Bed Grounds and Wood Piles

Written by Dennis Sun

For those of us not in the sheep business, we tend to forget about the sheep industry at times. My mother’s side of my family came from sheep producers, so I’m always reminded of those times as I have the ranch now. The old bed grounds in the hills and the remains of wood piles on the tops of the ridges are a couple of reminders I see as I ride around.

The truth is, sheep made our state in the beginning as much as cattle – and maybe more. I always thought the sheep families homesteaded everything they could while the cattle producers just wanted the lands along the rivers, creeks or wherever there was water.

The sheep industry is alive and well in Wyoming. Wool and lamb prices are good, and the outlook for sheep producers is good. The Wyoming Wool Growers Association is on sound footing. We see the Executive Vice President Amy Hendrickson, officers and board all around the state, and they all are doing a great job representing their members. It is a livestock organization worth belonging to. The national organization, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), is very active all across the nation and represents their members very well. The American sheep industry plays a large part in the global sheep interests.

Mike Corn, president of ASI from New Mexico, had some interesting remarks in the “President’s Notes” of the August Sheep Industry News. His remarks came from a ASI prepared trade information for sheep leaders to present at an agriculture summit in Texas in July.

Corn believes the American sheep industry operates in a global market these days, especially with lamb and the traditional markets. What happens in China, India, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Canada affects American sheep producers, in both lamb and wool prices.

Corn said, “On the lamb side, exports are mostly limited to our North American trading partners, Canada and Mexico. We reopened the Taiwan market in 2016 and are hopeful that exports will add stability to the domestic lamb market.”

American lamb is the best in the world. It should catch on fast, and America exports most of their sheep variety meets into a number of countries, the same as with beef.

The latest press release from the American Lamb Council, ASI and the American Wool Council was headlined, “American Sheep Industry Adds $5.8 Billion to U.S. Economy.” The industry’s 2017 Economic Impact Study showed that the nation’s 88,000 sheep producers generated a total economic impact of $5.8 billion in 2016. With over $500 million in farm gate receipts for sheep and lambs, value added from processing, wool and retail, the American sheep industry contributes over $2 billion directly to the U.S. economy, with a multiplier impact of nearly three times the initial investment.

We heard this summer that the regional wool sheared this spring was the cleanest ever. The wool and lamb from our region is in top demand and that demand should spread to other countries.

As I ride across the grown over bed grounds and scattered wood piles, I take pride in the sheep industry we have.