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2020 sheep and goat markets varied

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Disruptions caused by COVID-19 had varying effects on U.S. markets across the board, especially in the agriculture industry, and sheep and goats are a prime example. 

While the U.S. sheep industry saw a price rollercoaster, the lowest storage values in several years and the closing of one processing plant, followed by the opening of another, goat markets saw little negative effect from COVID-19 disruptions. 

Sheep markets

            In the U.S., two of the largest lamb markets are restaurant sales and the Easter holiday and the worldwide pandemic had a negative impact on both.

            “After starting out above 2019 prices, 2020 prices were trending above the five-year average and seemed to be growing stronger until March,” explains an article co-authored by Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Texas A&M University.

            Then, according to the two institutions, prices for 60 to 90 pound feeder lambs in a three-market average including Colorado, Texas and South Dakota, saw a 35.2 percent decline from March to April, which plummeted prices to an annual low of $1.57 per pound.

            OSU and Texas A&M note lamb prices remained low throughout the summer and then climbed to $2.52 per pound in October, evening out the 2020 average to $1.91 per pound, which is on track for the five-year price average. 

            “2020 lamb imports from January through September totaled 15.6 million pounds, down 7.2 percent from 2019. 2020 U.S. lamb production from January to October totaled 27 million pounds, down 7.6 percent from the year prior,” OSU and Texas A&M explain. “Also, there was a sharp decrease in lamb and mutton cold storage, with values down 25.7 million pounds. This is the lowest storage value since February 2017.” 

            Additionally, U.S. sheep markets took a hard hit this past year when Greeley, Colo. based beef processing plant JBS USA bought out Mountain States Rosen, a Wyoming based cooperative of U.S. lamb producers. 

            However, soon after, Colorado Lamb Processors opened their doors in Brush, Colo. with the hopes of eventually processing 1,800 sheep a day.

            “The ability to keep inventories current and not allow cold storage numbers to build up will help keep good lamb prices in 2021,” OSU and Texas A&M predict. “Prices should average around $1.80 during the first half of the year, and hopefully increase to $1.90 in the latter half.” 

Goat markets

            While sheep markets saw both positive and negative effects brought about by COVID-19, goat markets came out of the turmoil relatively unscathed, according to OSU and Texas A&M.

            “In 2020, meat goat numbers increased to 2.09 million head, up 1.7 percent,” say the two universities, further noting goat prices started the year off strong. “Goats weighing 40 to 60 pounds averaged $3.10 per pound through July. They reached their peak in April at $3.27.”

            Prices then started to decline late in the summer, reaching an annual low of $2.93 in September. At the end of October, the annual average price was a record $3.11 per pound, $0.35 above 2019, according to OSU and Texas A&M.

            “Meat goat imports in 2019 totaled 17.9 metric tons, which was up 18.4 percent over 2018 and the fourth highest amount in the last 10 years,” the institutions say. “In contrast, for January through September 2020, meat goat imports totaled 7,646 metric tons, which is down 41.7 percent for the same period in 2019 and is on pace to be one of the lowest totals since 2007.”

            “Each year, goat prices continue to average better than the year before,” OSU and Texas A&M continue. “Going into 2021 averaging over $3 should help keep prices high throughout the spring market. If the market is overpriced, the summer decrease could be larger than normal, so producers should be prepared to market their goats before the slump occurs.” 

            Hannah Bugas is the editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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