Sheep industry: WWGA executive director provides update on markets, predator control and industry promotion
During the Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days held in Riverton Feb. 3-4, Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Executive Director Amy Hendrickson presented an update on the lamb and wool market, predator issues and industry promotion activities.
Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have devastated the lamb market for almost a year now. Hendrickson shared many lamb processors suffered major losses, and some of the business still has not returned.
“While the price of lamb is pretty good, there is potential for prices to get better but it is hard to tell what the future holds,” she explained. “One of the things we have seen lately is greater direct-to-consumer sales, but the question of where those lambs can be processed remains.”
Hendrickson continued, “Currently, it is estimated 55 to 60 percent of all lamb consumed in the U.S. is imported, but the non-traditional lamb market is not generally captured in those numbers, and this market is where the industry is seeing the highest lamb prices.”
Another issue facing the lamb market at this time is the Scrapie Import Rule, which was passed at the end of the last administration.
“The sheep industry asked before the rule goes anywhere, the lamb market secure more exports for U.S. lamb, however, the rule was pushed forward,” said Hendrickson. “This will make it easier for lamb imports, including both live sheep and sheep products to enter the market from foreign countries.”
The wool market entered 2020 in a rocky place, noted Hendrickson. The trade disputes with China, along with the ongoing pandemic halted the international commodity.
“After August, the industry saw some wool markets recover, and there has been recent jumps in wool prices,” she said. “The good news is Wyoming wool is well suited for a strong recovery because producers in the state have a long history of providing good genetics, nutrition and care for their animals.”
“Although the industry is poised to see prices increase, some wool buyers have said it is likely the wool market won’t move as quickly as it could due to additional processing wool incurs with drought,” Hendrickson added.
For most of last year, WWGA was focused on securing financial assistance for producers, including the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and state economic packages.
“Sheep were finally included in CFAP assistance,” said Hendrickson. “At the state level, sheep were also included, but many producers didn’t feel they were able to utilize the help on short notice.”
Hendrickson shared state legislators and officials are aware of where producers ran into issues with the assistance, and a new package to utilize the remaining assistance is currently being negotiated.
“In 2020, WWGA was successful in getting an additional $1 million into the budget for the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board (WADMB),” noted Hendrickson. “Because of the COVID-19 economy, this money was lost for 2021.”
Golden eagle predation has been a major issue for many producers, along with predation from other animals.
“This year there has been a lot of requests to relocate or harass golden eagles to mitigate predation in a nonlethal way,” she said. “The partnership with WADMB, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been very helpful.”
“WWGA makes a point to promote the sheep industry in many different ways, but the focus is preserving the history of the Wyoming sheep industry and sharing its value with the general public,” said Hendrickson.
Several sheepwagons were donated to the Little Snake River Museum in Savory, and the museum secured a grant to build a center dedicated to the history of the sheep industry, Hendrickson noted. The WWGA sheepwagon is on display on loan, and in August there was a celebration to mark the opening of the museum.
“WWGA is excited to be a part of the event, and share the positive impacts of the sheep industry,” noted Hendrickson.
The Wyoming SHEEP Foundation is also being developed, she shared. This organization, separate from WWGA, will focus on education, Extension and preservation of the Wyoming sheep industry history.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.