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It’s Time to Start Thinking About Annual Convention Plans

Benny Cox, ASI President

It is not too early to make your plans for our next ASI Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., Jan. 22-25, 2020. I have been to Scottsdale two times and have really enjoyed this resort property for our yearly get together.

The weather is quite beautiful that time of year. The staff has been working hard on all the arrangements in Arizona. The different committees have had numerous conference calls getting their plans worked out for the many informational meetings that will be held to benefit the industry. If you have a need for information, you can call Zahrah at the office in Denver at 303-771-3500, ext. 108 go to the website at Information on the schedule, activities and more will be coming from the national office in November and December.

There are lots of things going on in the sheep business that could affect the lamb industry – some positive and possibly some negative. I like to think the glass is half full, not half empty. The new plant being built in Brush, Colo., could increase competition for fat lambs when it comes on line late this year or early next year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a $17 million dollar lamb purchase that will begin in January 2020. We’ve had a few of these in the past decade. The lamb purchased will go into food banks. These USDA purchases are common on many different proteins, including bison, salmon and others. Those purchases are intended to help boost the market for producers, and that is what we have seen in the past.
There have been recent deals with new export opportunities as Taiwan opened up two years ago and Japan opened a year ago July. They had been closed to our exported lamb since the 2003 BSE case. Japan was in the top five for our exported lamb before the closure, and the country was a white tablecloth consumer – meaning higher quality cuts made up much of that market.

We have been overwhelmed by imports coming from Australia and New Zealand the past year. We were averaging right at 200 percent of domestic production until July 27. The week ending May 25, it was reported we had received 270 percent of domestic production that week. In a recent article it reported that exports to China from Australia and New Zealand are expected to increase in a big way this next year, which might take some pressure off the lamb shipped to the United States. Pork is the biggest consumed meat protein in China, and they have lost a large percentage of their pigs to a virus. This could be a plus on both fronts, not only for Australia and New Zealand but for the United States, as well.

There are apparently some lamb feeders that have a positive outlook for the 2020 season. I am led to that conclusion after hearing about lamb sales up north that are higher than last year. The cost of gain is expected to be higher this year from all the reports I have gathered, so all these things lead me to believe there is an expectation that fat lambs will be higher throughout 2020.

Ya’ll keep on doing what you do best, and I will see you on down the road.

Lamb Industry Adds Value

Juniper Economic Consulting

In late August, the American Lamb Board hosted a lamb summit, focusing on how to improve lamb quality, and outlining a value proposition for lamb. Value added – such as quality and consistency of product – can raise lamb demand, increase returns to producers and all market participants, and promote flock expansion. In the case of American lamb, quality can be a complex value attribute. Larger cut sizes is an easy quality attribute to measure, but consumer flavor preferences, as identified by ALB, is not as observable.

One metric for added value is stronger lamb prices after accounting for inflation. The inflation-adjusted price (also called real price) of slaughter lambs sold on formula, or grid, has strengthened in the past 17 years. That is, the purchasing power received when selling a live lamb on formula has increased. The lamb industry faces obstacles – relatively high production costs, predators, state and federal regulations, and competing business enterprises – so higher returns are a welcome sign. Higher returns support plans for producer flock expansion.

Feeders Higher, Slaughters Lambs Lower

Feeder lambs in direct trade were reported in September out of Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Feeders averaged $158.50 per cwt., 8 percent higher monthly and 10 percent higher year-on-year. September’s average was 4 percent lower than the five-year average of $165.21 per cwt. Prices ranged from $140.50 per cwt. for 112.50 lb. feeders in Nevada to $170 per cwt. for 90-lb. feeders from Wyoming. This August and September was the first U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service-reported direct trade in feeder lambs since October 2018.

Slaughter lamb prices on formula averaged $296.69 per cwt., down one-half percent monthly and up 6 percent year-on-year. Weights averaged 73 lbs., down 7 percent monthly, and down 9 percent year-on-year. The live-equivalent price was $151.51 per cwt. The live, negotiated price averaged $151.07 per cwt., down 2 percent monthly and 7-percent higher year-on-year.

In the first nine months of the year, the volume traded of live, negotiated slaughter lambs was up 44 percent year-on-year to 182,500 head. The volume sold on a live, negotiated basis spiked in April and May compared to a year ago, likely due to a shortage of lambs on formula, and relatively higher prices. The volume sold on formula is no longer reported by AMS.

Meat Market Higher

With few hiccups, the meat market in September posted its 21st month of stronger prices. This observation suggests strong lamb demand in the face of ample supplies. The wholesale composite averaged $396.62 per cwt. in September, up 1 percent monthly and up 5 percent year-on-year.

The shoulder, square-cut, once again saw some strengthening, up 1 percent in September to $325.16 per cwt. The rack, 8-rib, medium, averaged $867.30 per cwt., up 1 percent monthly. The leg, trotter-off, averaged $385.03 per cwt., up 1 percent monthly. The loin, trimmed 4×4, averaged $519.31 per cwt., about steady monthly.

The shoulder was up 13 percent year-on-year. The leg gained 6 percent year-on-year; the loin was down 3 percent in a year; and the rack was up 1 percent in a year. Ground lamb averaged $575.51 per cwt., about steady with September and up 1 percent year-on-year.

In September, supreme unshorn pelts ranged from -3.00 to $0.50 per piece. A year ago, prices ranged from $0.50 to $4.50 per piece.

Lamb Availability Up

Estimated lamb harvest was 1.42 million head in January through September, up 2 percent year-on-year. Estimated lamb production was 95.9 million lbs., down 3 percent year-on-year. Production was off due to a 4-percent drop in dressed harvest weights to 68 lbs.

Live weights at harvest in the third quarter averaged 131 lbs., a five-year low and nearly 5 lbs. lighter quarterly. Although the numbers of harvest were up in 2019, weights were lower, likely due to tight supplies of feeders and more current harvest. In some years, lambs on feed tended to get heavy waiting for a harvest date.

Total lamb imports totaled 145.4 million lbs., up 12 percent through January to July year-on-year. Australian lamb was up 12 percent to 106.8 million lbs. and New Zealand lamb was up 10 percent to 37.2 million lbs.

In January through September, total estimated lamb supplies from domestic and imported lamb was 232.6 million lbs., up 7 percent year-on-year. Both imports and domestic production were higher compared to 2018. Imports account for about 60 percent of total domestic lamb availability.

However, total availability doesn’t measure how much lamb is sold to consumers at retail and at food service. In early September, lamb and mutton in cold storage totaled 46.6 million, up
8 percent monthly and up 18 percent year-on-year. For the past two-and-a-half years, freezer inventories have been climbing, and as of September, at 99 percent of its 2016 record high.

On Oct. 1, AMS reported 203,786 head of lambs on feed in Colorado feedlots. October’s numbers were 244 percent higher monthly. As typical during this time of year, the number of feeders entering feedlots swells as the industry gears up for the December and Easter holidays. Overall, the United States is facing a tight supply situation. The number of lambs on feed were down to 88 percent year-on-year and 87 percent of October’s five-year average. The latest report is the lowest October count since 2013, when there was a significant 5-percent annual drop in ewe inventory. Although Colorado feedlot numbers are a key barometer of national lamb supplies, it is not the only state feeding lambs.

In the first and second quarters of 2020, up to $17 million of frozen boneless lamb leg roasts and frozen boneless leg shoulders will be delivered in response to a USDA lamb purchase program. The goal of the program is to “support American agricultural producers while continued efforts on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals take place,” (USDA/AMS, 9/30/19). In theory, the purchases will help support live lamb prices and hopefully relieve some of the drag that freezer inventories can have on the markets.

LMIC Forecasts

The Livestock Marketing Information Center forecasts that although American production and imports this year could be lower year-on-year, less lamb will be held in freezers, and thus, the amount of lamb at retail and foodservice will increase year-on-year. Heading into the fourth quarter, however, is a different story. Tight domestic supplies and a slowdown in imports in the third quarter gave live lamb prices support in fourth-quarter projections.

In the fourth quarter, LMIC forecasted that national direct slaughter lamb prices on a carcass basis could see $285 to $291 per cwt., 6-percent higher year-on-year. Sixty- to 90-lb. feeders could see $165 to $173 per cwt., 8-percent higher year-on-year.

Lamb Exports Down

Lamb exports were down 27 percent January to July year-on-year to 335,000 lbs. Mutton exports were 12 percent off to 2.9 million lbs.

Mexico, the Caribbean (Dominican Republic and Bermuda), Canada, the Middle East, Central America (Panama and Guatemala) and Asian countries continue to be important export lamb markets. Mexico is also an important market for variety meats.

Wool Exports Down Sharply

Total wool exports were down 42 percent year-on-year January through July to 1.63 million kgs. Total value was down 35 percent to $14.9 million. Within the broader wool export category, clean, raw wool exports were down 50 percent to 1.1 million kgs, and off 38 percent to $9 million. Degreased/scoured wool exports were down by half to 156,800 kgs, and down 55 percent to $516,000.

Wooltop exports were up 26 percent to 361,500 kgs; however, its value dropped 26 percent year-to-year to $5.1 million.

While raw wool exports to China were down sharply in 2019 due to U.S.-China trade war tariffs, exports to Egypt and Italy increased. Exports to other regular trading partners including Mexico, India, Bulgaria and Canada were down in 2019.

Trade policy uncertainty and slowdown in European and Chinese economic growth puts a damper on American wool demand.

According to Barry Savage, ASI international wool marketing consultant, about 20 percent of the American clip remained unsold from the spring season. It might be as high as 25 to 30 percent, Savage commented. He added that there exists a much higher carryover of carding types – especially bellies/tags/pieces/short lambs/black wool. Savage conceded that carding type wool has been typically exported to China for its carbonizing and woolen trades, so perhaps this carryover is not surprising.

There is also significant stocks of wools coarser than 25 micron, which has actually been depressed for the last couple years.

In early September, Australian wool dropped to a low not seen in more than two-and-a-half years. However, in the month to early October, prices lifted 11 percent to 1,511 Australian cents per kg clean and U.S. $4.60 per lb. (1,015 U.S. cents per kg). In spite of the downturn in 2019, Australian prices were still high historically.

Analysts credit the recent rebound to exporters buying for October shipment (WTiN Wool Market Report, 10/4/19). Buyers for China were dominant in Australia, with support from buyers for India and Europe. Looking forward, “Caution again reigns supreme, as the majority of the trade awaits the first retail garment data releases from the northern hemisphere autumn sales as well as economic growth data from China,” (AWI/Woolmark company Weekly Wool Market Report, 10/4/19). This data will “likely determine the trajectory the wool market trends for the next few months.”

WS Advisory Committee Meets in Washington, D.C.

ASI Senior Policy & Information Director

On Sept. 18-19, the newly-assembled 19-member National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee met at the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington, D.C., to develop recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture to accomplish the mission of Wildlife Services.

The meeting was open to the public and in addition to NWSAC members, was attended by Wildlife Services headquarters staff and visitors representing ASI, the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute and Boston University. Among the topics discussed were control of wildlife disease issues, invasive species, enhanced promotion of Wildlife Services activities, and predation on livestock and aquaculture.

The committee elected Dr. James LaCour, state wildlife veterinarian for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, as chair, and Montana sheep and wool producer Dave McEwen as co-chair. The NWSAC approved a number of recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture pertaining to: toxicant development, administrative streamlining, aviation safety programming and furthering predator behavior studies among others.

Specifically, the committee recommended the secretary consult with the Secretary of Interior to seek cooperative funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help compensate Wildlife Services activities on depredation work done for species listed under the Endangered Species Act, namely grizzly bears. The committee also approved a recommendation applauding Sec. Perdue for his support of the M-44, highlighting the value of this tool to livestock producers.

Initially established in 1986, NWSAC serves as a public forum, holding annual meetings to allow the public to participate and provide input on overall WS policy and guidance. The members represent a broad array of stakeholder interests including ranching, aquaculture, farming, veterinary, wildlife, academia and pest control.

The members include: Gordon Batcheller (New York), Dan Dawson (Oregon), Trina Bradley (Montana), Jeffrey Campbell (Georgia), Tyler Campbell (Texas), Irma Cauley (Texas), Cynthia Driscoll (Maryland), Joel Dennis (Texas), Daniel Hoenig (Maine), Burdell Johnson (North Dakota), James LaCour (Louisiana), Dave McEwen (Montana), Brent Miller (Vermont), Scott Nelson (North Dakota), Andrew Prosser (Mississippi), Ron Regan (Maryland), Cat Urbigkit (Wyoming), Les Wright (California) and Mark Zaunbrecher (Louisiana).
The NWSAC will meet in Fort Collins, Colo., in July 2020.

ASI Offers FDA Comments on Alternative Approaches

ASI filed comments in September concerning the Food and Drug Administration’s request for input on Incorporating Alternative Approaches in Clinical Investigations for New Animal Drugs.
The association’s comments – written by Dr. Jim Logan of Wyoming and Dr. Cindy Wolf of Minnesota – read as follows:

The American Sheep Industry Association appreciates the opportunity to provide our thoughts on the Food and Drug Administration’s request for comments on Docket No. FDA-2019-N-2281 for “Incorporating Alternative Approaches in Clinical Investigations for New Animal Drugs.”

Since 1865, ASI has been the national trade organization representing the interests of the over 90,000 sheep ranchers located throughout the country who produce America’s lamb and wool. ASI is a federation of 45 state sheep associations representing a diverse industry. Our organization represents the interests of the greater sheep industry, as well as individual sheep producers directly impacted by the agency’s actions regarding the development of new animal drugs that benefit their livestock.

Our comments are specific to Topic #2: Data From Foreign Countries, and a short comment with regard to Topic #3: Real World Evidence. ASI does not have the expertise to weigh in on all the questions posed in the request for comments, so we are limiting our focus. In addition, we were not able to attend the public meeting and feel somewhat at a disadvantage in understanding exactly what the agency is hoping to hear from the public. We had hoped a transcript or archived webinar would be available before the close of the comment period so that we could review the presentations made at the meeting. Unfortunately, this information has not been posted to the docket as of this writing.

Topic #2 Data from Foreign Countries

In the 1960’s the United States had a sheep and lamb inventory of just under 35 million animals. As of January 2019, that number was 5.23 million. This devastating decline in sheep population has resulted in more and more animal health companies abandoning important pharmaceuticals for sheep, in part due to the cost of continued manufacturing and the challenge of ever-increasing requirements for new drug development, particularly with regard to human food safety.

Our industry is increasingly frustrated that many products that could be useful for our producers are approved for use by our trading partners, such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but cannot be used in the United States. Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements for animal drug development discourage U.S. animal health companies from pursuing the manufacturing of products readily available in major sheep producing countries. Because of the size of their sheep industries, countries such as New Zealand and Australia often have several choices of products available to producers to address common sheep health issues. Whereas, the U.S. may have only one or even none.

At this time, our industry is severely disadvantaged for nematode and protozoal control when compared to other countries that compete with us in the international trade arena. These countries can provide much less expensive treatment for important health issues than we are able to in this country. In addition, their drugs are more effective than those we currently have available to producers in this country. This is in large part due to the costs and complexities of meeting the human food safety requirements when evaluating animal pharmaceuticals. While we of course support strong human food safety protections, the reality is that companies are unlikely to seek approval for important animal health products for minor use species because of these costs.

The costs and complexity of efficacy evaluations discourage companies from pursuing important and necessary sheep pharmaceuticals. This puts our animals at risk of disease, lowers the quality of life for the animal and threatens the viability of sheep operations. In addition, it is a trade disadvantage as it allows our competitors to raise their animals less expensively. As might be expected, this creates frustration among our sheep producers, particularly when more than 55 percent of the lamb consumed in the United States is imported from countries that use many of these necessary animal health pharmaceuticals that are not currently approved for use in the United States.

Given these circumstances, we believe a process by which data from foreign countries could be incorporated into the approval process for minor use species is warranted. We have given consideration to what such a process might look like. It will not be easy to create, but we do believe it can be accomplished.

For example, in Canada, they recently completed a joint regulatory review of an animal health product out of New Zealand in order to obtain approval for the Canadian market. In that case, the regulatory requirements were agreed to between both countries and then the responsibilities for collecting the needed data were divided between the countries. When both had accomplished their objectives, they jointly reviewed the application for accuracy and then the responsible agency in Canada developed its decision from that application.

The sheep industry in Canada has approached ASI about the possibility of approaching our respective governments to request development of a joint regulatory framework for the approval of a deworming product that is available in Australia but is not available in either the United States or Canada. We believe such a regulatory agreement could be a valuable tool to address the growing need for minor species pharmaceuticals while reducing the cost and work burden of what are very similar requirements between our countries.

This regulatory framework could take on several forms, depending on the country and the type and need for the product being presented for approval. Though not exactly analogous, the equivalency agreements between the United States and Canada with regard to inspection of live animals and organic agriculture products moving across the border might serve as a template. The regulatory requirements would be agreed to in advance between the United States and Canada regulatory agencies and then each country would be responsible for fulfilling a portion of the approval process. Once all portions are completed, the regulatory agencies would review the final application to ensure all requirements are met and then each agency would proceed with their decision-making process.

Key to all of this will be the acceptance of foreign data. We believe there are ways to ensure that such data comply with FDA’s scientific rigor without requiring additional clinical investigations in the United States. Certainly, if the United States already approves the importation of animal products from countries where these animal health pharmaceuticals are used, it must consider the products safe for human consumption. Therefore, the United States has de facto accepted the drug approval process of these trading nations. Otherwise, animal products from these nations should not be allowed entry.

Topic #3 Real World Evidence

ASI supports the use of real world evidence when evaluating drug approvals. The fact that lamb produced in countries where products are used that are not approved for use in the United States are marketed in the U.S. should be a factor for consideration. One of the challenges, of course, would be the assurance that information related to any human health impacts is made available to FDA for consideration in the approval process. Nonetheless, allowing these lambs from other countries to be consumed in the United States implies an acceptance that the products have limited human health impacts.

Again, ASI appreciates the opportunity to comment on this effort the FDA has undertaken. We would be happy to discuss the matter further if additional information is needed. We are in support of this effort and look forward to its progress.

Leading Edge Group: A Study in Effectiveness of Genetic Selection

Utah State University Small Ruminant Specialist

The current Leading Edge genetic selection study – sponsored in large part by an ASI Let’s Grow grant – arose following an earlier, more informal demonstration project. According to project coordinator Tom Boyer, the former project was trying to answer the question of why producers are not using more rams with proven performance data.

“In that study, a group of western range ewes were divided into two groups,” he said. “One group was bred to typical Suffolk range rams, and the second group was bred to Suffolk rams that had Estimated Breeding Values of +3 pounds for weaning weight.”

When the lambs were weaned the following fall, the lambs from the ewes bred to the rams with performance data were heavier on average than the lambs from ewes bred to the rams with no data. Both groups of breeding rams looked the same, but the performance of their lambs told a different story.

However, when Boyer shared the results of the study with producers, some were skeptical and left wondering if the test was accurate. Was the sample size large enough? Was the design based upon scientific principles?

In other words, producers didn’t believe – or were at least sceptical of – the science behind the numbers. The current project was therefore born out of a need to demonstrate the scientific accuracy on a scale that would be similar to a real-world situation.

One of the complaints often heard in range producers circles goes something like, ‘Well those numbers were developed on small flocks, so how do I know those rams will actually help my operation?’
Another common complaint is that there are not enough rams with performance data to meet the demand. The Leading Edge group hoped to be able to address these issues.

Boyer explained the goals of the current project are, “First, to accurately and efficiently follow the growth and quality of project lambs from birth through harvest by utilizing electronic identification. Second, to demonstrate the value of using sires with performance-based EBVs in an actual industry setting. And, lastly, to confirm the use of DNA testing technology to reliably identify each lamb’s sire at a commercial scale.”

With this in mind, the advice of Dr. Ron Lewis, a sheep geneticist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and technical advisor for the National Sheep Improvement Program, was sought on the design of the study. Lewis provided input on how to meet these three goals in a scientifically rigorous way.

Mickel Brothers Sheep Company in Spring City, Utah, cooperated in the program by providing a band of 1,100 western range-type ewes for the study. NSIP Program Director Rusty Burgett and Suffolk producer Bill Shultz worked with Boyer, Lewis, and Matt and Dan Mickel to source the rams to be used.

The team selected 42 Suffolk ram lambs from 10 seedstock producers. The ram battery was composed of three groups of about 14 rams each designated as growth, muscle or industry. Burgett and Shultz explained the muscle rams were selected on their Eye Muscle Depth EBV, which averaged 2.4 mm and ranged from 1.9 to 3.6 mm. Likewise, the growth rams were selected on Post-Weaning Weight EBV, which averaged 19.1 lbs. and ranged from 17.6 to 25.4 lbs. The industry rams were purchased from three seedstock producers using visual appraisal and traditional selection criteria.

In October of 2017, prior to the breeding season, some of the growth and muscle rams together with four of the industry rams were utilized during the Leading Edge Genetics Symposium held in Coalville, Utah, to demonstrate how to select rams using performance data versus visual appraisal. Attendees were asked to evaluate rams first visually; they then were asked to reevaluate them after being provided with performance data. It was a valuable exercise for those in attendance.

Following the symposium, DNA was collected on each ram. This was done to facilitate sire identification of the ensuing lamb crop in order to ascertain breeding productivity of each ram, and to compare lamb production and carcass quality based on ram category (growth, muscle or industry).

Each of the growth and muscle rams was weighed, given a condition score and a scrotal circumference was recorded. Additionally, similar data were collected on four of the industry rams that had been purchased earlier and housed with the growth and muscle rams. The remaining industry rams used were weighed prior to the beginning of breeding. Mickel estimated their condition scores to average 3.0, but no scrotal circumference was recorded.

The ewes were placed on lush alfalfa aftermath for 10 days prior to introduction of the rams, and they remained on the alfalfa throughout the breeding season until they were taken to their winter range in western Utah. Mickel said the study rams were turned into the ewes on Nov. 5, 2017. They were removed from the ewe flock on Nov. 22 and replaced by Rambouillet and Columbia cleanup rams.
The ewes remained on winter desert shrub-type range until the week prior to the commencement of lambing, at which time they were sheared and placed in facilities adjacent to the lambing sheds.

Future articles in coming months will describe the results of the study from lambing through weaning, the feeding phase, and finally following harvest of the lambs. The lessons learned overall from the project also will be presented. This project was funded through an ASI Let’s Grow grant. The research team would also like to recognize the contributions of the other collaborators and sponsors in the study, which were: NSIP, Superior Farms, Mountain States Rosen, Allflex, Shearwell, Forest Arthur Feedlot, and Utah State University Extension.

Pfliger Testifies on Behalf of ASI to Senate Ag Committee

A past president of ASI, North Dakota’s Burton Pfliger testified on behalf of the American sheep industry at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in late September.
The committee followed up with a request for more information on mandatory price reporting in advance of reauthorization of that program, and ASI officials were working to provide the necessary information in the weeks that followed.

Pfliger’s testimony is as follows:

“Good morning Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am Burton Pfliger, a North Dakota sheep producer and a past president of the American Sheep Industry Association.

“As more and more consumers are finding a place for American lamb on their dinner plate and value in the wool clothing they wear, this rediscovery has translated into an increase of over 10,000 sheep operations and a great story for the American sheep industry.

“I want to start by expressing our strong support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement. Mexico and Canada are two of our largest export markets for U.S. lamb and both markets are pacing over 50 percent ahead of last year on volume. We urge Congress to act swiftly to ratify this agreement.

“I’d also like to touch on the ongoing issues with China. China has traditionally been our largest market for pelts and wool. In fact, prior to trade disruptions, 72 percent of raw wool and 80 percent of our pelts went to China. We’ve seen those numbers drop off dramatically and now producers are being charged a pelt disposal fee by the packer. In a low-margin business, what once was an asset is now a liability. Unfortunately, USDA’s wool loan deficiency payment – which should help offset the unshorn lamb pelt credit – is not providing any relief.

“We appreciate this committee working with stakeholders in advance of the reauthorization of Mandatory Price Reporting. Price reporting and transparency are incredibly important because federal lamb price insurance products (LRP-Lamb) rely on USDA price reports. LRP-Lamb is our industry’s primary risk protection, as neither lamb nor wool are traded on the commodity markets. Our industry lost this risk protection tool in 2016 due to packer consolidation and a lack of full reporting. Although currently restored, we are constantly at risk of losing LRP unless we can resolve issues around confidentiality. We urge this committee to take a hard look at confidentiality in this reauthorization and give producers needed flexibility to ensure access to price reports.

“We thank this committee for their work on the 2018 Farm Bill and continue to work with USDA on the implementation of key programs. We greatly appreciate the support for the National Sheep Improvement Center.

“We also strongly support the FDA’s Minor Use Animal Drug Program. While minor use is part of the Farm Bill under animal disease prevention, that only addresses part of the needs of our industry. We urge funding for minor use drug research. This isn’t just about developing new technologies, much of it is about giving producers access to technologies currently being used by our international competition, but not labeled for use in the United States.

“Finally, I’d like to stress the importance of livestock protection and USDA’s Wildlife Services. Coyotes, mountain lions, wolves and bears kill tens of thousands of lambs and calves each year and cost producers more than $232 million annually. One of the most important tools we have to protect against these losses and save the lives of our livestock is the M-44. Despite enhanced guidance from Wildlife Services on the use and placement of these tools, these products continue to come under attack. After a successful interim decision, the EPA Administrator has announced a ‘reevaluation’ of this tool. This is not being driven by science, but rather as a response to pressure from those who oppose all predator control. The M-44 is the safest, most humane and most target specific tool we have to control coyote populations during lambing. Without it, producers like myself could not stay in business.

“Thank you for your support of the livestock industry and I look forward to any questions.”


Joe Helle, 1932-2019
Joe Thomas Helle, age 87, passed away in Dillon, Mont., on Oct. 8, 2019.

Helle was born to Harold and Alice Helle in Williston, N.D., on May 14, 1932. He spent his youth enjoying the outdoors and began his destiny in the rangelands of the West while working on the Shipstead Ranch in Scobey, Mont.

Joe went to high school in Fargo, N.D., where he excelled in swimming and other activities. He then attended college at North Dakota State University. He would later transfer to the University Of Idaho College Of Forestry, where he was the outstanding senior of 1954, president of the Associated Foresters and inducted into Xi Sigma Pi. Upon graduation from the University of Idaho with a degree in range science, he began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in Montana on the Vigilante Experimental Range in the Beaverhead National Forest. He administered the many sheep and cattle allotments. At this time, Helle was drafted and served two years with the Army Engineer Intelligence group in Korea.

After returning from the war, Helle completed his master of science degree at Idaho, with a thesis on a grazing study in Point Springs, Idaho. Helle returned to the Beaverhead Forest where he fought fires and delivered supplies with mule trains and helicopters. While based in Jackson, he met and married Agnes (Aggie) Rebish. She was his partner in all his endeavors for 57 years. The couple then transferred to the Big Timber District of the Gallatin Forest as district ranger. While in Big Timber, the couple’s two sons, Tom and John were born. Helle left the agency in 1965 for an opportunity to develop an irrigated farm in Dillon with partners Pete and Elizabeth Rebish. They later expanded the farm to include cattle and sheep. A baby girl, Karen Ann, was born completing the family

Helle was actively involved in the Montana Woolgrowers and served as president from 1988 to 1990. He also served the National Woolgrowers Association, holding numerous committee positions. He served on the original ASI executive board and was chairman of the ASI Wool Council. He served as director and second vice-president of the Western Range Association.

In 1989, Helle represented the University of Idaho College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences, as one of 100 centennial distinguished alumni.

He was a spokesperson for the livestock industry on local and national levels on such issues as wolf reintroduction, public lands grazing, endangered species, and sheep and wool improvement programs. Helle and his wife where honored to receive ASI’s McClure Silver Ram Award for their years of service and dedication. Helle’s most recent awards were honorary president from the Montana Woolgrowers and stockman of the year from the SW Montana Stockman’s Association.

Helle’s passion was for the sustainability of the range and livestock industries. He can be remembered tending the sheep in the mountains with his children and later his grandchildren at his side. He passed on his great knowledge of the range, instilling in them the importance of land stewardship.

Helle was preceded in death by his parents and brother John H. Helle. He is survived by his wife Aggie of 57 years, his three children Tom Helle, John (Karen) Helle, and Karen (Brad) Gleason; grandchildren Kyla (Alex) Keith, Bryce (Timber) Helle, Evan (Sara) Helle, Nathan Helle, Weston Helle and Claire Helle, and great grandchildren Kynzee, Kohlee, Drew, Ashton and Jack.
Memorials may be sent to the Montana Woolgrowers Association Memorial Fund.

GLENN HIGH, 1936-2019
Glenn A. High, age 82, of Lexington, Ohio, died on Sept. 21, 2019.

On Christmas Day in 1936, he was born in Paulding County, Ohio, the third of six children of the late Dorris J. and Erma Mae (Van Buskirk) High.

The family moved to Kenton, Ohio, when he was a young child, where he grew up until the end of his junior year of high school in 1953 when they moved to Mount Gilead. He graduated from Mount Gilead High School in the class of 1954. Following graduation, High enlisted to serve in the U.S. Army during peace time from 1955 to 1957, and he was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, for 18 months.

Upon his honorable discharge, he returned home and finally got to meet his pen pal, Kathryn “Joan” Tobin, from Chesterville, Ohio, who had been sending him letters every month while he was in the military. They were married on May 3, 1959, at the Chesterville Methodist Church. During their 60 years of marriage, they raised four children: Pamela, Roger, David and Wanda.

After the military, High worked at General Motors in the shipping department for 35 years. His work at GM helped he and his wife fund their true passion of farming, buying their family farm in 1961. Their 133-acre farm centered primarily around raising various breeds of sheep, including Shropshires, Targhees and Hampshires. High’s love for raising sheep started in 1951, when he began showing sheep in FFA in the ninth grade. He and his wife traveled much of the United States showing and selling purebred sheep. They also exhibited their prize-winning sheep at many county fairs in Ohio, and at the Ohio State Fair for 52 consecutive years. In 2003, High was honored to be included in the Ohio State Fair Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Previous honors included being inducted into the Targhee Hall of Fame, and being named an Ohio Master Shepherd, the Charles B. Boyles award. He was both a board member and past president for the American Shropshire Registry Association, and the U.S. Targhee Sheep Association. He also was a member of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, Ohio Farm Bureau, and Morrow Co. Sheep Improvement Association.
High was an active member of the Steam Corners United Methodist Church.

Survivors include: his beloved wife, Joan High of Lexington; three children: Roger (Holly) High of Richwood, Ohio, David (Jodi) High of McDermott, Ohio, and Wanda (David) Berk of Upper Arlington, Ohio; five grandchildren: Adam High, Trevor (Marybeth) High, Taylor “Darby” High, and Rachel and Rebecca Berk; four siblings: Deloris (Dean) Sherman of Fredericktown, Ohio, Ruth (Wayne) Miller of Cary, N.C., Dwight (Gloria) High of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Keith (Micki) High of New Hill, N.C.; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Including his parents, High was preceded in death by his daughter, Pamela Sue High in 2007; a brother, Marvin High; and a sister-in-law, Janet High.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, c/o High Family Memorial Scholarship, PO Box 182383, Columbus, OH 43218.

Philip Soulen, 1929-2019
Phil Soulen, 90, of Weiser and McCall, Idaho, passed away on Oct. 9, 2019, in Weiser.

Soulen was born May 17, 1929, in Moscow, Idaho. His mother, Beulah Johnson Soulen, had gone to be with her parents, Stella and Ben, who were living there at the time. Phil’s father, Harry Boone Soulen, was busy running his sheep in areas away from birthing assistance. Harry’s parents, Philip and Henrietta Soulen, also lived in Moscow.

He, his mother, his father and younger sister, Norma, split their time between Weiser and McCall, following the work of Soulen Livestock Company.

Soulen married Erlene Clyde of Moscow, Idaho, on June 8, 1953, the day following their graduation from the University of Idaho. His passion and dedication to the university remained strong following his college years. He served on the University of Idaho Foundation council, the College of Natural Resources advisory board, and created several scholarship funds. He was inducted into the university’s Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2014, and he rarely missed a Vandal home football game.

Soulen loved his work in the sheep and cattle business and the friendships he made with fellow ranchers and associates. He and his wife worked with commitment to operate Soulen Livestock Company. He gave his time and talent to the industry by serving as president of the Idaho Wool Growers Association. He also served as president of the Crane Creek Reservoir Independent Water Users Company, on the board of directors of the Western Range Association, as a member of the BLM advisory board, the American Sheep Producers Council and president of Weiser Feed and Storage.

Soulen served his community and state well by accepting positions of responsibility on the Weiser School Board, Idaho First National Bank, Idaho Power Board, the Weiser cemetery district and the Weiser Memorial Hospital Foundation Board. He was a director for the Idaho State Chamber of Commerce.

Erlene Soulen died in January 2007. Soulen was fortunate to find a second love in his life. He and Adelia Simplot shared 10 years of joy, travel and companionship.

Soulen is survived by his four childrem: Teresa Little (Brad), Margaret Soulen Hinson (Joe), Helen Stevenson (Ray) and Harry Soulen (Angie); and eight grandchildren: Adam Little (Angela), David Little (Kelsey), Sam Campbell, J.P. Stevenson (Sanjay Mahtani), Bryce Stevenson, Madeline Stevenson, Philip Soulen and Grace Soulen; and soon-to-be six greart grandchildren: Henry, Dylan and Jay Little (Kelsey and David) and Jack, Josephine and soon to be born baby girl Little (Angela and Adam).

Memorials may be sent to the Weiser Memorial Hospital Foundation, 645 East 5th Street, Weiser, ID 83672; the Philip B. and Erlene M. Soulen scholarship at the University of Idaho or the Philip H. and Harry B. Natural Resources Scholarship, 875 Perimeter Drive MS 2282, Moscow, ID 83844; or the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, P.O. Box 3692, Hailey, ID 83333.

Around the States

Producers Continue Wage Fight
California Wool Growers Association President Dan Macon provided an update on the battle against the state’s new agricultural overtime law in the October issue of the association’s Herd the News.

“As we arrive at end of the September recess in the California Legislature, I wanted to provide members of the California Wool Growers Association with an update on our efforts to address the impacts of California’s new agricultural overtime law.

“As you know, CWGA – with the leadership of our ad hoc Labor Committee – has pushed for a legislative solution to this problem. With the help of our lobbyist, George Soares, we have succeeded in raising the profile of this issue with state legislators and Gov. Newsom’s Administration. Through our efforts, the California Department of Industrial Relations has reinterpreted AB 1066 relative to sheepherders – what was originally slated to be a 161 percent increase in sheepherder wages is now interpreted to be a 51 percent increase (for employers of 25 or fewer people) in 2022. However, despite this progress, we have not succeeded in finding a legislative vehicle for a viable fix. While there are a variety of reasons for this, the bottom line is that we are concluding the first phase of our effort to address this problem. We’re now working on phase 2.

“This new phase will focus on a variety of options that will address labor affordability and economic viability. Over the next week to 10 days, our ad hoc Labor Committee and CWGA officer team will be fleshing out these new strategies and scheduling meetings with our friends in the California State Senate and Assembly.

“While we’re not where we need to be in resolving this issue, I want to be sure to thank our friends in the Legislature, especially Sen. Anna Caballero and Assembly Member Devin Mathis. Through their bipartisan efforts, the profile of this issue – and our profile as an organization and industry – has been raised to the highest levels of California government. We will be working with Ms. Caballero and Mr. Mathis in the coming weeks to advance our new strategies.

“Finally, I want to acknowledge the tireless effort and outstanding leadership provided by our ad hoc Labor Committee. Ben and Steve Elgorriaga, Frankie Iturriria, Richard Hamilton, Florence Cubiburu, and especially Treasurer Andree Soares, and co-chairs, Ryan Indart and Dominique Minaberrigarai, have spent countless hours representing our collective interests. George Soares has been outstanding – helping us make connections with key members of the Legislature and Newsom Administration. And CWGA Executive Director Erica Sanko has continued to keep us on track and focused. Thank you all.

“Obviously, we still have a great deal of work to do. You, our CWGA members, and many of our friends and allies, have stepped up with contributions to our California Guard Dog Fund – thank you. We are in this for the long haul. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, concerns or ideas.”

Amarillo Auction Selling Sheep & Goats
The Amarillo (Texas) Livestock Auction began holding a monthly sheep and goat sale over the summer, and now it’s expanded to a twice-monthly sale on the first and third Saturday of every month.

“As of July, we started having a sheep and goat sale,” Amarillo Livestock Auction Owner Keith Parrott told Ag Director Shannon Gray of KGNC Radio in October. “We are right in the hub and thought we could be an asset for these people with sheep and goats to be able to market their livestock.”

Parrott said many ranchers in the area have turned to sheep and goats after bad experiences with the cattle industry.

“Cattle are expensive,” he said. “People will take a bad experience in the cattle industry and say, ‘I’m not going to do it again.’ Next thing you know, they are in the sheep and goat business.”
Sheep and goats can be delivered to the auction on the Friday before the sale or even Saturday morning on sale days.

For more information on the sale, visit

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