program accountability and transparency.
• Understanding the importance of fostering relations with various stakeholder groups.
One absolute necessity for county, state or federal PDM programs is the ability to hire qualified individuals, and the ability to replace those who are not productive. Many of the same qualities of good program leadership are also important for field employees. Some of the most important qualities of a good employee are:
• Coyote trapping / hunting experience and knowledge.
• Good work ethic.
• Honesty and Integrity.
• Excellent communication and people skills.
• Understanding the importance of accountability.
• Background/knowledge in agricultural related issues.
• A hunger to continually improve techniques.
• Flexibility to work odd/unique hours (this is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job).
• Willingness to work alone in extreme weather conditions.
• Solid understanding of predator biology, as well as wildlife management principles and practices.
The most effective PDM employees have most or all of the above-mentioned qualities. There are no employee qualities more important than the willingness to get out and work hard and document those efforts. Effective employees have excellent people skills and are honest about what they are doing. They get to know the livestock producers they serve on a personal basis and become involved in community-related functions. An effective employee communicates regularly with the producers they serve keeping them aware of ongoing coyote damage management efforts and involves them in the process.

It takes extensive PDM field experience to understand the size district that can be effectively managed for coyotes within both budgetary and time constraints. The variables that play a role in this are the number of producers and livestock being served, the number of complaints received annually, varying coyote populations, amount of time spent driving, and the amount of land that needs to be covered to provide adequate service for those producers.
Topography of land and access will play a role in determining how much land can be effectively covered by ground and/or aerial hunting operations. In states with bears, lions or wolves, the necessity for an employee to respond to these high-risk predation events will likely reduce their attention to coyote problems. Program managers might need to assign specialists to assist with seasonal predation issues – such as lion predation in the summer – or predation involving special-category predators – grizzly bears, wolves, etc.
Restrictions related to public land can become a limiting factor, as well. Trappers that are very good at being efficient and managing their time effectively will be able to cover more area and complaints than those who are not. Effective PDM efforts require an understanding of the timeliness and seasonality of coyote removal to prevent problems before they occur, which helps reduce workloads later. It also requires knowledge of which tools will be most efficient and cost effective in each situation and the time of year when they are most effective.
Another factor that can play a significant role in changing annual PDM workloads is the presence of diseases that impact coyote populations such as mange, distemper or parvo.

It is imperative that PDM programs are accountable to those who are paying for this service. This usually entails detailed reports of daily activities and the results of those efforts. Reports can include type of complaints worked – livestock loss or request for service/preventative measures – reported and/or verified livestock loss, date and the number of hours worked, properties worked, daily miles driven with pickup and ATV, amount and type of equipment set or pulled and when these sets are checked, animals taken and by what method, dens/pups taken, hours worked with aerial operations, coyote fertility checked and documented, meetings attended, fuel receipts and equipment purchases. Reports generated by government agents will be considered public records and may be available under open records acts.
Honest recordkeeping is imperative to relationship building and the integrity of an effective PDM program. As part of this program accountability, I believe it is important to have GPS coordinates and pictures of coyote dens and pictures of coyotes taken to be available upon request. Accountability develops trust between employees and livestock producers. Daily activity reports can then be compiled into monthly activity reports, as well as yearly reports to be given to those who are paying for these services.
It is important to provide detailed reports whether they are requested or not. At some point, funding for all predator control programs will need to be justified and understood.

A Wildlife Services program in one of the Western states showed its commitment to the livestock industry in that state by developing livestock loss goals to manage for. The goal was to keep livestock losses to a minimum while monitoring losses to keep all producers below these livestock loss goals. In the process, the program committed to reallocating resources to any producers that reached losses above these goals. The goals developed were 1 percent of calves, 3 percent of adult sheep and 5 percent of lambs within individual herds and flocks.
In looking back on my own experiences, I feel that these are very realistic goals of livestock loss in many situations in the West. That being said, 2 percent calf loss might be a more realistic goal for states like South Dakota and North Dakota. With minor adjustments to different situations, I believe these goals are a good benchmark to try to achieve when adequate resources are available. In many states, livestock losses to big game predators – mountain lions and bears – are addressed on a corrective basis only and initiated after losses occur. Livestock losses to predators will never be eliminated but can be greatly reduced.
Predator damage management programs are often incorrectly evaluated by comparing dollars spent per coyote killed or dollars spent per livestock loss when the most appropriate way to objectively measure the success of PDM programs is dollars spent per livestock and/or wildlife saved. There have been countless studies conducted to document the impact predators can have on big game populations, particularly when they are below management objectives and in a state of recovery.
In Campbell County, Wyo., in 2013, a three-year livestock producer survey was initiated on livestock losses to predators in the county. The results of this survey showed lamb losses to predators on 29,000 mostly range lambing sheep were kept below 2.6 percent for three consecutive years. This is testimony to a successful PDM program. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Campbell County is surrounded by seven other counties with very good predator control programs in place that greatly enhance Campbell County’s success. In addition, we worked with a highly skilled and effective aerial hunting pilot who contributed greatly to the efficiency of the program.
Trends in coyote numbers in certain areas can be monitored from year to year by tracking the number of coyotes killed per hour of aerial hunting. There are numerous variables that can affect the success of aerial operations, such as ground and weather conditions, pilot/gunner efficiency, ground crew efficiency and these variables should be considered with any comparison of one area to the next or when comparing different years. This year-to-year comparison of the number of coyotes taken per hour of aerial hunting would be most applicable in areas with large amounts of accessible ground that is conducive to successful aerial hunting operations.
A perfect example of a variable affecting this would be snow conditions in Northern states that enhance winter aerial hunting effectiveness by grouping coyotes near limited food sources and making them easier to spot from the air while at the same time minimizing the number of coyotes that can be taken by ground methods due to difficult accessibility.
With reduced coyote control efforts in certain areas, coyote populations can quickly recover and create a corresponding increase in coyote predation as a result. When South Dakota reduced its predator control efforts in 2009, coyote populations increased 400 percent within three years in the traditional sheep producing counties of northwest South Dakota. This coyote population increase was documented based on annual aerial hunting records. As would be expected, increases in livestock losses directly corresponded with the increase in coyote populations in this area. Another example of this would be how reports of documented livestock losses in northeast South Dakota have shown increases in calf kills directly corresponding with an increase in annual coyote populations.
In some areas conducive to effective aerial hunting – such as many areas in western North Dakota and South Dakota – one effective way to measure trapper efficiency is to compare verified ground take of coyotes to the number of coyotes taken with a common number of aerial hunting hours in that same district. In many situations, if coyotes are there to be taken by aircraft, they are there to be taken on the ground, as well, on an annual basis. Making this ground to air coyote take comparison also considers the important differences in coyote populations between different trapper districts.
On average in South Dakota, 50 hours of actual hunting time on an annual basis is/was quite common for many trapper districts. Based on that, coyote take from 50 hours of hunting time could be used as an objective common comparison to the ground take in the same trapper district. This same ground to air coyote take ratio can also be used to compare to other trapper districts with similar circumstances. In South Dakota, most efficient, dedicated, full-time trappers had a goal to take at least as many coyotes on the ground as could be taken in the same district with 50 hours of flying.
Based on my experience and the experience of many other full time PDM trappers, a minimum of 50 percent ground take seems like a reasonable and achievable goal with the right knowledge and work ethic. As an example, if a county flies 50 hours of actual hunting time in a given year and removes 250 coyotes – five coyotes per hour of aerial hunting – a full-time trapper should be able to remove a minimum of 250 coyotes on the ground in the same district in the same year. This ground to air coyote take comparison must consider extreme weather conditions that can enhance aerial hunting operations and limit ground take. This comparison is certainly not applicable in areas that are not conducive to successful aerial hunting operations or have limited aerial hunting opportunities. This comparison must also consider other designated job responsibilities.
Both reported and documented livestock losses, as well as coyotes taken by both air and ground, should be used to measure the success of a predator control program. Year-to-year comparisons should consider the variables involved that can affect these numbers.
Scott Huber is from Kadoka, S.D. He worked for the S.D. Department of Game, Fish & Parks as a state trapper from 1986 to 2011. He also worked as a county trapper in Campbell County, Wyo., from 2012 to 2016.
This is the first in a multi-part series of articles on predator damage management programs. Look for the next article in the series in the June 2024 issue of the Sheep Industry News.

Missouri Producer Believes In Direct-to-Consumer Model

Whether he’s explaining the shearing process to handspinners or leading a group of school children into the petting zoo, Ed Crowley is perfectly at home with the consumer aspect of his direct-to-consumer operation. Part farmer and part showman, he’s comfortable inviting the general public to visit Mesta Meadows on a daily basis or during the annual on-farm Ozark Highlands Sheep & Fiber Festival his family has hosted in March the past three years.
The profits available from selling direct to consumer sound great, but can lose their luster a bit when those same consumers are tromping through pastures and petting everything from sheep and goats to livestock guardian dogs, as well as Angus and Scottish Highland cattle. The chickens roaming the Glenallen, Mo., property, however, are generally less welcoming.
“I grew up on a large dairy farm that was very much a commercial operation,” said Ed, who owns and operates the farm with his wife, Terri. “But for me, I love working with people. I like the interaction that comes with it. I like adding value to what I grow. From a profitability standpoint, we can do as well as farms four to five times our size.
“It’s more labor intensive. It’s more work, and it’s a different type of farming than what my dad did. But I like this type of farming. I really believe that financially, high-value add, diversification and direct-to-consumer offers the least risk and most sustainable way. Especially for young people just getting into farming. With what land prices are now, if your goal is to buy a 3,000-acre farm, good luck.”

Mesta Meadows is a 200-acre operation, but not an inch of that land is left to languish. A small dairy sheep flock runs alongside Rambouillet and Cormo ewes who produce a variety of naturally colored wool that sells for more than $20 per pound – albeit often in 1- to 3-pound lots on Etsy.
“We ship about 70 percent of our wool through Etsy,” said Ed, who also works as an assistant professor of management at Southeast Missouri State University. “That’s raw wool going to every state, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and the United Kingdom. And our yield is 6.8 pounds per ewe, so we do okay on the wool. But that’s the only profitable way to sell wool.”
The farm’s Rambouillet sheep came from South Dakota and North Dakota, except for the naturally colored ones that are out of Wyoming. Cormos also call the farm home and produce a combed top that is generally a best seller.
“Spinners love the stuff,” said Ed, who sends his raw wool to Mountain Meadow Wool in Wyoming and Zeilinger Wool in Michigan for processing. Some of that gets sold as yarn and top, while some of it is turned into hats and socks that are sold in the on-farm Mason Jar Store.
“We sell some lamb to restaurants, but for the most part we want to sell direct because we’ve got to capture all of the value from what we raise on the farm. We’re not big enough to make it on scale. We actually figure that between lamb sales, registered stock sales and wool sales, we average $298 in profit per ewe. And we can run five ewes per acre in this country. That’s as good as growing soybeans.”
A small – but likely to grow – dairy sheep flock produces raw milk and ice cream for the store. Ed is definitely screaming about his ice cream these days, which sells for $7 per serving.
“That’s $128 a gallon,” Ed said. “That’s the most profitable business we’ve got. We’re planning to turn the back half of the store into a creamery. What we’re doing now isn’t really a commercial level production. We really want to ramp it up because of the value that it offers. We could expand the dairy flock to 30 or 40 ewes and we don’t really need a lot of acreage to do that. If we’re turning that milk into ice cream, then it’s really profitable.

“Sheep’s milk is really cool because something like 80 percent of the people who are lactose intolerant can drink it. So, it’s unique and different than traditional cow’s milk.”
While the small town of Glenallen – just a mile east of the farm – doesn’t seem like the best place for a direct-to-consumer operation, Ed knew what he was doing when he picked the spot back in 2020 while relocating from Kentucky.
“When he moved back to Missouri, he was talking about all of this direct-to-consumer, farm-to-table and ag tourism stuff,” said Lynn Fahrmeier of the ASI Executive Board and Ed’s college roommate at the University of Missouri in the 1980s. “What I didn’t realize at the time is there are like 2,000 camping spots in a 30-mile radius of here. There are a lot of people coming through this area from Memphis and St. Louis. They’re driving by here and seeing his farm store.”
And more often than not, they’re willing to stop and spend a few bucks. The store offers everything from Mesta Meadows’ meat, milk, ice cream and wool to products from other farms in the state. When the lamb supply runs low, Ed brings in lamb from Fahrmeier’s operation four hours to the northwest near Kansas City. He sells sheep cheeses from Green Dirt Farms – also near Kansas City – and a variety of knickknacks from local artisans.
The Ozark Highlands Sheep & Wool Festival – which was March 22-23 this year – took root in 2021 when Mesta Meadows had a booth at the local fall festival. That generated enough interest to spur Ed to develop his own festival, one that invites the general public to see his farm up close.
“The festival itself has been a great promotion for the sheep industry in Missouri,” said Fahrmeier, noting that the Missouri Sheep Producers manned one of the vendor booths during the festival. The booth offered lamb samples, as well as a variety of printed information on lamb and wool for attendees to take home.
Attendance has increased each year as participants take in shearing demonstrations and watch as fleeces are “aggressively skirted.” Ed said that’s necessary to maintain the quality his wool customers expect. In addition, they visit with sheep, goats and livestock guardian dogs in the petting zoo, shop the store and check out a dozen or so vendors who set up on grounds for the weekend.
“It’s growing a lot, and I think it’s a really neat opportunity to introduce our farm to the public,” Ed said. “Agritourism was always part of what we wanted to do here. We have people camp here, take tours here. Last year – not counting the festival – we had 400 to 500 people tour the farm. We want to share our farm and our lifestyle with anyone who is interested in seeing where their food and fiber comes from.”

WS Posts Data on Management, Funding

On April 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services posted its annual program data reports for Fiscal Year 2023. The reports are available on the APHIS webpage, representing the 28th year WS has shared this information about its wildlife damage management activities.
In the United States, wildlife is a public resource held in trust and managed by government agencies for present and future generations. Wildlife has great social and cultural value to people and is a natural resource that plays an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Wildlife also provides food and clothing and supports recreational activities that generate billions of dollars of economic activity annually. While wildlife contributes positive value to the human environment, it also can have negative impacts on agriculture, human health and safety, property and natural resources. Predators cause an estimated $232 million in losses to livestock producers annually and bird damage to crops exceeds $150 million each year.
Bird and other wildlife strikes with aircraft cost hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, delay flights, and threaten human health and safety. Abundant predators can have dramatic impacts on threatened and endangered species as in the case of nesting piping plovers and sea turtles which are vulnerable to raccoons, foxes and invasive feral swine. WS responds to requests for assistance from individuals, companies and other government agencies when wildlife causes or threatens damage to human health/safety, agriculture, natural resources and property.
In FY 2023, WS encountered about 28.3 million animals causing damage – or threatening to cause damage – while responding to calls for assistance and dispersed nearly 27 million of these animals unharmed from urban, rural and other settings. WS dispersed 94.6 percent of the animals encountered and used a variety of methods to do so.
WS’ nonlethal wildlife damage management activities include: fladry – flags hung along the perimeter of a pasture, electric fencing, livestock protection dogs and range riding to reduce livestock-predator conflicts; harassment, exclusion, and modifying habitats to reduce wildlife attractants on airfields and other areas of concern; installing flow devices in areas with beaver activity to control water levels and reduce impacts from flooding; trapping species of concern such as grizzly bears and raptors and relocating them to areas where they won’t increase conflict; and others.
WS’ National Wildlife Research Center collaborates with WS’ Operations and others to create and/or evaluate new methods for nonlethally resolving conflicts with wildlife such as developing new scare devices, innovating new repellents and testing existing compounds for repelling properties, and using drones to move predators away from livestock or birds out of the flight path of planes.
However, nonlethal methods cannot resolve all wildlife related conflicts. Of all wildlife encountered in FY 2023, WS lethally removed 5.14 percent – or approximately 1.45 million – from areas where damage was occurring. Invasive species accounted for 74.2 percent of the wildlife lethally removed. Invasive species frequently disrupt normal ecosystem function by competing with native wildlife for resources, altering habitat, predating native plant and/or animal communities, transmitting novel foreign diseases, and causing other economic and ecological impacts to a local environment. Removing invasive species can help restore function and balance to ecosystems and protect biodiversity.
When lethal control was necessary, WS donated as much animal meat as possible. In FY 2023, WS donated nearly 163 tons of deer, goose and other meat – more than a million servings of protein for people in need – and more than 18 tons of meat for animal consumption to animal rehab centers, zoos and other facilities, making full use of this resource from wildlife damage management work.
Visit for the full program data reports.

WS carries out its activities with a combination of congressionally appropriated and cooperator-provided funding. In FY 2023, WS received about $166.5 million in appropriated funds – 58 percent of its total budget – to manage wildlife damage operations in every state and territory, conduct research and to support special programs, such as managing feral swine damage and rabies in raccoons and other wildlife. Funding from program cooperators – including federal and state agencies, counties, livestock producers and other agricultural producer groups, other organizations, businesses and individuals – allowed WS to maximize its scope and effectiveness. During FY 2023, WS received $119.9 million in cooperator-provided funding – 42 percent of its total budget – for operational wildlife damage management. In FY 2023, WS spent its budget as follows:
• 27.65 percent to protect agriculture, including livestock, row crops, aquaculture and timber.
• 46.62 percent to reduce or prevent wildlife hazards to human health and safety, such as wildlife collisions with aircraft and disease transmission.
• 15.23 percent to protect property.
• 10.50 percent to protect natural resources, including threatened and endangered species.

The program data reports list the work carried out by WS wildlife biologists and field specialists, with information by state, species and other details. Some FY 2023 highlights include the following:
• WS and its cooperators protected more than 342 threatened or endangered wildlife and plant species from the impacts of disease, invasive species and predators. Partners seeking assistance – including private organizations and federal, state, and local wildlife agencies – financially support most of these operations (PDR B).
• PDR C identifies the specific resources protected and the wildlife species that threaten or damage the resources in operations where a stakeholder, cooperator or WS has reported a value of the damage. It identifies the number and species of recorded threats or damage to the reported damage value. More than two-thirds of the recorded wildlife conflicts were associated with wildlife damage to property and agricultural resources.
• In FY 2023, WS reached more than 300,000 participants in more than 70,000 information-sharing projects. These technical assistance projects – including telephone or onsite consultations, written materials, and training – help individuals resolve wildlife conflicts they are experiencing. PDR D details technical assistance projects by state, type of service and wildlife species.
• PDR E highlights WS’ work to reduce aviation strikes with wildlife at 788 airports. The airports and agencies requesting assistance from WS’ Airport Wildlife Hazard Program paid for this work under cooperative service agreements. In FY 2023, WS trained 7,871 personnel on airport wildlife hazard identification and management.
• WS wildlife disease biologists collected more than 73,800 wildlife disease samples to test for 27 different diseases and conditions in wild mammals, birds and reptiles as part of the National Wildlife Disease Program. PDR F details the activity. This is a 28-percent increase in sampling from FY 2022, in large part due to highly pathogenic avian influenza sampling. Avian influenza accounted for approximately 29 percent of the disease samples taken in FY 2023. About 14 percent of the samples were collected for the National Rabies Management Program. WS employees also collected 18,617 SARS-CoV-2 samples in FY 2023 – a 69-percent increase in sampling from 2022. WS took samples from feral swine for 10 diseases or conditions, genetics or other research. Most sampling in feral swine was for classical swine fever, pseudorabies, swine brucellosis and genetics.
• PDR G lists the number of animals dispersed, killed/euthanized or freed during WS’ wildlife damage management operations. WS implements an integrated damage management approach which uses a variety of effective and practical nonlethal and lethal methods to resolve wildlife damage problems.
• Invasive European starlings, native blackbirds and other species listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Depredation Order comprise 59 percent of animals WS lethally removed in FY 2023, totaling 854,205 birds with minimal population effect. For example, WS removed less than half of 1 percent of the national estimated red-winged blackbird and brown-headed cowbird breeding populations of 150 million and 120 million, respectively. WS used nonlethal methods to disperse an additional 14.7 million starlings, blackbirds, cowbirds, crows, grackles and magpies from areas where they were causing damage.
• WS methods are highly selective towards the species causing damage. More than 99.8 percent of the animals lethally removed were the intended targets of WS’ wildlife damage management actions. However, WS did unintentionally remove 2,398 native animals. WS tracks and reports unintended removal and adapts field operations to minimize unintentional take wherever possible.
• Invasive species accounted for 74 percent of all lethally removed wildlife in FY 2023, including 126,061 invasive feral swine removed as part of the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program.
• In contrast, native species accounted for only 26 percent of all animals WS lethally removed. WS must sometimes remove native species because of the damage they are causing to the environment or endangered species. Lethal actions for damage management remove a very low percentage of native wildlife compared to their overall populations or range.
• Due to their nationwide abundance, coyotes are the most common predator of livestock, killing more than 300,000 head of cattle/calves, sheep/lambs and goats/kids annually according to National Agricultural Statistics Service surveys of livestock producers. The 2020 NASS Sheep and Lamb Death Loss Report noted that coyote predation accounted for 32.6 percent of sheep losses and 40.1 percent of lamb losses. More than three-quarters – 77.1 percent – of producers used nonlethal predator damage management methods, spending approximately $51.4 million to prevent predation on livestock. WS works in partnership with livestock producers to reduce predation through integrated damage management programs. In FY 2023, WS removed 68,649 coyotes nationwide during wildlife damage management operations to protect resources.
• WS treated 22,906 acres of land in rural and suburban areas in accordance with EPA-registered product labels to resolve damage to resources and property. WS applied zinc phosphide to oats and wheat on 19,105 acres for damage management from various burrowing rodent species. WS applied Delta Dust insecticide on 3,801 acres to reduce plague-vector fleas in prairie dog tunnels for the protection of the endangered black-footed ferret.
Most species whose damage WS actively manages are abundant or have increasing populations and/or expanding ranges. WS balances its focused efforts to resolve wildlife conflicts with stewardship responsibilities toward the long-term maintenance and health of wildlife populations.
As a federal agency with public trust responsibilities to manage wildlife for present and future generations, APHIS complies with all federal and state laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act, as well as executive orders pertaining to invasive species management. APHIS conducts careful environmental review of all agency actions through a NEPA process that includes public involvement.
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Thermopolis to Host Wyo. Sheep & Wool Festival

The Wyoming Wool Growers Association is pleased to announce the schedule is getting packed for the Wyoming Sheep & Wool Festival to be held July 12-14 at the Hot Springs County Fairgrounds in Thermopolis, Wyo.
Make plans to bring your family to enjoy arts, educational and cultural events celebrating Wyoming’s sheep and wool industry, meet the animals, feast on some great lamb, browse through vendor and educational booths, watch the stock dog trials, go on a tour and then dance to live music at an after-dinner party on Saturday night.
Educational sessions, farm tours and the art show reception will be held on Friday. Saturday’s events include an all-day vendor fair and programming for all ages, followed by the Sheepherders Come Bye lamb feast. During dinner, some sheep folks will be honored with awards, and then the band will start up, so bring your dancing boots as Kellen Smith and the Nate Champion Band turn on the sound at the free concert.
The festival committee is happy to consider ideas for demos, workshops or other activities that might enhance the festival, so if you’ve got a great idea, reach out to the WWGA at the contact information below. Any organization or business that wants to get involved in the fun is also encouraged to take part in the festivities. Donations and sponsorships for the festival help to make most events free to the public – only the lamb dinner is a ticketed event.
Craft and food vendors are encouraged to set up shop at the festival’s vendor fair, and booth space can be reserved for as little as $25.
Educational vendors are welcome, and activities for the public to participate in and enjoy at these booths are encouraged. Entries for the art show are currently being accepted.
The festival is a project of the WWGA and Wyoming SHEEP Foundation and is supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund – a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.
For more information about the festival, please contact WWGA’s Alison Crane at 307-265-5250, or Heather Jones in Thermopolis at 307-864-4058.
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