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Marketing opportunities

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Experts outline nontraditional lamb marketing strategies during sheep and wool festival

During the inaugural Wyoming Sheep and Wool Festival held in Kemmerer June 30-July 2, University of Wyoming Extension Sheep Specialist Whit Stewart discussed nontraditional lamb marketing strategies with special guest John Kane.

“We have producers around the state who are both large and small and whose marketing objectives vary greatly. But today, we want to provide some insight on emerging markets and look into how we can maximize this growing segment in Wyoming’s industry,” Stewart began. 

The two shared there is tremendous opportunity for Wyoming producers to capitalize on nontraditional or alternative marketing opportunities in the U.S. sheep and wool industry and encouraged attendees to think seriously about how they may benefit their individual operations. 

Traditional versus nontraditional marketing

According to Stewart, lamb in the U.S. is generally marketed through four routes. These include federally-inspected slaughter, state-inspected slaughter, custom harvesting and direct to consumer, with the first two considered as the more traditional of the four routes. 

“Federally and state-inspected slaughter would constitute our traditional market. Lambs are weaned, get fed out and then are sold to buyers or slaughterhouses,” he explained.

Conversely, on-farm and direct-to-consumer slaughter are the less traditional of the four, and because of this, they are harder to collect data on.

“On-farm and direct-to-consumer slaughter is something we want to know more about but it’s really hard for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep track of,” Stewart stated. 

Ethnic markets

Within the two less traditional marketing strategies lies ethnic markets.

“The ethnic market revolves around a series of calendars and holidays, which really drives demand,” Stewart explained. “There are Muslim holidays associated with the Islamic New Year, Jewish holidays like Passover and Rosh Hashana and some Orthodox Christian holidays.” 

Although Wyoming’s sheep producers aren’t located near large metropolitan centers with dense populations of ethnic consumers, Stewart noted it is still important for them to be aware of this ethnic holiday calendar, which can be easily accessed online. 

“One thing I really want to hit home is, generally speaking, there is a dramatic decrease in animal prices immediately after these holidays. So even if producers aren’t selling lambs through an ethnic channel, they need to ensure their lambs are sold and delivered prior to these large demand events and definitely not after,” he said. 

“Producers may even want to consider changing up their production events and handling schedules around ethnic holidays,” he added

Slaughter ewes and rams

Another marketing opportunity producers may overlook is cull ewes and rams. 

“A lot of times, producers forget there is a revenue source when they look at their slaughter ewes and rams, and they usually don’t want to play around with this market,” Stewart shared. “But, if they look at some of the spikes in the market as a response to these ethnic holidays, it is upwards of 60 to 70 cents per head.” 

He further noted, even when shifting away from the ethnic calendar and looking at traditional marketing routes, there is still opportunity for marketing cull ewes and rams. 

“When looking at some of the historical peaks in the calendar year, producers will generally receive more for their cull ewes and rams December through February – there is up to a 30 to 40 percent increase in the market during this time,” he explained. 

“I am not aloof to the fact many producers don’t have the forage resources to hold on to their sheep, but if they can keep their sheep longer, they might have some opportunities to hit later markets and increase their revenue stream,” he added. 

Stewart concluded by acknowledging many producers’ calendars get busy and hectic, but highly encouraged them to consider looking into the nontraditional opportunities that exist in the sheep and lamb market to increase their bottom line. 

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

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