- November 2022
Susan Shultz, ASI President
Volatility is not a friend to our industry. Volatile weather in the form of droughts, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes cause destruction and despair in our communities. Volatility in our lamb and wool markets interrupt the supply chains and add to the complicated work of raising livestock to feed and clothe the world.
Both extreme market highs and lows make it difficult to plan and carry out goals in our business models. Our industry has experienced volatility in many forms over these last few months. For a detailed update, please re-read the article from Bridger Feuz titled Making Sense of the Lamb Market in the October issue of the Sheep Industry News. There does not seem to be a magic wand or silver bullet to address this volatility, but we must work together to turn these challenges into opportunities for change.
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Albert Einstein, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” As an industry, we must all reassess our business plans and evaluate new options and opportunities that will help our operations prosper. Perhaps we need to look at the timing of our production cycles, better genetics for marketing more lambs per ewe, increasing our efficiencies or taking advantage of different marketing strategies.
Huge amounts of resources are pouring into the area of climate change and other environmental concerns, offering new opportunities for producers to utilize solar or vineyard grazing and targeted weed control and fire suppression.
Another area of opportunity where we can become more engaged is the interface between producers and our public. The public wants to know the source of their lamb and wool, they want it to be produced humanely and with respect for the environment. The recently released video of the Shaun Sims family and its interactions in utilizing public lands for grazing is a very positive example of communicating about the sustainability of raising sheep and the importance of appreciating the public that wants to enjoy these lands for recreation. The public is also concerned about the wildlife that inhabit those lands.
I urge you to view this outstanding video, it can be found at Youtu.be/wlHw5SgeWSc.
Volatility is indeed a challenge. Adopting new strategies to even out the markets, using improved genetics and continuing to tell the positive story of raising sheep will help us weather this storm. When we are proactive and work together, we can do what all of us in agriculture have always done, survive and thrive.
TYLER COZZENS, PH.D.
Livestock Marketing Information Center
During the last few months, the sheep and lamb market has been dealing with several dynamics to say the least.
Dr. David Anderson in the September article discussed both supply and demand issues in the sheep and lamb industry. In the October article, Bridger Feuz touched briefly on supply side factors with further discussion on the demand side of the equation and how those issues may be impacting the sheep and lamb industry.
In this month’s article, I will be building on their work by discussing inventory levels that were reported at the start of the year, what that means for the remainder of 2022 and what to expect from the Jan. 1, 2023, U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Agricultural Statistics Service Sheep and Goat Inventory Report.
2022 INVENTORY LEVELS AND CURRENT FORECAST
USDA/NASS provides an annual snapshot of sheep and lamb inventory levels as of the first of the year in its Sheep and Goat Inventory report. Although the report was released several months ago, it provides key data to the sheep and lamb industry on current inventory levels.
As a quick recap of inventory levels on Jan. 1, USDA/NASS reported that all sheep and lambs were down 2 percent from a year earlier to 5.065 million head – the lowest level on record in nearly a century. The breeding flock fell 1.9 percent to 3.710 million head with market sheep and lambs down 2.5 percent to 1.355 million head.
The lower breeding flock is reflective of the 23 percent increase in mature sheep slaughter to 141,000 in 2021. Mature sheep slaughter in 2021 was the highest level in about a decade, which was partly due to prolonged drought in the western United States.
In 2022, mature sheep slaughter has followed more typical patterns with year-to-date weekly slaughter down 24 percent from last year. The Livestock Marketing Information Center is forecasting mature sheep slaughter to be down approximately 20 percent to 112,000 head in total for 2022.
The 2.5-percent decline in market sheep and lambs was the largest drop in more than a decade. From a forecasting standpoint, annual sheep and lamb slaughter would be expected to be down about the same level.
In 2022, weekly slaughter levels on average through September are tracking about 9 percent below the same period in 2021, which is more of a decline than would be expected from the Jan. 1 inventory report.
Contributing to the lower slaughter levels, January through August lambs on feed showed significantly higher volumes, indicating a backlog in live lambs as discussed by Anderson in the September issue. Although – since early August – average weekly slaughter levels have been tracking about 2 percent below a year earlier, indicating some improvement in the slaughter pace and an ease in the backlog in the supply chain. The LMIC is forecasting sheep and lamb slaughter to be down 4.7 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively for the third and fourth quarters of 2022, leading to a 6.6 percent decline in annual slaughter to just over 2.1 million head.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE 2023 REPORT
Looking into 2023, LMIC is forecasting annual sheep and lamb slaughter down 0.5 percent to 2.1 million head. This forecast takes into account the 3.710 million head breeding flock and 2.910 million head inventory level for ewes 1 year and older from the 2022 report. Assuming the five-year trend of 107 percent lambing percentage continues, that translates into a 2022 lamb crop of about 3.1 million head – down 1.3 percent from a year earlier.
The LMIC 2023 production forecast is assuming that the slower pace of mature sheep slaughter will lead to a breeding flock that is fairly level at about 3.7 million head as of Jan. 1, 2023. Ewes 1 year and older are expected to be about 2.9 million head – about even with 2022. Using a lambing percentage of 107 percent and the forecasted 2.1 million head slaughter in 2023 leads to a 2023 lamb crop of just less than 3.1 million head – down about 1 percent from the 2022 lamb crop forecast. Pulling the pieces together that underpin the 2023 forecast leads to an all sheep and lamb inventory level on Jan. 1, 2023, down less than 1 percent to just above 5 million head.
There are a myriad of factors that could influence the 2023 inventory report. The slower slaughter pace this year might have incentivized producers to hold more sheep and lambs on pasture as conditions allowed and could possibly lead to an all sheep and lamb inventory that is higher than expected. More normal weather patterns along with improved range and pasture conditions could support more sheep and lamb inventory levels across the Western United States in 2023 versus more regionalized opportunities in 2022.
Persistent drought could be a factor that limits available feed supplies and diminishes range and pasture conditions, possibly limiting production options for producers. Regardless, the assessment is that the sheep and lamb industry is moving out of pandemic related market dynamics and more toward pre-pandemic market conditions.
The Australian Eastern Market Indicator was on a downward trend for most of September (and into October). In mid-September, the EMI fell below 1,300 Australian cents per kg clean, which was a level that it had not fallen to since April 2021. The first week of October, the EMI was 1,235 Australian cents per kg clean, which is 8 percent below last year and 14 percent below where it was at the first week of July. For the month of September, the EMI averaged 1,290 Australian cents per kg clean which is about 4 percent below the prior month and 5 percent below the prior year.
Prices for the finer wools have seen a similar downward trend in recent weeks. In September, prices for the 17 and 18 micron wools were down double digits from the prior month and also from a year earlier. September prices for the 19 to 22 micron wools are down about 4 to 6 percent from August and about 5 percent from 2021 levels.
Prices for 23 to 32 micron wools have also been sliding lower in recent weeks and September prices were down about double digits from August levels and down from a year ago. Merino cardings are down 4 percent from August and 12 percent from September 2021.
Worsening economic conditions in the Northern Hemisphere – particularly in China and Europe – are driving the decline in wool prices. Weakness in the Australian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar has also impacted wool prices in recent weeks. Growing expectations for a slowdown in the global economy have led to greater uncertainty as to demand expectations, which in-turn is adding volatility to the wool market.
ASI Nominating Committee Chair Benny Cox 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, including leadership experience in the sheep industry with Cox or the ASI office by Nov. 25. The committee will then agree on a nomination slate of officers to be presented to the ASI board of directors at its annual meeting in January.
Contact Cox email@example.com or 325-653-3371, or ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick at 303-771-3500, ext 103, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In addition, Regions IV and VIII and the National Lamb Feeders Association will have to elect new representatives to the ASI Executive Board as Steve Clements, Sarah Smith and Bob Harlan are all term-limited. Lisa Weeks in Region II and Bronson Corn in Region VI are both eligible for re-election in their respective regions. Regional representative elections are conducted during the regional caucuses on Saturday morning at the ASI Annual Convention.
It’s time once again to submit nominations for ASI awards, which will be presented during the 2023 ASI Annual Convention on Jan. 18-21, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. The deadline for all award nominations is Nov. 25.
There are five awards open for nominations: The McClure Silver Ram Award, the Peter Orwick Camptender Award, the Distinguished Producer Award, the Industry Innovation Award and the Shepherd’s Voice Award.
The McClure Silver Ram Award is dedicated to volunteer commitment and service and is presented to a sheep producer who has made substantial contributions to the sheep industry and its organizations in his/her state, region or nation.
The Peter Orwick Camptender Award recognizes industry contributions from a professional in a position or field related to sheep production. Nominees should show a strong commitment and a significant contribution to the sheep industry, its organizations and its producers above and beyond what is called for in his/her professional capacity.
The Distinguished Producer Award was launched in 2014 to recognize the 150th anniversary of the national organization – the oldest livestock association in the country. This award is a way to recognize an individual who has had a significant long-term impact on the industry, including involvement with the National Wool Growers Association or American Sheep Producers Council.
The Industry Innovation Award recognizes the accomplishments of an individual or organization that improves the American sheep industry in a game-changing way, regardless of whether its impact is felt at the regional or national level. The Shepherd’s Voice Award for Media recognizes outstanding coverage of the sheep industry by either print or broadcast outlets. The award excludes all publications and affiliates related solely to the sheep industry, allowing for recognition of outlets with general coverage of sheep industry issues.
Nominations must be submitted to ASI by Nov. 25, and past recipients of these awards are not eligible. For more information, visit SheepUSA.org/researcheducation-awards or call 303-771-3500.
ASI joined the National Lamb Feeders Association back in May of this year in requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture consider a Section 32 purchase of American lamb in the wake of a decline in prices.
Also of concern at the time – and still to this day – was a backup in market-ready lambs in the nation’s feedlots. USDA has devoted time to documenting the price and supply problems and taking industry input on cuts of lamb, volume, timing of bids and delivery of purchases for the nation’s food banks.
ASI believes a purchase appears on the horizon and welcomes the recent support of United States senators and representatives that echoed the request.
“My understanding is that an analysis of the lamb market and a recommendation to purchase lamb meat has been provided to the under secretary’s office at USDA,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick in mid-October. “We made the initial request with NLFA in the spring because we saw the supply issues starting to occur. We’ve since had numerous meetings with USDA in support of a purchase.”
Nearly a dozen senators joined the call for a purchase with a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in mid-September.
“During the pandemic, American farmers, ranchers and families endured severe price volatility at the supermarket. Labor shortages at meatpacking and processing facilities – combined with supply chain issues – limited the availability of beef, pork and chicken. In response, American sheep farmers and ranchers helped close the shortfall by increasing their lamb herds, and demand for lamb increased alongside it. Now that market conditions have largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, demand for beef, pork and chicken has rebounded. As a result, domestic lamb supply now outstrips demand, leaving lamb prices stagnant and lamb feeders struggling to find outlets for their maturing surplus.
“As you know, Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to support the prices of commodities in surplus through market purchases and domestic distribution. We respectfully request that USDA use its Section 32 authority to make immediate purchases of this year’s maturing lamb crop. This will provide farmers and ranchers the short-term stability to sustain the family farm as they work to realign production with current demand.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper (Colo.), John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Mike Crapo and James Risch (Idaho), John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Michael Rounds and John Thune (S.D.), and Jon Tester (Mont.).
Nearly a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives submitted a similar letter to Vilsack the first week of October. The House letter was signed by Reps. Jason Crow and Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Kelly Armstrong (N.D.), John Curtis, Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart (Utah), Michael Simpson (Idaho), Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Jim Costa and Jimmy Panetta (Calif.).
“We appreciate the support of Congress on this issue and look forward to a purchase in the near future,” Orwick said.
To understand the Navajo’s deep interconnection with – and reverence for – the Navajo-Churro sheep one must go way, way back. To the very beginning of time.
In the traditional Navajo story of creation, it is told that the deities came together to create every living being on earth – including sheep.
The Holy People scooped handfuls of different colored clouds to form the sheeps’ bodies. White day clouds were gathered into white sheep. Black, nighttime clouds were molded into black sheep. Storm clouds were used to create gray or “blue” sheep. Tan-colored sheep were made from the yellow clouds of twilight. The Rainbow People gathered dusk’s orange and red clouds to form the first brown sheep – the most beautiful and sought after of all. The Rainbow beings gave a part of their beauty to create this sheep and they told the other deities that the brown sheep will be a rare “blessing” to a herd, to test the humility of humankind.
The first sheep were then assembled with wild tobacco for their ears, precious stones as their eyes, a willow branch broken into four sticks became their legs. The deities recited sacred prayers and songs as the Wind beings swept through and blew first breath into them. The deities – satisfied with their creation – sent them to earth upon a rainbow trail and we Navajo have been shepherds of our sacred sheep ever since. Dibé béí iiná – Sheep Is life.
Growing up on the Navajo Nation in Sunrise Springs – near Ganado, Arizona – Nikyle Begay‘s maternal grandfather would tell this story, the story of T’áá Dibé – the First Sheep. Perhaps this story is also what instilled a special fondness in Nikyle’s heart for the brown and black lambs. Many of Nikyle’s early memories of sheep are linked to their paternal grandmother and great-grandmother, who used to say that they were destined to become a weaver if it was only the colored lambs they wanted. Today, at 32 years old, Nikyle has been raising sheep for 19 years. So it seems especially fitting that the very first lamb born in 2022 was a Dibé yazhí łizhiní – a little black lamb.
Many generations later, the Navajo creation story is as alive and real as the sheep themselves. Its energy still fuels the vibrant young Navajo who continue to carry this story, and these pastoral lifeways forward.
A New Creation Story: Rainbow Fiber Co-Op
In 2020, as the pandemic disproportionately devastated the Navajo Nation and Nikyle Begay watched as many Diné people got sick and passed away. Flocks of sheep lost their shepherds. Most of the major wool buys were canceled, wool prices across the world tanked and Navajo-Churro shepherds were told that their wool was worth pennies. Many Diné weavers who depended on income from farm visits, classes, art shows and fiber events were on the brink of economic collapse.
As the challenges continued into 2021, Nikyle began to take the teachings of The First Sheep to heart in a new way. “I felt moved to do something – not just to support my own flock – but to do something on behalf of my fellow Diné shepherds.”
Nikyle joined forces with a friend and Navajo-Churro shepherd, Kelli Dunaj who runs a successful direct-to-customer lamb business and markets sheepskins, weaving yarns and roving through Spring Coyote Ranch in California. “We feel a kinship in our reverence for the pastoral lifeway and are both enthralled by the enduring significance of Diné sheep culture over nearly five centuries.”
From this shared passion, the Rainbow Fiber Co-Op was formed. Rainbow Fiber Co-Op is a Diné-led agricultural co-operative working to preserve the present and future lifeways of Native pastoralists. The co-op pays Diné shepherds a fair price for their wool and helps them sustain their flocks of Navajo-Churro sheep. The organization has developed an e-commerce platform to sell Diné-grown Navajo-Churro weaving yarns direct to customers.
In Diné culture, a rainbow signifies protection and brings blessings to the land. It is the connection – the bridge – between the earth and sky.
“Calling ourselves Rainbow Fiber, we are paying homage to our traditional story of the creation of sheep and call upon the rainbow spirits for guidance, protection, and continued blessings for Diné shepherds, their sheep, and their wool,” Nikyle says.
So far, the co-op has raised enough money through grants and private donations to pay a stipend to their shepherds for their shearing, and in July 2021, they made their first purchase of 3,200 pounds of raw Navajo-Churro wool. Rainbow Fiber has also partnered with Fibershed – a nonprofit organization that develops regional, land-regenerating natural fiber and dye systems – and received support from the First Nation Development Institute.
The goal of the project is to make enough money from the sale of Navajo-Churro yarns to fund the wool buy and yarn production again in 2022 and 2023.
Treat them well: raising Navajo-Churro sheep
The Navajo tribe is the second largest tribe of Native American Indians in the United States. The name “Navajo” comes from the Spanish, who called them the Apaches of Navajo. They called themselves “Diné” or “the People.” The Navajo Nation territory is the largest in the United States, covering about 17,544,500 acres of parched desert plains and highland mountains in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and a small portion of southeastern Utah.
Nearly every family on the Navajo Nation has a direct connection to sheep. Used for ceremony, wool and as a source of lean, healthy meat, the Dibé dits’ozí, Navajo-Churro sheep have sustained the Navajo for nearly 400 years. The hardy Churro breed, introduced to the American Southwest by Spanish conquistadors around the turn of the 17th century, is a desert range animal that is more drought-tolerant than most domestic sheep breeds. The ewes are known to be highly self-sufficient with strong maternal instincts and a higher lambing rate. On the verge of extinction a generation ago, the Navajo-Churro made a comeback thanks to the love and dedication of the Diné people.
Ephraim (Zefren) Anderson is a multi-disciplined Navajo fiber artist, jewelry maker and active board member for the Rainbow Fiber Co-Op. Zefren applies his deep knowledge of the Navajo-Churro breed, Navajo oral history, philosophy, archeology and traditional weaving techniques to create art that “pushes the Navajo narrative into the future.”
“Churro sheep have this innate ability to adapt their fiber to diet, land and climate. So every sheep is technically a unique product to one region and family. The product changes with time as the family works in relationship to local weavers. The cycle begins with dirt, forage, rain and sunshine and the family’s ability to nurture natural processes.”
Zefren explains how the Navajo families manage the land by responsibly grazing their sheep to control erosion and keep the grass cycle going. As much as the environment influences the sheep’s fiber, the shepherd is equally important.
“My grandmother would always say of the sheep, ‘Treat them well and they will treat you well, too.’ Diné shepherds sing to their flocks, and are careful to protect them from predators. Each shepherd produces a unique product in the wool that weavers key into and use in specific ways. There are just so many things that are unique to this breed, that’s why our Navajo ancestors loved this animal and its special relationship to the land.”
Preserving Lifeways & Fair Trade Economies
In a global economy, Diné shepherds and weavers face a myriad of challenges. Navajo patterns have been appropriated for centuries. Counterfeit Navajo products litter the internet. Diné shepherds worry because they serve a niche market specific to handweaving and most of the Navajo-Churro wool products currently for sale online are from non-Diné shepherds. Despite these challenges, many shepherds create a market for themselves through hand spinning, weaving and teaching weaving classes. But this is difficult to do at scale, and an unreliable source of income.
By creating a reliable and self-sustaining marketplace for Diné shepherds and their flocks, the Rainbow Fiber Co-Op not only establishes an equitable market for Navajo-Churro wool, but also preserves a vital living culture and maintains an important connection to the ancestors who fought to protect their sheep and their way of life.
“It is our goal to provide [Diné] shepherds and their wool the same opportunity that other shepherds in the U.S. create for themselves through online marketplaces. The income generated will go right back into caring for these critically important flocks of Navajo-Churro sheep.”
In addition to supporting their producer flocks, Rainbow Fiber is passionate about supporting the wool supply chain of the Southwest. The co-op has partnered with Mora Valley Spinning Mill in Mora, N.M., to process all of the raw wool purchased from Diné shepherds. Mora Valley is the only mill in the United States that specializes in processing Navajo-Churro wool because their machinery is uniquely suited to spinning long-staple, dual-coated wool and producing the optimal “twist” for weaving.
Navajo-Churro sheep are a dual-coated breed with a coarser outer coat and a softer inner coat. When both coats are spun together it creates a strong and lustrous yarn ideally suited to weaving blankets and rugs. It is also fabulous for knitting outerwear, similar to Lopi-style yarn.
The Bridge From Past to Future
Many young Navajo are continuing the traditions of shepherding, shearing, hand spinning and weaving that were passed down to them from great-grandparents.
On a recent visit to a Native Royalty Pageant at a Window Rock, Ariz., elementary school, Niagara Rockbridge (Miss Navajo Nation 2021-2022) met a group of young weavers, 6 to 8 years old.
“They were up there with their little homemade looms, and they were talking about the significance of every part of it and what it means to them and dyeing the wool and going to collect the plants to find the different colors. That really instilled hope within me. So that’s why I say, there’s hope here, that our youth are still going to carry this forward.”
Niagara feels that perhaps now more than ever, the youth are searching for ways to learn about and connect with where they come from.
“That ties directly back into our cultural aspects of weaving; the stories that go with weaving, the songs, the prayers. As native people, everything that we do is so connected…I think the youth are gladly taking part and learning and are hopeful that they can one day, you know, revive [shepherding and weaving] to the point where our great grandparents were able to use it to support their families.”
Niagara was proud to learn about the Rainbow Fiber Co-Op because it creates a new opportunity for native businesses and entrepreneurs to sell their goods not only within the Navajo Nation but to the world, thus creating a conversation about where these goods have come from. And conversation is the first step toward change; creating a dialogue facilitates connections and builds community. It acknowledges the lessons that these First People bring us; it reminds the world that the original keepers of the earth are still here. They are present, with one foot in the past and a hopeful eye to the future.
Little black sheep
Like their grandfather, Nikyle Begay is also a storyteller. And all storytellers are keepers and protectors of culture. The story itself weaves meaning from the past into the present in order to shape the future.
“As a child,” Nikyle writes, “I was taught by many elders that we weave for moisture, we raise sheep for moisture. These sacred animals have a connection to the universe. Their hooves awaken Mother Earth’s energy. Their calls awaken Father Sky. We must recite our prayers. Sing to and for your sheep, sing as you weave, sing to bring harmony. Do this proudly, so you’re heard by the Diyiin Dine’e – The Deities. Collect the sacred plants as you’re out with the sheep, use those plants with your prayers. And smoke their tobacco, let the smoke carry your prayers into the beyond. Show the universe that as a five-fingered being, you appreciate the moisture, that you appreciate the sheep.”
“Dibé łizhiní is what [my great grandmother] would sometimes call me, it means black sheep.”
And like the original brown sheep, created from the red and orange clouds at dusk, the Rainbow Fiber Co-Op is a rare blessing to the flock, bestowed upon us to test the humility of humankind.
It is all connected. Dibé béí iiná – Sheep Is life.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the American Sheep Industry Association’s Annual Convention returns to North Texas as the Omni Fort Worth Hotel will play host to the yearly event on Jan. 18-21, 2023.
Registration is now open and early bird rates apply through Dec. 16. All online registrations must be completed by Dec. 30. Any registrations after that date will have to be done onsite in Fort Worth. The Omni Fort Worth Hotel is offering a discounted rate for convention attendees, but reservations must be made by Dec. 30 to assure attendees receive that rate.
The ASI Annual Convention is the one time each year when all facets of the American sheep industry come together to discuss topics that are timely and important to sheep and wool producers, as well as those working in the meat, wool and sheepskin sides of the industry.
“Our industry has key market and supply topics for both lamb and wool that will be addressed at the 2023 Annual Convention, and we encourage you to be there and participate in those discussions,” said ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick.
Convention attendees should sign up early for ASI’s official tours (see opposite page). In addition, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo will be going on during ASI’s time in the city.
Meetings of ASI’s councils and committees are open to all convention attendees. And once again in 2023, the Genetic Stakeholders Committee is joining with the National Sheep Improvement Program and Sheep Genetics USA to host a genetics forum that promises to be educational regardless of your role in the industry.
Meeting alongside ASI at the convention are the American Lamb Board, American Goat Federation, ASI Women, American Shearers Council, Food and Fiber Risk Managers, Make It With Wool, National Lamb Feeders Association, National Livestock Producers Association, National Sheep Improvement Program, National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, Sheep Genetics USA, Sheep Heritage Foundation, Sheep Venture Company and Western Range Association.
Garrett Training Stables Industry Tour
See how horses are trained to championship status with a visit to Garrett Training Stables in Weatherford, Texas. Visit with J.D. Garrett – a top 2-year-old cutting horse trainer – who has been training horses for more than 20 years. You might recognize J.D. from being a former National Finals Rodeo bareback riding qualifier and the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association’s 1999 bareback riding rookie of the year.
After visiting the stables, you will have lunch at the famous Joe T. Garcia’s – a Fort Worth legend that has been serving since Joe and Jess Garcia opened their doors in 1935. Lunch is included. Individual alcohol purchases can be made with cash only.
Fort Worth City & Cowgirl Museum Tour
See the sights of Fort Worth and learn about the city from a local expert tour guide.
The tour includes a visit to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, which honors and celebrates women – past and present – whose lives exemplify the courage, resilience and independence that helped shape the American West.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring women of the American West who have displayed extraordinary courage and pioneer spirit in their trail-blazing efforts.
Fort Worth Stockyards, John Wayne Museum & Leddy’s Boots
The Wild West will come alive at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. On the way, your tour guide will explain the exciting history of the Wild West and the impact that Fort Worth had in that time period. Upon arrival, you will take a historical walking tour of the stockyards.
Next, you will visit the John Wayne Museum where you can tip your hat to the legendary ‘Duke’ as you view memorabilia collected during his lengthy film career. The tour will then visit the famous M.L. Leddy’s – which has been crafting handmade boots and saddles since the 1920s – before closing with the twice-daily cattle drive of Texas Longhorns down Exchange Avenue.
Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson is a professor in the department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University and the Director of AgNext, and will be the keynote speaker at the ASI Annual Convention’s Opening Session on Jan. 19.
While much of her research has centered around cattle, Stackhouse-Lawson is no stranger to the sheep industry. According to a press release from CSU, she grew up on a small ranch in rural California and was involved in 4-H as well as Future Farmers of America. Although her parents didn’t come from a livestock background, “they thought it was important for my brother and me to raise animals,” she said. “By the time I was in sixth grade, my one-sheep 4-H project had grown to 60 ewes.”
With that experience grew an appreciation for the land and the connection between it and the animals. As her flock was expanding, the family also moved to a larger ranch.
“The ranch we purchased had been burned in the Fountain Fire, which is the reason our family was able to afford it. As foresters by trade, my parents knew how to replant the 420 acres, which we then grazed with my sheep for weed and brush control,” she said. “I grew up watching the intricate way nature and domestic animals depend on and interact with one another, and fell in love.”
Stackhouse-Lawson has had the opportunity to learn alongside and help educate producers and others in the industry about sustainability, as well as other science-backed policies related to antibiotic use, animal welfare and technological innovations.
Through her deep work in the industry supply chain and with relevant stakeholders, she has developed a keen understanding not just of the existing challenges, but also of ways forward.
“I have dedicated my career to on-the-ground initiatives that I believe are making a difference in feeding the world sustainably,” Stackhouse-Lawson said. “I am excited to advance the sustainability of the livestock supply chain, including the natural resources that our food system depends on.”
And that’s her main focuse at AgNext, which utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to advance sustainable solutions for animal agriculture. Prior to leading AgNext, Stackhouse-Lawson was the director of sustainability for JBS USA where she was responsible for coordinating the company’s corporate sustainability program and strategy. She also served as executive director of global sustainability at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where she developed the industry’s sustainability program.
Stackhouse-Lawson received her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of California-Davis and was a postdoctoral fellow at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Beef Cattle Institute. She was awarded as the 2018 Distinguished Young Alumni by the UC-Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
Grant Price has been an entertainer all his life. He began performing magic and mind reading when he was 6 years old. Since then, he has always had a gift for making people wonder and laugh. He quickly learned that isn’t all that is required of a talented entertainer. He began to look at other forms of entertainment and noticed one fatal flaw: most of them present their one-size-fits-all performance with almost no regard for the audience. That shouldn’t be.
Price decided early on that he wanted to perform in a way that makes the audience feel known and cared about. As a result, his shows always bear his unique signature – something he calls responsive entertainment – giving the audience a show they will love by making them part of the show. When Grant hits the stage, the whole show is about the audience.
His performance is a one-hour show with one mission: to amaze and delight the audience while making them laugh (a lot). The show is entirely interactive and each performance is different due to the improv approach Price brings to his comedy.
University of Wyoming Ag News
When 14-year-old Larry Prager attended sheep shearing school as part of a UW Extension program, he didn’t know that one day he’d become CEO of one of the largest wool warehousing operations in the country. He was just a Wyoming kid learning new skills to help out on the family ranch.
Shearing a few sheep at home quickly grew into a side business that paid for his four-year degree in animal science at the University of Wyoming.
Upon graduating from UW in 1974, Prager went home to the family ranch and soon found himself shearing full time to pay the bills. Economically, times were tough, and when UW’s sheep specialist called to tell him a wool warehouse in South Dakota was hiring, he decided to give it a shot.
Today, Larry Prager is CEO of that warehouse – now known as Center of the Nation Wool.
“For me, it’s pretty mind-boggling to come from the little family ranch in the mountains of Wyoming to wind up here in the desk I’ve been in the last number of years. Who’d have ever guessed?” he comments.
Prager is a recipient of the 2022 UW College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources Outstanding Alumni Award. He and other awardees were recognized during Ag Appreciation weekend in late September.
Leading the flock
Throughout his career, Prager has helped American wool compete successfully in a global market. While he might casually evade questions about just how long he’s been at Center of the Nation Wool, he considers it a life’s work. He’s been working with some ranching families for three generations now. The truth is, he says, it’s been a good fit. It’s not about counting the years.
Prager is known not only for his business acumen, but also for his leadership skills, integrity and service-oriented mentality.
For decades, he’s been the trusted middle man between producers looking to get the best price for their wool clip and buyers looking for a consistent, high-quality product suited to their specific needs.
“The personal relationships that we’re able to accumulate over the years are really the heart and soul of this business,” he reflects.
In 1978, Prager moved with his wife to Belle Fourche, S.D., to work for the company that would later become Center of the Nation Wool. His first job was in the warehouse, unloading and core testing wool as it was delivered.
His next position was in the field, traveling to shearing pens and interacting with growers. There, he earned the respect and trust of producers across the tri-state region.
Ever-attuned to changing industry trends and standards, Prager ensured local growers were aware of the latest best practices and how to implement them.
He kept growers up to date on wool classing and the use of square bales instead of traditional wool bags. He helped select, cull and sort breeding sheep. When new innovations such as scourable paint became available, Prager made it his duty to educate producers in the region.
In 1993, Prager assumed the role of general manager at Center of the Nation Wool. In 1997, he was named president of the U.S. Wool Marketing Association.
“Prager combined his technical wool skills with the work of progressive ranchers to increase the marketability and value of wool from Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. The code of practice in use across the U.S. today is built on Prager’s contributions,” shares a South Dakota producer.
In 2019 alone, his company handled nearly 5 million pounds of wool: in other words, about 20 percent of all wool shorn in the United States.
“In an industry as small and tight knit as the American wool industry, businesses of all sizes live and die by the strength of their relationships and reputation. The fact that Larry has been a fixture in the American wool industry as long as he has should speak to his dedication, integrity, and leadership,” shares one wool buyer.
The value of education
Prager’s journey – personally and professionally – has been shaped by his curiosity and drive to learn.
From his days as a student at UW to his “trial by fire” as the manager of a struggling company and self-taught marketing professional, Prager has challenged himself to step outside the known and into the (sometimes uncomfortable) space where learning occurs.
His role as student – and educator – has continued throughout his career, from his days making field visits to ranches across the region to his current position as CEO.
A strong believer in the value of higher education, Prager served in leadership roles in the UW Alumni Association for seven years, including a year as president.
“I think education gives us some tools, no matter which degree you have,” he says. “The path of life I thought I started on got changed by financial circumstances and by those little decisions I made. For so many graduates coming out of UW, that’s going to be the case.”
Committed to creating opportunities for the next generation of wool producers and entrepreneurs, he has also established shearing schools and volunteered as a judge for wool judging contests and shearing competitions across the Western United States.
His No. 1 recommendation to young people is to seek out good mentors – trusted advisors who are willing to lend a listening ear and share their expertise.
As many will attest, Prager himself is an excellent mentor.
When UW Extension Sheep Specialist Whit Stewart first began working as an extension educator in Wyoming, he drove to Belle Fourche to spend a day with Prager.
“I’ll never forget that day over 10 years ago, as it was formative for my career trajectory and love of the sheep industry,” Stewart shares.
A gambler’s spirit & survivor’s business
Success in the business world depends not only on education and mentorship but also on what Prager terms the gambling spirit.
As a businessperson, “You know how things have worked, what tradition has been, as well as the new reality – whether it’s Covid or higher freight rates, higher interest rates,” he explains.
“Every year we get a new deck of cards. To try to make decisions in a changing landscape is, I’ll just call it the gambler’s spirit. Not everybody is interested in living in that environment.”
But Prager is drawn to it. In fact, it’s a bit addictive, he admits. His willingness to embrace change – despite force of habit – is part of what’s enabled him to succeed and transform a struggling business into a thriving operation.
“Change is going to happen, both personally and professionally. What worked last time might not work this time,” he observes. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of making choices based on routine, rather than true purpose.”
Like many agricultural operations, the wool industry is a survivor’s business, Prager says. It requires tenacity, patience and a lot of hard work.
Key to Center of the Nation Wool’s survival is Prager’s ability to connect with people – producers, buyers and young people alike.
“Larry possesses a quality that seems to be diminishing in our society: He listens. He doesn’t listen for a quick reply or to provide a counter-story. He listens to people to understand people,” writes a member of the Belle Fourche community.
Perhaps that’s the true secret to success.
Children’s Book Spotlights Theos Family Story
The Colorado Agriculture in the Classroom program has brought students to a peach orchard and offered a taste of juice from Colorado’s famous Palisade peaches. The program has given students glimpses into historic and modern-day dairies, produce farms, livestock auctions and agriculture aviation. This year, the tale will be a woolly one.
For the third year, the program has partnered with The Fence Post Assistant Editor Rachel Gabel to bring Colorado agriculture to students. The Woolly Way: Papou and the Story of Lantern Ridge tells of the role sheep and shepherds have played in Colorado historically to present-day, including cultural and land management contributions. The book is illustrated by Liz Banman Munsterteiger with stunning illustrations based on historic and modern photos of sheep ranching in Western Colorado.
“The partnership between the Colorado Agriculture in the Classroom program and Rachel Gabel has been phenomenal,” said Jennifer Scharpe, executive director of Colorado Agriculture in the Classroom. “This partnership has helped bring real examples of Colorado agriculture to life for students across Colorado. Last year’s Literacy Project – featuring Colorado peaches – reached more than 10,000 students in over 500 classrooms. We look forward to exceeding those numbers with our 2023 project.”
The Woolly Way trails the real-life Theos family’s sheep through the generations and as they move from their winter grazing in the desert to the shearing shed and the ranch, through Meeker, Colo., and to their forest grazing allotment in the White River National Forest. The Theos family has a rich history in the sheep industry, beginning in the 1900s when Angelo Theos arrived in Meeker, knowing it would be good country for sheep.
“This story that Rachel has written represents some of the legacy and traditions that our family has carried on for five generations,” said Anthony Theos of Swallow Fork Ranch. “We continue to operate on the same soil my great papou did over a century ago. Rachel has captured not only the uniqueness of the sheep industry in her story, but a dream that will hopefully continue for generations to come.”
Educational resources are included in the book and focus on the importance of public lands, sharing public lands with livestock, and the forests of the state. Gabel also includes arborglyphs, symbols and pictographs in aspen trees carved by sheepherders in years gone by in the story as a nod to the state’s history.
“Rachel’s understanding of, and passion for agriculture is evident in the books she has written,” said Bree Poppe, publisher of The Fence Post. “She does a brilliant job of making agriculture accessible, accurate and interesting to a demographic increasingly disconnected from the people and places that produce the food and fiber the world depends upon.”
The Woolly Way is Gabel’s fourth book. She is the author of Still Good: The Faces of Family Agriculture and The Sweetest Treat – both illustrated by Munsterteiger and used for the Agriculture in the Classroom project – and Kindergarten Rancher, illustrated by Shannon Clark.
The Literacy Project is a free program for prekindergarten through fifth grade students. Teachers can sign up to participate by completing the form at GrowingYourFuture.com.
The 2023 Colorado Literacy Project is sponsored by Colorado Sheep and Wool Authority – a state sheep checkoff program – and the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation. Additional sponsors are needed to support the purchase of enough books and classroom activity supplies, which are then donated to the more than 500 participating classrooms. To make a gift, visit https://bit.ly/givecfa.
For more information about this and all other Colorado Agriculture in the Classroom programs, contact Jennifer Scharpe at email@example.com or 970-818-3308.
Miles City Hosts Successful Sales
On Sept. 14-15, Miles City, Mont., hosted the Montana Ram and Ewe Sales at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds. The offering included nearly 1,000 commercial ewes and 292 rams from consignors across Montana. Buyers hauled sheep home to Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Utah, Texas and across Montana.
The Montana Wool Growers Association would like to extend a big thank you to all buyers and bidders of both sales. Thank you to Lewistown Livestock for clerking and sale management and Sam Fraser of Frontier Productions for the online catalog and online sale hosting. Thank you to our auctioneers Collin Gibbs and Kyle Shobe for another year of great teamwork from the auction block.
A total of 292 bucks were offered and sold at the 97th Annual Montana Ram Sale, for an overall average of $1,275 per head – down from $1,843 in 2021 and $1,542 in 2020. The ram sale grossed $372,400.
The blackface breeds averaged $1,157 per head on 23 head, compared to $1,352 in 2021 and $891 in 2020. Dawe Suffolks of Big Timber, Mont., topped the blackface portion of the sale, selling a Suffolk buck for $2,200 to Garrett Cunningham of Broadus, Mont.
Rambouillet bucks sold with an overall average of $1,261 per head on 57 head, down from $2,114 in 2021 and $1,710 in 2020. Helle Rambouillet of Dillon, Mont., had the top lot with a pen of two, purchased for $2,100 each by the Sieben Ranch of Helena, Mont.
Three American Cormo bucks were offered by new consignor Rebecca McEuen of Broadus, Mont., selling for $450 per head.
The Targhee sale average was $1,304 on 209 head. The high selling ram overall was a Targhee consigned by Hughes Newford of Stanford, Mont. The buck sold for $19,000 to The Ortmann family of Wolf Point, Mont. Four Targhee lots sold for $4,000 per head or more.
The purebred Rambouillet average on 47 head was $1,252 (Low $450; High $2,100). The crossbred Rambouillet average on 10 head was $1,300. The Suffolk ram average on 15 head was $1,313 (Low $600; High $2,200). The Suffolk-Hampshire ram average on eight head was $862 (Low $700; High $1,300). The Cormo average on three head was $450. The Targhee ram average on 209 head: $1,304 (Low $250; High $19,000).
A total of 963 ewes sold for an overall average of $309 per head at the Ninth Annual Montana Ewe Sale. The ewe sale grossed $297,975.
John and Betty Sampsel of Hughes Newford Co, of Stanford, Mont., donated a yearling Targhee Ewe to kick off the ewe sale. The proceeds from the donation ewe were collected to support the Montana State University Wool Judging Team. Generous donors raised $8,900 for the team to travel to wool judging contests and other sheep/wool educational events.
The Roeder family of Montana Sheep Company topped the sale with a consignment of 10 head of Targhee ewes, selling for $450 per head to Alexander Maus of Sentinel Butte, N.D. The volume buyer of the on-site lots was Wanda Pinnow of Baker, Mont. The volume off-site buyer was Christopher Grotegut of Hereford, Texas, buying 300 Rambouillet Ewes from Helle Rambouillet in Dillon.
Whiteface ewes sold on site averaged $340 per head. Off-site sales with country delivery averaged $300 per head.
Total sale average on all ewes was $309 per head. Whiteface yearling ewe averaged $310 per head on 958 head. The blackface ewe lamb average on 15 head was $175 per head.
Please plan to attend the 10th Annual Montana Ewe Sale and 98th Annual Montana Ram Sale next year – September 13-14, 2023, in Miles City.
Source: Montana Wool Growers