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USDA reports 2023 sheep and lamb loss

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Feb. 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released a report on 2023 sheep and lamb losses in the state of Wyoming. 

Information in the report was compiled from a survey conducted by the NASS Regional Field Office, at the request of the Wyoming Business Council Agribusiness Division, which also provided funding for the project.

The survey utilized multi-frame sampling procedures and drew a random sample from a list of livestock producers maintained by the NASS Wyoming Field Office. Additionally, sheep producers living in a selected sample of area segments were interviewed. 

According to NASS, this strategy assures complete coverage of sheep producers by accounting for ranchers and farmers who may not be on the list. 

Wyoming sees increased loss

Overall, the report shows Wyoming producers lost 45,000 sheep and lambs to weather, predators, disease and other causes over the course of 2023, which represents a total value of $10.08 million. 

The total number of sheep and lambs lost was 3,000 head more than the year prior, and the total value of lost inventory was 25.4 percent more than in 2022. 

According to the USDA, Wyoming’s sheep herd totaled 335,000 head, as of Jan. 1, 2023, and the lamb crop was estimated at 220,000 head. 

The number of deaths in 2023 represent 7.8 percent of Wyoming’s sheep and lamb supply for the year. 

“Inventory plus lamb crop plus lambs lost before docking – 20,000 head – amounts to 575,000 head,” notes the report.

Predator-caused losses

Of the 45,000 total animals lost in 2023, NASS reports 21,300 head of sheep and lambs were lost to predators, down 500 head from last year. Lamb losses from all predators amounted to 19,700 head, up 5.9 from last year, while sheep lost to all predators totaled 1,600 head, down 1,600 head from the year prior. 

Predator losses amounted to 3.7 percent of the state’s 2023 sheep and lamb supply and 47.3 percent of all sheep and lamb deaths.

According to the report, Wyoming producers suffered an estimated $4.71 million in losses caused by predators in 2023, up 7.4 percent from 2022. 

The report shows coyotes remained the largest predator for both sheep and lambs, accounting for 65.3 percent of predator-caused losses and 30.9 percent of all death losses in the state. Losses attributed to coyotes totaled $3.08 million. 

Other notable predator loss in 2023 included 3,600 head lost to eagles, 900 head lost to foxes, 700 head lost to ravens, 600 head each lost to bears and mountain lions and 100 head each lost to bobcats or lynx, dogs and wolves. 

Other sheep and lamb loss

NASS reports non-predatory losses accounted for 52.7 percent of all sheep and lamb losses in 2023, and the total value of non-predatory loss was $5.37 million, compared to the $4.23 million lost in 2022. 

The total amount of sheep lost to non-predatory causes was 10,400 head, up 52.9 percent from the previous year, while 13,300 head of lambs were lost to non-predatory causes, down 100 head from a year ago. 

The largest documented cause of non-predatory loss was due to weather conditions, which claimed 17,900 head of sheep and lambs during 2023. 

Other non-predatory losses included 1,700 head lost to lambing complications, 600 head lost to enterotoxaemia, 500 head each lost to theft and old age, 400 each lost to disease and poison and 100 head lost from animals getting on their backs.

Lambs lost to all unknown causes totaled 1,900 head, compared with 1,700 head last year. 

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

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