Wool industry members see positive future in markets that demand quality
“From the supply side we’re in great shape, and from the demand side we’re subject to whatever the American consumer spending habits turn out to be,” says Larry Prager of Center of the Nation Wool in Belle Fourche, S.D., regarding the future of U.S. sheep markets.
“I think the worst is behind us, and the next year or two will be driven by the supply side,” he continues. “Quality is always what our customers are looking for, and we don’t ever change from that. The premiums always go with the quality wools that have maintained a reputation for excellence and good preparation.”
“The Australian wool market opened on a higher note after overseas wool markets opened up after their winter break,” says Bruce Barker of Great Plains Wool Company in Big Horn. “The weakening U.S. dollar has also made wool prices higher in U.S. dollar terms.”
Regarding wool markets, Barker says there are two trains of thought right now. “One is with the reduction of sheep numbers around the world, the remaining wool mills will have to pay higher prices to get their share of wool,” he says, adding, “The other is that, due to the global economy, much wool clothing is left on retailers’ shelves from last fall and winter, therefore with less orders from retailers the mills will not need as much wool coming this season.”
Barker says in August wool prices got back to the levels this time last year, and there is very little wool left to sell in the Territory states.
Looking to the future of sheep production in the U.S., Prager says, “We’re all concerned with the sheep numbers and how that influences the wool supply, but I can’t help but feel that Wyoming is particularly well-suited for increasing sheep numbers with its open-range environment and climate for sheep production and quality wool.”
He says he thinks Center of the Nation Wool customers realize Wyoming’s potential and would support a comeback of the industry in the state.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to start seeing more sheep in Wyoming,” says Prager.
Although with the retirement factor and sheep being sold off operations by new owners for a variety of reasons, Prager says he thinks as operators start to analyze their options they’ll return to the fact that with its dry, arid conditions and grass country Wyoming is pretty good for sheep production.
“We’re seeing a return to sheep, and new operators are seeing sheep as a valuable enterprise and are beginning to go in that direction,” says Prager.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.