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Sheep and Lamb Inventories Lower

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released this week the annual sheep inventory report which stated that all sheep and lambs were down less than 1 percent (0.9 percent) or 45,000 head to 5.020 million head. The breeding flock of ewes 1 year and older was reported at 2.870 million head, down 1.4 percent or 40,000 head.

At the state level, most Southwestern states reported declines while some states in the middle of the country saw increases in the breeding flock. Texas reported a 5,000 head (1.2 percent) decline from the prior year to 425,000 head. California saw the largest decline in breeding ewes with a 9.3 percent or 25,000 head decrease from a year earlier to 245,000 head. Wyoming fell 10,000 head (4.7 percent) to 205,000 head while Colorado was at 153,000 head, down 2,000 head or 1.3 percent.

The American lamb crop as of Jan. 1, was reported at 3.110 million head, down 50,000 head or 1.6 percent from a year ago. California reported the largest decline of 25,000 head or down 10.4 percent to 215,000 head. Wyoming fell 10,000 (4.2 percent) to 230,000 head. Texas, Colorado and Idaho each fell 5,000 head to 345,000, 175,000 and 140,000 head, respectively. Montana fell 8,000 head, while South Dakota and Oregon held steady with the same levels from a year ago.

The national average lambing percentage held steady at 106.9 percent, which is in line with the historical average during the last 10 years. California saw a steep decline in lambing percentage from 96 percent in 2021 down to 79.6 percent in 2022. Texas saw improvement to 80.2 percent while most Northern states held averages well above the national average.

Total market sheep and lambs were even with the prior year at 1.355 million head. Of the market lamb categories, the under 65 pounds and 65 to 85 pounds were down 2.9 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, to 335,000 and 180,000 head. These declines were offset by gains in the 85 to 105 pounds and more than 105 pounds categories, which were 270,000 and 470,000 head, respectively, up 4.9 percent and 0.9 percent from the prior year.

With the supply of market sheep and lambs even with a year earlier, remaining current on marketings through the year will be critical to balance supply with demand.

Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center


Mid-States Wool to Close in May

One of the country’s major wool buyers is closing its doors later this year, citing the woeful state of the wool markets and rising costs. Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative – based in Canal Winchester, Ohio – sent a letter to its customers last week saying it would stop accepting wool May 1. The letter said the board of directors decided to close in 2023.

“The wool marketing season of 2022 was your cooperative’s worst marketing season since the wool glut of the 1990s. With rising costs and no market for the wool that our producers send in, the difficult decision was made,” the letter stated.

Mid-States sells about 1.5 million pounds of wool each year from its 3,000 members from across the country. It has brought in wool from more than 30 states, as far west as Arizona and New Mexico.

Click Here to read the full story.

Source: Farm and Dairy


Past NWGA President Passes Away

Wyoming rancher Don Meike – who served as president of the National Wool Growers Association – passed away at home in Kaycee, Wyo., on Feb. 2, 2023. He was 93. Don was born to Peter and Naomi (Streeter) Meike on May 8, 1929.

Don and his brother, Peter “Peto” Meike, continued to operate the Meike Ranch in Kaycee, Wyo., since forming a partnership with their father in 1949. The century ranch was established in 1901 by the brothers’ grandfather, Emil Meike. While major portions of the ranch land have been sold in recent years and the brothers moved out of the main ranch home, they continued to oversee operations as they produced sheep and cattle on a smaller scale.

In 1978, Don was elected secretary of the National Wool Growers Association – a forerunner organization to today’s American Sheep Industry Association. He went on to serve as both vice chairman and chairman of NWGA in the years that followed. He was also a past president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Wyoming Livestock Board.

According to a story in the March 1981 National Wool Grower, he graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and served in the United States Air Force.

Funeral arrangements were still to be determined as of Friday afternoon.

Don was also a longtime board member of ASI’s Sheep Heritage Foundation, and as such memorial contributions may be made to the foundation in his name. Click Here for more information on the foundation.

For more on Don and the family operation, check out the March issue of the Sheep Industry News.


Australian Wool Market Posts Gains

The Australian wool market recorded an overall positive movement this week, driven by solid price increases for Merino fleece types. The national offering reduced to 38,516 bales. Despite this smaller offering, the total amount offered this season continues to track above the last. Compared to the corresponding sale of the previous season, there have been 8,011 more bales offered – an increase of 0.8 percent.

Main buyer interest continued to be focused on better-style wools, with favorable additional measurement results – particularly those with low variation in length – and these wools recorded the largest increases. That said, lesser-style lots and wool that did not possess in demand AM results also recorded healthy increases as buyers attempted to find value in the rising market. By the end of the series, the individual Micron Price Guides for Merino fleece had risen by between 2 and 59 cents. These rises combined with nearly all other sectors of the market posting gains (only the 26-micron MPG in the South recording a loss of 2 cents) helped push the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator up by 18 cents. The EMI closed the week at 1,356 Australian cents.

The EMI is still 93 cents lower than the corresponding sale of the 2021-22 season – a fall of 6.4 percent. The higher prices on offer this week had a positive effect on the clearance rate as the overall national passed-in rate was half that of the previous series. It dropped from 13.2 percent to 6.6 percent. The oddment market had another strong week, solid gains in carding types pushed the three Merino Carding Indicators up by an average of 17 cents.

As this is traditionally one of the busiest shearing times of the year – combined with the higher prices seen this week – next week’s offering climbs. There are currently 51,166 bales on offer in Melbourne, Fremantle and Sydney, which is a designated superfine sale.

Click Here for the Full Australian Wool Market Report.

Source: AWEX


ALB Strategic Plan Sets Aggressive Action for Industry

As the American Lamb Board releases its new Strategic Plan, the industry is facing dynamics never seen before.

“Instability in global economies and supply chains, consumer uncertainty, the rollercoaster sheep market, increases in non-traditional markets, and increasing pressures from imports are examples of critical issues top of mind with the board,” says ALB Chairman Peter Camino. “We are determined to find proactive ways for the American Lamb Checkoff to proactively help our industry.”

ALB has outlined an ambitious 2023 to 2028 plan, including increasing demand for American Lamb by 5 percent and taking 5 percent market share from lamb imports by the end of 2028. To that end, ALB has identified three primary goals:

  • Marketing: Grow consumer demand for American lamb.
  • Research, Education & Innovation: Optimize/prioritize research and education efforts to improve product quality and consistency, increase productivity and grow the year-round supply of American lamb.
  • Industry Services: Expand awareness, understanding, engagement and involvement of stakeholders in the American Lamb Checkoff.

“The mission of ALB is to increase the value of American lamb for all segments that contribute to the American Lamb Checkoff,” says Camino. “We’re setting our sites on a unified, thriving industry that concentrates its resources around priorities and a measurable plan that fosters profit opportunities for all stakeholders.”

Camino also pointed out that – like all national checkoff programs – ALB cannot be involved in influencing government policy.

As the world recovers from the Covid pandemic, the American lamb industry is bouncing back from huge losses within the historically key market for lamb products – fine dining. However, with more consumers returning to eating at home and seeking new food options, this creates opportunities at retail. The 2023 to 2028 ALB Strategic Plan calls out additional opportunities, such as cultural preferences and consumer desires for local, sustainable foods.

Consumer interest in lamb is coming at a time when American flock numbers are declining. If American lamb can’t fill the need for products and price points, that opens the door for imports. Lamb coming in from competitors such as Australia and New Zealand has a definite price advantage, but also a consistent supply.

“Lamb imports have gained ground for a complex set of reasons, some which are out of the American Lamb Checkoff’s scope. But we are determined to drive hard at what we can help with – demand, productivity and product quality,” says Camino.

Click Here for more information.

Source: ALB


Pipestone Offers Virtual Lambing Course

Make plans now to attend the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program’s Lambing Time Short Court and tour, to be held virtually on Feb. 10-11. The tour will include two outstanding sheep operations.

The program starts at 7 p.m. central time each evening. Lambing time topics include: ewe and lamb health concerns, low labor lambing and keys for successful lambing. The purpose of the short course is to provide educational material and additional insights to make lambing time more successful. Dr. Larry Goelz of Windy Ridge Veterinary Clinic is on the program to share his thoughts on common lamb and ewe health concerns.

The virtual farm tours will feature two members of the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Program and show how they have found ways to improve their success during lambing. Participants will see how they: lay out their lambing barn, setup of creep pens, dock, vaccinate, feed, and manage their lambs and ewes.

Click Here for more information.

Source: Pipestone Lamb and Wool Management Program


Kiwi Wins National Sheep Shearing Contest

New Zealand’s Gavin Mutch was in the United States to teach advanced shearing schools, but he put on an additional school free of charge while winning the open division of the National Sheep Shearing Contest on Monday at the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, S.D.

The contest is one way in which shearers from all across the United States qualify to compete at the Golden Shears World Championships, which will be conducted this summer in Scotland. Mutch figures to be competing in Scotland, but he won’t be wearing red, white and blue.

Instead, Iowa’s Alex Moser and Nolen Abel will handle those duties. The United States will send two contestants in each of three events: machine shearing, blade shearing and wool handling. Winners in Rapid City earn one spot, while the other goes to the person leading the overall points standings based on events around the country.

Moser and Abel will be joined on the American team by blade shearers Kevin Ford of Massachusetts and John O’Connell of Connecticut and wool handlers Leann Brimmer of Montana and Coleen McTaggart of South Dakota. Katherine Moser will serve as the team manager.

Members of the team are accepting donations to cover costs associated with competing in Scotland. Click Here to donate.

The National Sheep Shearing Contest also included intermediate and beginner divisions in machine shearing. John Kuepfer Jr. won the intermediate division, while Eddie Zeglen topped the beginner division.

Source: American Sheep Shearers Council


Shearing Schools Set for Spring

There are a handful of sheep shearing schools available to prospective shearers in the next three months. If you’ve considered learning to shear, now is the time to look into signing up because many of these schools will fill up fast.

  • The Indiana Shearing School is set for Feb. 18 at the Purdue University Animal Sciences Center. Visit com for more information.
  • Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., will host a shearing school on March 1-2. Contact Extension Associate Amy Bax at to register.
  • The New York Sheep Shearing School is March 11-12 at the Stone & Thistle Farm in East Meredith, N.Y. For more information, visit
  • The Moffat County Sheep Shearing School in Craig, Colo., is set for March 31-April 2. Email Megan Stetson at for more information.
  • The Washington State Shearing School will be April 3-7 (beginners) and April 8 (advanced) at the Grant County Fairgrounds in Moses Lake, Wash. For information, visit
  • The Tennessee Sheep Producers Association Sheep Shearing School is scheduled for April 7-8 at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Contact Leann Frazer at 615-594-3694 or for more information.
  • There will be two separate sessions of the Sheep Shearing and Basic Care 101 course at the University of California Research and Extension Center in Hopland, Calif. The first session is April 9-15 and the second session is April 16-22. Contact Hannah Bird at 707-744-1424, ext. 105 or email Visit for more information.
  • Shepherd’s Cross in Claremore, Okla., will host a shearing school on April 13-15. Visit to register.


Legislative Update from Washington, D.C.

The American Sheep Industry Association’s lobbying firm – Cornerstone Government Affairs – offered an update this week on legislative issues in our nation’s capital.

Democrats Announce House Ag Committee Members

On Jan. 26, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries announced that the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee had made the following committee recommendations for new members of the House Democratic Caucus. New Democratic members joining the House Ag Committee include:

  • Yadira Caraveo (Colo.)
  • Andrea Salinas (Ore.)
  • Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.)
  • Don Davis (N.C.)
  • Jill Tokuda (Hawaii)
  • Nikki Budzinski (Ill.)
  • Eric Sorensen (Ill.)
  • Gabe Vasquez (N.M.)
  • Jasmine Crockett (Texas)
  • Jonathan Jackson (Ill.)
  • Greg Casar (Texas)

Bronaugh to Step Down as Deputy Ag Secretary

Jewel Bronaugh – the first person of color to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture at the United States Department of Agriculture – announced that she will step down from the position in the coming weeks.

“It is with mixed emotions that today I am announcing that I will step away from my role as deputy secretary in the coming weeks so I can spend more time with my family,” Bronaugh said in a statement. One of Bronaugh’s largest roles at USDA was co-chairing the department’s Equity Commission, where she made recommendations about ways to end racial discrimination and inequities in USDA programs.

Senate Republicans Announce Assignments

This week, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ken.) announced the Senate Republican Conference had made committee recommendations for the 118th Congress. Republican membership for the Agriculture Committee will remain the same from the previous Congress.


Heritage Sheep Breeders Win Microgrants

The Livestock Conservancy is awarding more than $20,000 to rare breed farmers, ranchers, shepherds and breed organizations across the country through its Microgrants Program. Now in its fifth year, the program has awarded more than $76,000 to The Livestock Conservancy’s most important conservation partners – the people doing the hard work day after day to steward these genetic treasures.

Two sheep producers and one breed association were included in the grant program this year. They include:

Youth Microgrants

  • Braydn Starkenburg, an active junior member of the National Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association and his local 4-H club, will improve the genetics of his South Dakota flock with two new unrelated ewes and a ram. There are few Lincoln sheep in South Dakota and Braydn hopes to increase interest in the breed by entering his sheep at local fairs and livestock shows.

Breed Association Microgrants

  • Launched in 2019, the Hog Island Sheep Breeders Association’s early growth was deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The association has now developed new articles of incorporation and applied for 501(C)3 non-profit status. Microgrant funds will be used to create a new website, improve recruitment through social media, create brochures and hold an owners meeting in 2023.

National Microgrants

  • Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em fiber provider Lucienne Brown raises Dorset Horn sheep on her farm in New Hampshire. She plans to build a chute and handling system to make it easier for students to learn about sheep husbandry through hands-on experiences. With easier handling, Lucienne will also provide data for the National Sheep Improvement Program.

In addition, The Livestock Conservancy is celebrating sheep month in February. If you have heritage breed sheep, the conservancy wants to feature you. For your farm and animals to be highlighted on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, please email a photo or two of your sheep or a short video clip (less than 1 minute) of your sheep in action along with some text sharing your story. Let them know what breeds you have and why, how you got started, etc.

The Livestock Conservancy is also looking for 1- to 3-minute farm tour videos of farmers and their animals to share. While showing off heritage breeds, introduce yourself, your farm and why you choose to raise heritage breeds.

To participate, email Emily Rose Johnson at

Source: The Livestock Conservancy

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