April 29, 2011
Denver, Colo. – The U.S. sheep industry is finding itself amidst an encouraging time: lamb prices are at an all-time high, the wool market is the highest it’s been since 1989 and the cull ewe and pelt markets are very lucrative. However, from the farm gate through to the lamb and wool processing level, there is a shared concern about meeting the demand for lamb and wool production in the United States.
Lamb processors, from the commercial market channel to the rapidly growing nontraditional markets, are clamoring for a greater supply of lamb. In 2011, two major announcements to carry American lamb in our nation’s grocery stores occurred: Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery store chains, launched an American lamb branded campaign and Super Walmart made a commitment to exclusively carry American lamb in its stores. And the nontraditional market channels, which include on-farm sales, farmers markets and small processors serving ethnic communities, have grown exponentially over the years. In fact, one-third of the U.S. lamb crop has moved outside the traditional industry infrastructure to feed this nontraditional lamb market. As an industry, we must supply the traditional market channel to keep American lamb in the nation’s largest grocery store chains and restaurants all while meeting the emerging demand for American lamb in the nontraditional markets.
This robust demand for product is also being experienced in the wool market. The U.S. military, the largest domestic consumer of U.S. wool, is excited for the opportunity to clothe our troops in high-performance washable wool products. The equipment that makes washable wool-top has been installed in the United States and is being used for a variety of domestically produced wool products that are already reaching the military and commercial markets.
A strategy to strengthen the lamb and wool industry’s infrastructure by increasing the number of sheep in production is vital for the long-term sustainability of the industry. This is why the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is calling on sheep producers, both large and small, from east to west, to help accomplish the goal of growing our flock. ASI has come up with a formula to address these shortages within just a few years, it’s called Let’s Grow with twoPLUS. With three goals in mind, the primary objective of this campaign is to encourage current producers to expand their sheep numbers by 2014. This initiative will result in 315,000 more lambs and 2 million more pounds of wool for the industry to market.
The three goals are: encourage producers to increase the size of their operation by two ewes per operation or by two ewes per 100 by 2014; encourage sheep producers to increase the average birthrate per ewe to two lambs per year; and encourage producers to increase the harvested lamb crop by 2 percent – from 108 percent to 110 percent.
ASI has developed a website (www.growourflock.org) and materials to help spread the word of the initiative. The site includes a video explaining the twoPLUS program, Let’s Grow partners who are participating in the campaign, resources for producers, an open forum for producers to communicate with one another and a section for media promotion.
To garner excitement about the rollout of this campaign, ASI and the American Lamb Board (ALB) are inviting producers to join in the twoPLUS video competition. If you have a story to share about growing your flock, we want to hear it! Tell us how you are going to incorporate the twoPLUS goals into your operation and showcase the production efficiencies you are utilizing to increase your flock size. We also want to hear your thoughts on how you can have an impact on the size of the national sheep flock.
The winner of the video contest will be featured as a Let’s Grow partner on the new website and win a Summer Grilling Picnic Pack courtesy of ALB, which includes a cooler, blanket, hat, t-shirt, metal sign, water bottle and apron. All entries will receive a thank-you gift for your time and participation.
To enter, create a short original video (no longer than five minutes) and upload it to Youtube.com. Then email the link of your video and your contact information (name, address, email and phone number) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries will be judged on creativity, appropriateness and effectiveness. The submission deadline is June 30, 2011, and the grand-prize winner will be announced on ASI’s and ALB’s Facebook page by mid-July.
Additional Let’s Grow activities and resources will be revealed throughout the year to continue the promotion of the campaign and assist producers in meeting the goals of increased production.