Image of sheep

To View the November 2020 Digital Issue — Click Here

RAMS PAC Support More Crucial Than Ever

Benny Cox
ASI President

The reason I am reaching out to you all is that some things never change and supporting our legislative efforts remains one of these things that is so important to the future of the sheep industry. We have all been affected by changing times, I guess that will never change for one reason or another. But throughout this, we have seen new investment and optimism in our industry during some of the darkest hours.

With the support of Congress, our relationships in the administration, and the engagement of our membership, we were able to secure COVID-19 assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program for sheep, lambs and wool in both rounds of funding. That assistance did not make anyone whole, but it did provide much needed support when our industry was suffering the most.

Throughout the curves 2020 threw at us, we also pulled off the last true legislative fly-in, into Washington, D.C., in mid-March with attendance by nearly 80 sheep producer members from 22 states. That was the last opportunity for our members to visit with so many of their representatives in person to express their concerns before the critical annual appropriation’s process.

We are still following up with congressional offices and working on the issues many of you brought up in March. Those face-to-face meetings make an unforgettable impression on your representatives, reminding them of the issues you face daily in your operations. Equally important, is our industry’s ability to support the incumbents and candidates that understand our industry, and that is why the ASI RAMS PAC is so important.

Last year, our RAMS PAC function was a tremendous success with a mail-out request for support and then the record-breaking auction at the ASI Annual Convention. Despite that success, we know fundraising will be more difficult this year than in the past. Even the format of our convention will look drastically different in January. That said, it has rarely been more important to remain engaged than it is in this election cycle. With 88 percent of Congress up for election, many of our strongest allies retiring, and others facing tough elections, this is not the time to relax.

I would like for each and every one of you to consider a monetary donation to the RAMS PAC to support these vital legislative initiatives. Thanks for your support.


ASI Annual Convention: Mountains of Opportunity

The 2021 convention is in the making with so many unknowns: our ability to service our members, the hotel in Denver and its ability to perform duties as it has in the past, to name two very important factors. By January, the restrictions might get even tighter than they are now, so the officers and ASI Executive Board have made a decision to have all officers, executive board and staff gather in Denver to present a virtual convention for the membership.

ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick and his group have worked a deal with the Denver hotel to allow us to move the 2024 ASI Annual Convention back there to avoid an expensive cancellation fee for this year. As soon as we know more, we will keep you all in the loop.

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

Commercial Industry Back on Track?

Juniper Economic Consulting

By September, Colorado feedlot numbers returned to pre-COVID-19 normal and live lamb prices in some markets saw a healthy recovery. Additionally, a new slaughter lamb plant in Colorado came online and another plant in Texas is being outfitted for lamb harvest.

This is all good news, but does this mean the industry has turned a corner and is back on track for sustained growth? With the restaurant sector still only a shadow of its former self, the recent lamb industry gains suggest the lamb industry is turning a corner, but perhaps taking a new, innovative path by expanding into previously untapped markets outside of the commercial chain groceries and high-end, fine-dining establishments.


Live Lamb Markets Posted September Gains

September feeder lamb prices surpassed five-year averages in the direct feeder lamb trade. Lighter-weight lambs (60 to 90 lbs.) averaged $172.44 per cwt. in the three auction markets in San Angelo, Texas, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fort Collins, Colo., up marginally from August and 2-pecent higher year-on-year. On Oct. 8, Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association saw 94-lb. feeders bring $181.50 per cwt.

Lambs on feed in Colorado feedlots nearly tripled seasonally in October to 200,883 head – 99 percent of October 2019’s tally. After a tumultuous summer of severely low feedlot numbers, the rebound bodes well for short-term industry forecasting.

At the New Holland, Penn., livestock auction lambs weighing 80 to 90 lbs. brought $215.96 per cwt. in September, up 6 percent monthly and up 30 percent year-on-year. Ninety to 100-lbs. lambs averaged $208.12 per cwt., up 3 percent in September and up 28 percent from a year ago.

Strong lamb prices in the light-weight market suggest COVID-19 has reinforced family traditions. From Rosh Hashanah in September to Mawlid al-Nabi – the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, the founder of Islam – in late October, lamb is the choice for these celebrations.

Lamb prices at Equity saw an early October sale that was 98 percent of pre-COVID levels. In mid-March the auction saw $167.25 per cwt. for a lot of 350 lambs, prices dipped to $80 per cwt. for many weeks, fell further to $71.75 per cwt. in mid-May, before rebounding to $164.25 per cwt. on Oct. 1.


Harvest Lower

Federally inspected harvest was an estimated 1.3 million head January to September, down 6 percent year-on-year. Estimated lamb production was an estimated 63.8 million lbs. during the same nine months, down 8 percent from a year ago.

Lamb and mutton harvest in federally inspected plants is down an average 7 percent per week from April to September at 36,192 head. The sheep and lamb market has been more resilient than first dreaded. Some of the year-to-year difference in harvest numbers comes from different dates for Easter.
Lamb and mutton in the freezers totaled 42.4 million lbs. at the beginning of September, down 5 percent monthly and down 9 percent from a year ago.

In January to September, cold storage inventory averaged 6-percent higher than comparable months in 2019.


Lamb Imports and Exports Down

Total lamb imports were 139.7 million lbs. from January to August, down 12 percent from a year ago. Australian lamb imports totaled 106.6 million lbs. in this period, down 8 percent; and New Zealand imports were down 25 percent to 30.9 million lbs.

By contrast, mutton imports were up 100 percent in January to August to 71.7 million lbs., with New Zealand mutton up 67 percent to 4.2 million lbs. and Australia up 102 percent to 66.5 million lbs.

Lamb and mutton exports saw a boost this year due to record-high mutton exports. In January to August, mutton exports jumped 370 percent year-to-year to 14.6 million lbs. while lamb exports fell 23 percent to 311,000. Ninety-one percent of American mutton exports are shipped to Mexico.


Lamb at Wholesale Higher

The loin continued its red-hot run, surpassing $6 per lb. at wholesale for the second time on record, and hitting a record $6.48 per lb. at the end of the month. We know that wholesale and hence, retail lamb prices are strong, in part, due to limited offerings at retail. It is known that a lot of lambs that are being harvested are headed to the coolers, but also perhaps into new markets that are not necessarily reflected by wholesale prices reported by the largest lamb packers.

It is possible that the U.S. Department of Agriculture wholesale lamb price series doesn’t necessarily reflect wholesale lamb in all markets.

The wholesale lamb composite – the cutout – averaged $364.22 per cwt. in September, up 2 percent monthly and up 5 percent year-on-year. The loin, trimmed 4×4 was particularly strong, gaining 6 percent monthly to $648 per cwt. The shoulder, square-cut, also gained, up 3 percent in September to $339.24 per cwt. The leg, trotter-off, averaged $368.96 per cwt. in September, up 1 percent monthly. The rack, 8-rib medium, lost 2 percent in September to $800.43 per cwt.

The loin gained 25 percent in September from a year ago. The shoulder was also up, 4 percent year-on-year; the leg, trotter-off, fell 4 percent year-on-year; and the rack was down 8 percent year-on-year.



The Livestock Marketing Information Center estimated year-on-year lower fourth-quarter slaughter and feeder lamb prices. It is expected that national slaughter lamb prices on a carcass basis average $220 to $225 per cwt., down 25 percent from a year ago. The live equivalent average is $111.25 per cwt. It is also estimated that 60- to 90-lb. feeders average $161 to $166 per cwt., down 10 percent year-on-year.

Forecasting during a pandemic yields obvious challenges, but forecasting in an industry that is perhaps undergoing profound structural changes in response to a fractured packing sector yet resilient consumer demand poses a tough obstacle for any national forecast. What we do know is that consumer incomes are down, and with that lamb demand will contract.

The recovery of the United States restaurant industry will be central to further rebounds in lamb harvest and prices. The National Restaurant Association Current Situation Index for August revealed that the restaurant industry has been in a period of contraction since last spring, albeit the index saw a modest lift in August (last available data).

The index saw a contraction in same-store sales, traffic, labor expenditures and capital expenditures. Seventy percent of operators reported lower year-on-year same-store sales in August. Furthermore, “the vast majority of full-service operators reported lower same-store sales in August 2020 compared to August 2019.”

The National Restaurant Association Expectations Index which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook gained 1 percent in August. The National Restaurant Association explained, “While still a pessimistic reading in historical terms, the uptick in the Expectations Index suggests that more operators may be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, compared to recent months.”


Australian Wool Market Continued to Rebound

By early October, the Australian Eastern Market Indicator had strengthened through September from its annual low of 858 Australian cents per kg clean in early September. The early October price gain was felt across all microns; however, keener gains were seen for the 19 micron and finer wools. On Oct. 7, the Eastern Market Indicator reported Australian wool prices were 1,022 Australian cents per kg clean, down 34 percent year-on-year. In U.S. dollars the EMI was U.S. $3.30 per lb. clean (727 U.S. cents per kg clean), down 30 percent year-on-year.

The American wool market was quiet in September with no USDA reported trades. Due to differences in preparation, American wools typically bring 75 to 85 percent of Australian wools. Australian wools imported to the United States slipped 6 percent in September monthly and were down 39 percent, on average, year-on-year. Nineteen micron averaged U.S. $3.72 per lbs. clean, 20 micron was $3.38 per lb., 21 micron averaged $3.30, 22 micron averaged $3.38 per lb., 26 micron saw $2.13 per lb., 28 micron saw $1.63 per lb., 30 micron averaged $1.35 per lb., and 32 micron slipped below a $1.00 to $0.83 per lb.

Both Australian and American wool markets face the parallel concern of an uncertain amount of wool being stored on-farms. As wool prices recover, a potential headwind is the unknown wool volume offerings, potentially dampening price gains.

As the global community emerges from the pandemic, the International Wool Textile Organization reported wool will be poised for a sustainable fashion movement, a movement that “embraces a shift toward greater environmental integrity and social justice.” IWTO explains sustainable fashion involves more than tackling textiles or products, it involves addressing the system of fashion as a whole from farm to processing to consumers.

To cope with an ever-changing competitive environment during COVID-19 and in the post-coronavirus marketplace, lamb and wool industries are encouraged to be market driven. This means closely monitoring changing consumers demands, and determining how lamb and wool can meet those demands at a price that reflects consumers’ valuation.

Consumer demands for sustainability start at the farm, which means demands at retail must be communicated back to producers. Gaining a sustainable competitive advantage can help any business owner establish a self-sustaining position in the marketplace, (Hatten, T., 2020).

ASI Now Accepting Officer Nominations

ASI Nominating Committee Chair Mike Corn reminds sheep producer leaders and state associations that nominations for ASI Secretary/Treasurer are due in November.

Interested producers should share a letter of interest, includ-ing leadership experience in the sheep industry with Corn or the ASI office by Nov. 25. The committee will then agree on a nomination slate to be presented to the ASI board of directors at its annual meeting in January.

Contact Corn at or 575-420-3630, or ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick at 303-771-3500, ext 103, or for more information.

ASI Updates Nontraditional Lamb Market Study

Juniper Economic Consulting

There is an ongoing sentiment in the American sheep industry that the animal inventory is greater than that captured by federal and state lamb slaughter data. The belief is these “missing lambs” are being diverted to nontraditional or ethnic marketing channels and therefore are not being captured in the post-lamb crop inventory and slaughter data.

In 2010, ASI prepared Nontraditional Lamb Market in the United States: Characteristics and Marketing Strategies as a broad look at what was termed the nontraditional lamb market. The 2010 study found that about 1 million head of lambs were missing each year – nearly one-half of federally inspected lamb slaughter. This was calculated by taking the difference between the higher American lamb crop (less some death losses) and federally inspected sheep and lamb slaughter data.

The farm-to-slaughter marketing channel directs lambs from the farm/ranch to federal, state or on-farm slaughter, with the feeding complex finishing many lambs along the lamb supply channel. This research recalculates the “missing lambs” and determines whether nontraditional lambs have increasingly been assimilated into traditional or commercial marketing channels.

To better understand lamb market dynamics in the United States and how slaughter data is collected, a brief summary of domestic slaughter data collection methods is warranted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports four categories of slaughter lambs: commercial, federally inspected, non-federally inspected and on-farm.

FI slaughter is meat inspection required under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. These facilities employ a federal meat inspector to inspect the livestock on slaughter days, and the meat can be sold. In 2019, 87 percent of lamb slaughtered in the United States was processed in an FI plant.

Non-federally inspected slaughter – as also reported by NASS – includes state-inspected slaughter from all states and includes all custom-exempt slaughter from all states. It is commonly believed that NFI slaughter might have a margin of error that exceeds that of FI slaughter. State-inspected slaughter is livestock that is slaughtered and processed and can – with the proper licensing and labeling – be wholesaled or retailed within the state but may not be sold or shipped outside of state lines.

For example, a livestock owner could sell state-inspected meat at a farmer’s market or to a local restaurant. A custom exempt slaughter facility is not inspected regularly by federal inspectors, but rather will be inspected by the state departments of agriculture and USDA once or twice a year. The meat and meat products are stamped “not for sale,” and must go back to the owner of the livestock. Commercial slaughter, as reported by NASS, is the sum of FI and NFI slaughter.

In 2020 – 10 years after the first nontraditional lamb market study –the American sheep industry has experienced dynamic changes that affect the nontraditional calculation. For example, the number of lambs slaughtered by state and custom-exempt slaughter facilities nearly doubled from 2010 to 2019.

Two models were developed to estimate the number of lambs channeled into the nontraditional market. The first model – similar to the 2010 model constraining slaughter to year of birth – found that the number of lambs channeled to the nontraditional lamb market was reduced sharply as changing market dynamics were incorporated into the model.

It is hypothesized that as the slaughter of lightweight lambs increased in recent years, the number of lightweight lambs slaughtered in state-inspected slaughter plants increased relative to those slaughtered in federally inspected slaughter facilities.

An important revision of the initial nontraditional market estimate is to include state inspected slaughter, or non-federally inspected slaughter. During 2010 to 2019, the average nontraditional estimate per year was 96,686 head.

The second model – accommodating for different birth and slaughter years – produced similar estimates to the model that constrained slaughter to the year of lamb birth. It also concluded that the number or percentage of nontraditional or “disappearing lambs,” based on data currently available, is significantly lower than estimates using the methodology described in the 2010 study.

This research indicates that lambs that originally “fell through the cracks” or were “missing” were being increasingly slaughtered in federal or state-inspected facilities. The growth of Halal slaughter facilities, the growth of smaller plants and the average lower live weight at slaughter of lambs in non-federally inspected slaughter suggests that the industry might be developing into two distinct commercial markets: commercial lambs slaughtered by the largest lamb packers with a live weight at slaughter of more than 140 lbs. and lightweight lambs averaging 100 lbs., slaughtered primarily by state, and increasingly by federally inspected facilities.

The updated nontraditional lamb market study can be found at Look for more on the study in the December issue of the Sheep Industry News.

Sheep & Goat Innovation Fund Provides Opportunities

Looking to expand your operation? Maybe you want to increase your flock, acquire additional land or even build new facilities. Maybe you just need operating capital to deal with the seasonal nature of the industry. If so, the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund might be the answer.

The revolving fund was established within the National Livestock Producers Association to assist the American sheep and goat industries by strengthening and enhancing the production and marketing of sheep and goats and their products in the United States. The fund is the result of a joint effort of ASI and NLPA. Through Congress, funds were made available to NLPA, which serves as a loan intermediary and established the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund.

“I can’t tell you how many years that we’ve been associated with the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund, but it’s been quite a while,” said Larry Prager with Center of the Nation Wool in Belle Fourche, S.D. “We weren’t too far from the beginning of the fund’s availability. One of the problems with agriculture is that quite often we don’t fit the commercial banking portfolio. All of agriculture, but particularly the wool business, we’re such a seasonal borrower.

“We have our own resources for monthly operating expenses, but where we’re in short supply of cash is in the spring when we’re trading a lot of wool. It just takes so much cash to turn over the invoices, paying the growers in a timely manner. So, what we’ve done is utilize those dollars to assist us in paying the growers. Sometimes it takes us 30 to 60 days to turn over an invoice and our growers are looking for that cash up front. The sole purpose of those funds for us is to make sure we’re getting our producers paid on a timely basis.

“It’s not uncommon for us to be trading a half million or more pounds a week. With where wool prices have been the last five years, it takes a tremendous sum of dollars if you’re trying to pay your producers on a two-week schedule. There’s a cash shortage in a hurry.”

But the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund has solved that problem for Center of the Nation Wool. The industry benefits from the fund in two ways: allowing Center of the Nation to operate in an effective and timely manner, as well as seeing that producers get their wool checks almost immediately.

It’s definitely a win-win situation.

“Without the assistance of the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund, we would be stretched – if not impossible – to borrow the amount of cash that we need to turn those invoices over,” Prager said. “We haven’t utilized those dollars this year they way we normally would because wool prices are down and trading is way down. I don’t see that as a positive, but that’s a temporary thing. I think in the next 12 months we’ll see a return to a more normal trading pattern. Whether the price of wool goes back to where it was is anybody’s guess.”

Regardless, the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund will be there when Center of the Nation Wool needs it the most. The loan is even handled by the company’s local lender in Belle Fourche, providing Prager with a local contact who’s familiar with his business and its impact on the local economy.

In the wake of COVID-19, Montana’s John Helle said the fund was great to work with as Duckworth looked to defer and restructure payments.

“I think they’ve been really responsive to our needs,” Helle said. “Finding the right capital and the right people to work with you on these types of companies is really a key to getting them successfully launched. Even after seven years, we still feel like a startup company sometimes.”

While Center of the Nation might be a Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund customer for eternity, Helle envisions a day in the not-to-distant future when Duckworth will outgrow the fund’s standard $1.5 million dollar limit. Some customers are allowed to exceed that maximum, but outgrowing the fund isn’t a bad thing.

“We’re growing exponentially,” Helle said. “But the fund fulfilled its role of providing capital before we were considered bankable. And that’s a great role for the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund. We had to acquire a bunch of debt just to get the company going seven years ago, and the fund allowed us to offset some of that debt. We also have a line of credit for operating expenses.

“Working with the fund was really good because NLPA realized that we weren’t buying a factory or building machinery. What we were doing was buying a market and developing a product line out of wool. But we weren’t doing it with our own equipment. We were contracting with suppliers and manufacturers all across the country. We have to hold onto our wool until we have enough of a certain type to go into first-stage processing. That might take two years. Building that pipeline took quite a bit of capital and credit.”

NLPA’s Scott Stuart said potential borrowers should note that the Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund doesn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing deal.” Money from the fund can be combined with outside financing to help companies meet their needs.

“If you’re looking for support, give us a call and we’ll take a look at all of the options that might be available,” Stuart said. “We’re here to help the industry achieve success by providing loans that lead to more opportunities in the industry.”

To learn more, visit

Holiday Gift Guide

With a turbulent and unexpected 2020, it’s important now more than ever to support companies that believe in American-made goods with stateside manufacturing, and an ethos to give back whenever possible. That’s why we created this Holiday Gift Guide – we’ve gathered a selection of items that are not only great gifts, but allow you to spend your holiday dollars bolstering companies that value American wool and local ranching communities.

From outdoor wear that will help your friend hit the trails, to cozy home goods, or an annual yarn subscription, you’re sure to find something to put you in the giving mood. Let our gift guide lead the way. Share these American-made, American wool gifts with the ones you love (or, treat yourself to a little something special…it’s 2020, you’ve earned it.)

Click Here to visit the gift guide.

History in the Making: Corta Family’s 100-Year-Old Flock Provides Foundation for Little Paris Sheep Company

Bouncing down a typically bad U.S. Forest Service road in a Chevy pickup that’s nearly as old as he is, David Little expresses a deep compassion for the way of life he’s chosen. A farmer’s son, he took control of the family’s few sheep after graduating high school and a stint in the United States military.

More inclined toward sheep than the alfalfa and onions on the family farm, Little took the growing flock in search of greener – well, this is Nevada, so browner is probably more appropriate – pastures some 300 miles to the northeast near Jiggs and the Ruby Mountains. It was there that he teamed up with Pete Paris to take on the genetics of a 100-year-old flock that traces back to the Corta family. The Little Paris Sheep Company is the end result of their partnership.

“I like that this flock has such a history to it,” Little said. “I was just looking to get more involved in sheep and Pete offered me a chance, so that was the most important thing. But it’s nice to know that these sheep have been running these same mountains and valleys for more than 100 years.”

Well, not these same sheep exactly. After all, the harsh Nevada climate – hot and dry in the summer, cold and snowy in the winter – limits ewes to six or eight years of real productivity. But the genetics are still there.

“Three generations of Corta’s ran sheep out here before Ray Corta sold the flock to me in 1981,” Paris recalled. “My grandfather did the same, starting with sheep here around 1915. But I went into business on my own when I was 24 years old. Ray was a great mentor to me. He was a bachelor and didn’t have anyone to take over the sheep, but he was very passionate about selling to someone who wanted to continue the sheep operation.”

Twenty-five years later, Paris found himself in a similar situation. He was balancing a growing cattle herd and a large western range flock and his adult children weren’t interested in taking over.

“That’s when David showed up at my door looking for a place to put down some roots and really settle into a stable sheep operation,” Paris said. “I knew him a little from our state sheep meetings, so I talked to him for a while and then I talked to my wife about it. We decided to bring him on in some capacity and later we made the partnership official.

“Every year now, my interest in the sheep operation gets a little smaller and his gets a little bigger. I’m getting pretty close to end of my tenure now. Really, I have very little to do with the sheep operation anymore.”

While he might not be visiting sheep camps or assisting with lambing, Paris still plays a vital role in the flock.

“He’s been a great mentor,” Little said. “If I’ve got a question about anything, he’s there with an answer. And I’ve had a lot of questions since I started working with him.”

Paris says he’s simply giving Little the same opportunity he was given, admitting that Corta offered him generous terms because he wanted to see the sheep flock continue to flourish.

“David reminds me a little of myself,” Paris said. “There’s nothing he won’t try, and if it fails, he’ll be up twice as early the next day to try something else. He definitely makes me feel like I’m still a part of the operation.”



While dry and dusty is a common way of describing Nevada, the state is especially dry and dusty in 2020. Wildfires weren’t much of a problem this year, but locals will tell you that’s because there’s nothing left to burn.

Little heads to one of six sheep camps on a Sunday morning expecting that he might be able to haul home a water truck parked at the camp. Instead, he finds it empty and in need of a refill to keep this particular band of sheep healthy and happy. Restocking of provisions for his Peruvian herder will now include a trip to a neighbor’s pond for additional water. And he suspects it won’t be the last time he refills the truck before the flock starts making its way toward winter desert ground to the south.

“Our biggest issue this year has been finding help, and the dry weather makes for even more work,” Little said. “Having to stop and haul water everywhere can put you behind in a hurry.”

By November most years, the sheep are in winter bands and trailing to winter country.

“But trailing isn’t the right word,” Little said. “That makes it sound like we’re pushing them, but really they’re just grazing their way south. Our winter desert is narrow and long, so we’re always heading south until we hit the bottom of it and it’s time to turn around and come back. We probably move about a mile a day on average.”

The ewe lambs are the only ones in the flock who will see the inside of a truck before being shipped for processing as they get to graze the aftermath of area alfalfa farms most years.

“We grow our own replacements, and they do really well spending one to three months on those alfalfa fields. We kept back about 1,200 ewe lambs this year. This country is hard on sheep, so we have to rotate our ewes a little quicker than some just because of the harsh conditions and climate. By the time they are 6 or 7 years old, we’re taking a hard look at them. By the time they’re 8, they’re definitely gone.”

Little gets a helping hand when needed from his wife, Bonnie, and their two teenaged daughters, Rosemary and Emma. The girls were homeschooled until they reached junior high and were often riding shotgun in the old pickup in the first dozen years of their lives.

This fall they were helping more on the domestic front as the family worked together to repaint the ranch house just south of Jiggs on State Highway 228.

“The place I bought helped a lot with the sheep operation,” Little said. “It’s right in the middle of our summer country, so it’s not a bad trip to check on most of the camps. Plus, it had some pasture that we run a few cows on.”

At this point, Little is looking toward slow and steady growth of the operation. Truth be told, with the current drought situation, just maintaining his numbers feels like a step in the right direction. A little moisture wouldn’t hurt.

But this is Nevada, and sheep have survived and even thrived through drought here before – especially this flock. With so much history to build on, Little sees no reason for the flock to falter at this point.

“The sheep have always been here,” he said. “And they probably always will be.”

Myth Busters: Dispelling Nutrition & Health Confusion

In sheep production, a few common myths need to be dispelled. These myths range from “sheep don’t need mineral” to “corn is a balanced nutrition source” to “hoof trimming isn’t necessary.” These myths alone might be holding back your flock’s potential performance.

By busting the following myths and slightly altering your nutrition management practices, both flock health and your bottom line can improve.


Myth: Forage provides enough mineral

Mineral might be seen as an unnecessary cost. The rationale? Sheep receive enough nutrition from the forage they eat, including grass and legumes.

However, all forages lack mineral. Minerals that commonly need to be supplemented include calcium, zinc, magnesium, cobalt, selenium and vitamins A and E. Forage levels of a mineral like selenium can be insufficient in almost every location of the country. Providing supplemental mineral year-round can help cover forage mineral deficiencies, provide sheep with adequate nutrition and keep your flock in good shape.


Myth: Corn provides balanced nutrition

We see producers using corn as their primary source of nutrition because they believe it provides balanced nutrition. Protein and carbohydrates can be balanced in the ration with corn, but fat can be low and limits the amount of energy for your flock. Feeding a ration that depends on corn commonly results in diminished body condition. Supplementing too much corn can also jeopardize small ruminants’ health when feeding a high concentrate diet that becomes acidic in the rumen. When you push more corn through ewes, it can cause overconsumption issues, such as acidosis and founder.

In reality, you can get 2.5 times more energy out of supplemental fat versus a corn-based ration. Feeding a high-fat tub to sheep allows them to have free choice access while maximizing grazing distribution. Sheep will eat less of a high-fat tub compared to a corn-based ration, and you’ll get more bang for your buck in terms of body condition.


Myth: Ewes don’t need supplemental nutrition after breeding

Forage won’t provide all of the nutrition a ewe requires. Providing additional minerals, fat and protein helps balance a ewe’s needs, especially as grasses go dormant in the winter.

At lambing, ewes need to be in moderate body condition – ideally a body condition score of 3 – to produce enough milk. Otherwise, lambs can become thin and weak from the ewe’s lack of milk. Extreme cases of lamb malnourishment can result in higher lamb death loss.

Offering supplemental mineral, fat and protein can not only help ewes maintain adequate body condition for lambing, but also help program the next generation of your flock through fetal programming.

Lamb immune function, fertility and muscularity are programmed in utero throughout a ewe’s pregnancy. If a ewe lacks nutrition, her performance will suffer, and so will the developing lamb’s performance. Provide ewes with a high-calcium mineral throughout gestation.


Myth: Parasite control doesn’t work

Parasites, like worms, develop resistance to parasiticides, creating a misconception that parasite control doesn’t work. It is true that all classes of dewormers have worm species that develop resistance.

My best advice for deworming is only to treat your ewes when they need it. Don’t deworm during times of the year where internal worms aren’t present.

The fewer times you introduce a dewormer to resident worm populations, the less likely you will develop resistance issues.


Myth: Hoof trimming is a waste of time

Some producers can get by with never trimming hooves, based upon the landscape. If they’re in a rocky area, ewes will grind their feet down and not have any trouble.

In places where forages grow rapidly, and moisture is high, you can run into feet problems as hoof growth will be more rapid. For this situation, you should consider trimming hooves a few times per year. Keeping your flock in optimum health and condition through nutrition, parasite and hoof management and busting these myths can take your flock’s performance to the next level.

Visit to learn more. Clay Elliott, Ph.D., is a small ruminant technical specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. Contact him at

ASI Board Honors Skipwith

At the Sept. 30 meeting of the ASI Board of Directors, Region VI Director Steve Osguthorpe brought forward a motion to recognize Aurelia Skipwith, director of the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Director Skipwith has been a tremendous supporter of the American sheep industry, working collaboratively to address predation and conservation goals for the improvement of the industry, the habitat and wildlife. Director Skipwith has spoken many times with members of the American Sheep Industry Association, headlining the Resource Management Council’s meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the 2020 ASI Annual Convention and addressing ASI’s annual Spring Trip in Washington, D.C., many times in recent years. She’s also attended countless state and regional affiliate meetings.

As an integral partner, the resolution recognizes Skipwith and her service to the industry and sheep producers nationwide.


The resolution reads:

“The Board of Directors of the American Sheep Industry Association, on behalf of U.S. sheep producers nationwide, move to commend Director Aurelia Skipwith for her extraordinary efforts in support of the sheep industry.

“In her short time so far as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and throughout her tenure at the Department of Interior, Director Skipwith has worked tirelessly to inform the public and all government agencies of the importance of collaboration with the sheep industry and grazers. She firmly believes, like sheep producers, that conservation is about people being stewards of the land. If you will take care of the land and manage it properly, it will take care of you, your families, your communities and wildlife. The industry recognizes that Director Skipwith has tackled many difficult issues; working on the wolf delisting, the Endangered Species Act habitat definition and mitigating damaging human/wildlife interactions, and through it all she has been fair and open-minded.

“For these reasons and many others, the Board of Directors of the American Sheep Industry Association hereby makes this special recognition of Director Skipwith.”


Joanne Hayes Harlan, 1925-2020

Joanne “Jo” Hayes Harlan, 95, died at her home in Barnum, Wyo., on Sept. 29, 2020. She was born on May 26, 1925, in Peoria, Ill., to Harry Howarth Hayes and Margaret Lackland Hayes.

She attended Iowa State University where, after the war, she met James S. Harlan. Jim grew up in Arlington, Va., but had visited family in Barnum many times. After graduating from Iowa State, Jo and Jim were married on Dec. 30, 1947, in La Grange, Ill., and set out for a new life in Wyoming.
When she wasn’t working on the family ranch or entertaining guests in her home, Jo helped establish and maintain the Barnum School. She was a dedicated member of the Barnum Women’s Club and was instrumental in the preservation of Barnum Hall.

Jo is survived by her children Charles (Heather) Harlan, Margo (Paul) Sabec, Robert (Lynn) Harlan, and Thomas (Joni) Harlan, all of Kaycee, Wyo.; her grandchildren Scott Sabec, Mark Sabec and McKenzie Kate Harlan of Kaycee, and James (Eva) Harlan of Banner, Wyo.; and her great-grandson Lucas Harlan of Banner. Jo was predeceased by her husband Jim, her sister Edith (Hayes) Brown, and brothers Charles Hayes and Robert Hayes.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Harlan Scholarship Fund, 873 Barnum Road, Kaycee, WY 82639.

Wool Press Grants Available from AWC

For the past two years the American Wool Council was pleased to support producers and shearers with partial funding for new wool presses. Now, the council will again be offering a grant program of $5,000 to two shearers, warehouses or individuals to assist with the purchase or build of a wool press in 2021.

The applicant will cover the bulk of the costs associated with the press purchase, but ASI and the AWC seek to assist as much as possible. Grant applications are due by Dec. 1.

As domestic and international freight costs are a significant expense to the American wool industry, the ASI Wool Council developed the Wool Press Grant to incentivize the purchase and production of American wool presses as well as to minimize wool freight costs. This project aims to encourage the use of presses that can be maintained and repaired in the United States, produce bales that are a standard size and emphasize the importance of proper wool bale weights to producers, shearers, warehouseman, pools and co-ops.

While assisting shearers and individuals directly, the program supports American sheep producers by allowing them to generate better returns on their wool clip. Producers will also benefit as the new presses will replace older presses that are prone to delay-causing breakdowns.

Grant recipients will be required to submit a final report – including photos or videos – and documentation that the baler meets all program requirements. Requirements include: the baler must be made in the United States, it must produce an average bale weight of between 400 and 500 pounds, produce a uniform bale size of 32 inches by 52 inches, and come equipped with safety features.

For more information, visit

ALB Announces Three-Year Appointments for 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced the appointment of five members to each serve three-year terms on the American Lamb Board. The terms begin in January 2021 and end in January 2024.

Newly appointed members are:

• Sally Scholle, Littlestown, Penn. – Producer

• David L. McEwen, Galata, Mont. – Producer

• Peter J. Camino, Buffalo, Wyo. – Feeder

• Carlos R. Barba, Naperville, Ill. – First Handler

• Michael N. Duff, Blackfoot, Idaho – Seedstock Producer

Sally Scholle and her husband, Terry, raise sheep, goats and livestock guardian dogs on their farm in Littlestown, Penn. Sally is also an ag writer and photographer in addition to being a farmer.

David McEwen and his wife, Lenora, are first-generation sheep and cattle producers since 1992. Their Montana ranch includes 10,000 acres (95 percent deeded) just 7 miles south of the Canadian border. The area is known for its short-season strong grass. Their May lambs are marketed as feeders. David serves currently on the USDA Wildlife Services Advisory Board and previously served on the Montana Wool Growers Association board for 10 years – two of those as president.

Particular achievements during his tenure include the Wool Lab at Montana State University, improved predator management, accurate science applied to the bighorn sheep issue, and significant progress toward grizzly bear management.

Peter John Camino was born and raised in Buffalo, Wyo. He is a third-generation sheep rancher. After being drafted into the U.S. Army and serving his country for two years, he returned to the family ranch to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. While managing 3,000 ewes, Peter has been involved in many aspects of agriculture, serving on the board of various organizations that promote agriculture and sheep production.

He is a past board member of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, past president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Johnson County Wool Growers Association. He is currently president of the Johnson County Animal Control District. He is also a member of ASI and the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative.

Carlos Barba holds a dual role at Superior Farms as the general manager of production and vice president of sales at the Blue Island, Ill., facility. He has been involved in the lamb Industry in some capacity for 31 years. Carlos and wife, Victoria, have three children and two grandchildren.

Michael (Mike) Duff and his wife, Kandi, began their seedstock operation in 1990, now commemorating 30 years. Mike and Kandi live in Blackfoot, Idaho, have been married for 37 years, and have six children and six grandchildren. Mike currently runs 260 Suffolk and Suffolk-Hampshire cross stud ewes, producing range rams for the commercial sheep industry.

Mike is a member of the Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming wool growers associations and serves on the ASI Genetic Stakeholders Committee. In addition, Mike is president and general manager of the Bingham County Livestock Marketing Association, a wool pool and livestock marketing cooperative. He was appointed by former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to work in their administrations as confidential assistant to the seated secretaries of agriculture.

Three Appointed to NSIIC Board

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in October the appointment of two producers and an expert in marketing to serve as members of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board of Directors. The newly appointed members will serve three-year terms from January 2021 to January 2024.

Newly appointed members are:

• Producer – Jeremy Geske, New Prague, Minn.

• Producer – Brenda J. Reau, Petersburg, Mich.

• Expert in Marketing – Steve W. Lewis, Artesia, N.M.

The board is composed of seven voting members and two non-voting members. Voting members include four active American sheep producers, two members with expertise in finance and management and one member with expertise in lamb, lamb product or wool marketing. Non-voting members include USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

The American Sheep Industry Association nominated each of the directors to the secretary of agriculture earlier this year. ASI also secured reauthorization of the center and the accompanying funding in the 2018 Farm Bill. The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center was established as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and administers a grant program designed to improve the infrastructure of the American sheep industry by strengthening and enhancing the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products.

Learn more at

ALB Program Offers Flexibility for Partners

American Lamb Board

For fiscal year 2021, which began Oct. 1, the American Lamb Board has combined its two industry funding/support programs – the Local Lamb Promotional Funds Program and the Supplier Cooperative Funds Program.

The new program – the Promotional Partnership Program – is designed to create more flexibility for industry partners. Applications can be made year-round, so there is no longer a deadline. This allows the industry to apply as opportunities arise.

There are four categories of funding/support available:

1. Cash sponsorships for events or educational conferences. This category is primarily meant for industry organizations who have existing, successful events or conferences that they host regularly with existing sponsorship packages available.

2. Donation requests for promotional materials that are sold on, such as spice tins, re-usable grocery bags, hats, aprons and socks, up to $100 value. Materials need to be used for non-industry events.

3. Donation requests for lamb product to sample at local events or conferences (cannot be industry related). Requests cannot exceed $1,000 and if the partner is providing the lamb, an invoice is required which reflects reasonable wholesale pricing.

4. Branded promotional partnerships. This category is designed for lamb suppliers and direct marketers to help offset the cost of branded marketing and promotional activities. These activities could include – but are not limited to – participation at events or conferences, development of point-of-sale materials and/or packaging, website design, digital marketing and in-store sampling. This category requires the partner to invest at least 50 percent of the total cost of the project and provide documentation.

All applicants are required to acknowledge ALB support and provide a short final written report detailing the results. ALB staff is happy to provide consulting/guidance to industry members who are interested in tapping into its expertise, such as event execution, social media campaigns and website development.

To request an application, contact

Around the States

Osguthorpe Elected PLC Secretary

The Public Lands Council held its annual meeting virtually in late September and the membership approved the nomination of sheep producer Steve Osguthorpe of Park City, Utah, as the organization’s secretary.

Osguthorpe currently serves on the American Sheep Industry Association Executive Board representing Region VI and is chairman of ASI’s Resource Management Council and Public Lands Committee. He’s also been the ASI representative to the PLC board of directors for nearly four years. In those roles, he has been a tireless advocate of public lands ranching and ASI.

A public lands rancher himself, Osguthorpe understands the issues that surround running livestock on Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service lands, and welcomes the opportunity to lead the discussion in these areas.

“Working with PLC has been a good partnership for the sheep industry,” Osguthorpe said. “With half of the sheep in the United States running on public lands, there are a lot of important issues that we need to deal with. Working with PLC has been fun, but also a real learning experience for me, and I’m happy to represent the American sheep industry as a PLC officer.”


Newell Ram Sale Concludes Successful Year

Another successful year for the Newell (S.D.) Ram Show & Sale concluded on Sept. 18. The annual sheep event – now in its 75th year – hosted sheep producers from seven states.

Winning the Overall Champion Ram was the Rambouillet from Ben Pearson of Hettinger, N.D. Overall Champion Ewe was the Rambouillet from Chapman Rambouillet of Bison, S.D.

Flying O Sheep of Newell, S.D., had the Grand Champion Pair of Ewes. Erk Bros., also of Newell, had the Champion Pen of Range Rams. Winning the wool show was a fleece from Darold Tomscheck of Oilmont, Mont. The Raymond Garness Memorial Youth Credit went to cousins Kia and Kimber Hulm of Glad Valley, S.D. Each youth were able to take the $500 credit and apply it toward the purchase of a sheep on sale day.

The sale saw an average price of $647 on 181 head of rams and ewes. The high-selling ewe was from Chapman Rambouillet with a Rambouillet ewe lamb bought by Chris Grotegut of Herford, Texas, for $1,000. The high-selling ram came from Forbes, Rabel and McGivney Rambouillet of Kaycee, Wyo.

The yearling stud ram was bought by Dave Ollila of Newell, S.D., for $2,600. The high-selling pen of range rams was consigned by Tate Ollila and bought by Larry Nelson of Buffalo, S.D.


Ram, Ewe Sales See Strong Support

Buyers filled the stands and showed up in record numbers online for the annual Montana Ram and Ewe Sales on Sept. 16-17 in Miles City, Mont.
Auctioneers Collin Gibbs and Kyle Shobe sold 283 lots for an overall average of $1,542 during the ram sale – up from $1,010 in 2019. The sale grossed $463,250.

The high selling ram was a Targhee consigned by Skull Creek Targhee of Brockway, Mont. It sold for $6,750 to Turner Sheep Company of Gillette, Wyo. Dawe Suffolks of Big Timber, Mont., topped the blackface portion of the sale, selling two lots for $1,200 each.

Montana Sheep Company of Fort Shaw, Mont., topped the ewe sale again this year, selling 10 head for $450 each. The sale grossed $187,615 on 638 ewes sold.

John and Betty Sampsel donated a yearling Targhee ewe, with proceeds used as scholarships to sponsor young sheep producers to attend the Montana Wool Growers Association annual convention in December.

Ten buyers donated a total of $3,400.

Skip to content