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Jackson – “Things have been crazy in the last six to eight weeks,” commented Randy Hammerstrom of USDA Market News. 

Hammerstrom emphasized that lamb markets have seen gains and wool markets are positive in his presentation at the 2013 Tri-State Wool Growers Convention, held Nov. 7-9 in Jackson. 

The rally in lamb prices has been positive for the industry but warrants some thought, he noted.

Reasons for rally

The true reason for the rally can only be speculated, but Hammerstrom marked correction in corn and hay markets as being positive.

“When we go back to mid-summer, we started to see big acreages put into corn,” he explained. “There was talk of correction in corn markets, and hay prices began to correct with rain in Colorado. This all leads to cheaper cost of meat.”

Firmness in the fat market began in late June and July when prices jumped to $1.10 to $1.12, and stability emerged toward the end of the summer, with prices of $1.14 to $1.16. 

“More Idaho lambs were killed off grass this year, which was good at the time,” Hammerstrom said. “Some anticipated short supply was coming, and that is what spurred this off.”

However, while some in the industry could see the change coming, Hammerstrom commented, “A good portion of the industry had blinders on because they saw old crop sheep in the feedyards until Aug. 15. They ran out of supply the first of September, and panic mode set in.”


Hammerstrom noted that supply in feedlots have dropped.

“For the first quarter of 2013, we were 14 percent of the five-year average, and in July and August, we were 17 percent below the five-year average,” he said of feedlot supply. “From September until the present, we have been averaging 29 percent below average.”

“We are seeing 11 percent fewer lambs in the feedlot than last month, and we have 17 percent fewer on feed than last year,” he added. “We are also 22 percent below the five year average on inventory numbers.”

Federally inspected kill numbers are also up this year. 

“For the first three-quarters of 2013, we were up 90,600 head year-on-year from 2012-13 – basically six percent,” Hammerstrom noted. “Last year, we were up just a tick from 2011.”

Average weekly kills in 2012 were at 38,500, but in 2013, Hammerstrom said that USDA facilities were harvesting 1,800 more lambs per week than last year in the same timeframe. 

“We are back over 40,000 head average weekly kill for the first time in three years for feeder lambs,” he said.


This year, feeder lambs from Sept. 1 to present brought $1.50 to $1.90, with some lambs bringing over two dollars.

“We have seen an $80 jump in eight weeks,” Hammerstrom said. “We have seen a rally from late August to present time.”

In late August, prices locked in at $1.10, and lambs were sold just above $1.14.

“By late September, we were going $1.25 to $1.50, and by early October, we had a $35 to $50 jump,” Hammerstrom continued. “By late October, we saw another $10 to $15 jump. Currently, trading in any volume has been in the $1.70 to $1.85 range, with a few sales up to $1.90.”

Cost of gain

Cost of gain currently ranges around the one-dollar mark, and Hammerstrom said that value has been realized in the last several weeks.

Corn prices are dropping with USDA’s Crop Progress report, and Hammerstrom noted that if forecasts come to fruition, the crop exceeds last year by 30 percent at 14 billion bushels. 

“If this production cycle is realized, it will be the highest corn production on record,” he explained. “A lot of things can happen in the next 60 days, and that can change things.”

“The corn board closed at $4.26, and we are seeing a 20-cent basis over the board. That makes corn roughly $4.50 delivered to the feedyard,” Hammerstrom said. “Three months ago, we were seeing $6.50 to seven dollar corn.”

Hay prices

At the same time, hay prices have corrected from the last several years.

“Hay prices are still higher than the industry would like, but in six months, we will probably see a $30 to $50 correction,” he added. “Depending on the quality of feed, we could see prices at $1.80 to two dollars.”

In terms of supply, hay is still tight, Hammerstrom said, adding that most of Colorado’s hay, for example, has seen rain at some time. 

“The supply is starting to go back up,” he said. “It is just going slowly.”

Cold storage

After USDA decided to purchase $5 million worth of lamb, Hammerstrom said that the question of whether the purchase occurred at the right time was asked.

“We were starting to deliver in September through the end of January,” he said. “The cooler inventories are higher than average, but they are at manageable levels.”

Despite above-average cold storage inventories, Hammerstrom noted that tight supplies in the feedyards and the USDA’s product purchase means those levels won’t last long.


“A lot of things are working in our favor at this point,” Hammerstrom said.

While lamb prices are beginning to correct, and positivity is present in the industry, Hammerstrom said, “The pendulum seems to swing from 2010 to present, and it can’t seem to find its equilibrium. We can’t seem to find the settle point.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wool improves with lamb market prices

Jackson – With the increase in the lamb markets, Randy Hammerstrom of USDA Market News says wool buyers are willing to buy.

“Based on annual averages for 2012-13, we can see that we are down a little bit, but we are still 25 percent above 2010 averages,” Hammerstrom noted. “Even though the last couple of years we have seen declines, it is still very good.”

He added that wool still has a market.

“If there was wool on the pipeline, they would be interested,” he continued. “I think we could trade wool in the 80 percent Australia range.”

Hammerstrom addressed attendees of the 2013 Tri-State Wool Growers Convention, held in Jackson on Nov. 7-9.

Wool trade, he said, has been dramatically impacted by currency.

“If we go back to the first part of the year, Australia was four to five percent stronger than the U.S. dollar,” Hammerstrom continued. “Then, the dollar strengthened and was 10 percent higher than Australia.”

He added that the U.S. dollar has bounced between 94 and 105 percent of Australia’s dollar.

Australia’s wool market, however, has seen a similar lack of trend.

“Early on, Australia was having a hard time figuring out where to trade wool out, because currency could adjust two to three percent in just a couple of weeks,” he noted.

The lack of a trend in the market increases difficulty in trading. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Casper – Declining flocks in Australia and New Zealand and positive reports on U.S. sheep numbers equal an encouraging outlook for U.S. sheep industry markets. That’s good news at a time when production costs are reaching record highs.
    “We had a positive report in July on our inventory,” says American Sheep Industry Association Executive Director Peter Orwick. “We’re down a percent or so on numbers, which was expected. May in particular was a tough month for lambing. All the moisture we were blessed with, including some snow and rainstorms and cold weather, were taking a toll on lambing percentages.”
    Despite the losses, Orwick says it’s nice to see an area long battling drought have ample stock water this year. “There’s great feed in much of sheep country and we’re expecting lambs with good weights.” Orwick says heavier lambs, given current cost of gain prices, are fetching strong prices at the market. “Typically an 80-pound lamb may bring as much as a 100-pound lamb, but we’re seeing positive prices on these heavier feeders, which is probably a function of feed and fuel prices.”
    “I think we’re back close to breakeven and above that on some,” says Wyoming Wool Growers Executive Vice President Bryce Reece, given recent increases in the lamb market. “Live lamb prices used to be half of what they are now.” However, the sheep industry, he says, isn’t immune to the cost increases affecting other agricultural sectors.
    Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC) Chairman and Douglas area rancher Frank Moore says lamb prices are high, but are coupled with input prices at historically high levels. Many attribute MSLC with recent improvements in the lamb market.
    “Our meat company is doing well,” says Moore, noting new customers and new products that will be promoted later this year following the short supply season. The cooperative harvested just under a quarter million lambs last year, between 40 and 50 percent of which came from Wyoming. After five years in the business, Moore says the cooperative seems to have worked out many of the kinks in the system and “has been a huge success story for Wyoming and the nation’s sheep industry.”
    In New Zealand Orwick says total slaughter is down six million lambs, which equates to 20 percent of that country’s slaughter. Australia, given that country’s ongoing drought, is also experiencing a shrink in its flock.
    “There’s going to be good competition for our lambs,” says Orwick, noting the current state of the U.S. industry and its position internationally.
    Two million in lamb meat purchases by the USDA will also provide a boost to the industry. “Bids will start in September and based on their acceptance we’ll see that $2 million put to work in the meat business September through Easter,” says Orwick.
    On the wool side of the equation Orwick says overseas wool supplies have contracted along with the flocks. Of the 2008 clip, Orwick says most of the wool had moved by the first week of June with prices consistent with those received in 2007, a strong year for wool marketers.
    “Supplies of wool worldwide are limited and will remain so from the supply side. There are no stock piles,” says Larry Prager of Center of the Nation Wool in Belle Fourche, S.D. “That said, the pipeline is sluggish to the retail counters. Consumer spending has been impacted by energy costs.” Pragers says retail sales are down across the board, not just as they relate to wool. If there’s a good time for sluggishness, Prager says it’s now, after the 2008 clip has been marketed. By the time the 2009 clip begins rolling through the doors at Center of the Nation Prager hopes to see a rebuilding on the demand side.
    “The U.S. Army has announced the beginning of a process that will change its uniforms from green to a traditional blue they used until the WWII era. We look at this as an excellent opportunity not only for our continued wool sales, but there should be an increase in those purchases given the change over.”
    Always keeping an eye on quality is important says Orwick, noting a program re-instated earlier this year and directed at wool quality. “It will put more focus and attention in our industry on the quality improvement side of the business,” he explains. Timing, he says, is perfect after seeing 2007 and 2008 prices for wool rebound from a low dating back to the mid-1990s.
    Prager says as producers head out to the purchase this year’s rams it’s a perfect opportunity to keep wool quality in mind. “Right now is when they should be making those management decisions,” says Prager.
    Prager says it’s also important to consider currency values. “I think the most significant change has been the volatile conditions with the currency exchange between U.S. dollars and Australian dollars. Prager says the value of the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar has dropped ten percent in the last month. “That affects us right off the top before we ever talk about market conditions,” says Prager.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When dealing with significant lamb mortality, it is important for producers to identify why those losses are occurring, according to a North Dakota State University Sheep Specialist. 

“Don’t stick your head in the sand,” Reid Redden cautioned producers during a recent webinar on lamb losses. “When lambs are dying, take a proactive approach, find out why those losses are occurring and develop a new preventive management system.”

Lambing concerns

In most operations, a loss of 10 to 20 percent of the lambs born is normal, but Redden said producers should always be looking for ways to save more lambs using less labor. 

One of the biggest factors in lamb losses is birth weight. Twin and triplet born lambs also have a greater mortality rate than single-born lambs, he added. The larger the lambs are, the more likely the ewe will experience dystocia. With multiple lambs, they are more likely to become tangled up making it harder for the ewe to deliver them unassisted. 

Once the lambs are born, Redden said producers need to make sure the lamb receives as much colostrum as possible within the first 12 hours of birth. 

“There is no such thing as too much colostrum,” he explained. 

The lamb isn’t born with all the antibodies it needs to fight off disease, so it is crucial that it receives colostrum within the first 12 hours of birth before the digestive tract can no longer absorb it. 

Colostrum also contains fats and proteins to help the lamb get off to a good start. 


Producers will also want to ensure the ewe is bonding with the lamb, so when they are turned out with the rest of the flock, the two stay together. 

Redden said he likes to keep ewes and their newborn lambs in a lambing jug for one to two days after birth, so he can make sure they are pairing up. After that, he moves them to a small area with approximately 10 to 12 other ewes and lambs for a week, before turning them about with the rest of the flock. 

Producers need to make sure their ewes have good genetics and a good maternal behavior score, Redden said. 

“They should have good temperament and the ability to want to take care of their lambs,” he added.


Another cause of death in newborn lambs is pneumonia. 

“There is no cure for a weak respiratory system in sheep,” Redden said. 

When lambs and ewes are confined in a barn during cold winter months, belching and coughing from the ewes, plus the urine significantly reduce the air quality in the barn, he explained. 

“It is important to get that contaminated air out to reduce the number of pneumonia cases in lambs,” Redden added.

Some research has been conducted creating a negative ventilation system in the lambing barn, which significantly helped reduce pneumonia cases, Redden shared. 

When the lambs are born in the spring when it is warmer, they can be born in a bigger, more open barn and in areas where they are less confined. 

“In this situation, it is not compromising the lamb’s respiratory system by putting them in an area where air quality is significantly compromised,” he said. 

Other lamb diseases

Producers also have an important job of keeping lambing jugs clean to reduce the incidence of scours. 

Between two to four days of age, lambs can contract scours from E. coli contamination if the lambing jugs aren’t kept clean of manure. 

“It is really important to keep the jugs clean, especially between ewes and lambs,” Redden explained. 

The Dubois station has done some research showing that adding chlorate salts to feed can reduce the E. coli population in sheep, but the salt isn’t approved for use in sheep at this time, Redden noted. 

Other ways to prevent lamb mortality are preventing navel illness by clipping the cord two inches from the navel and treating it with iodine to kill bacteria and dry up the navel. 

Lambs also need to receive vaccinations to prevent entertoxemia. Redden recommends giving the ewe an injection two weeks to one month prior to lambing. The lamb should also receive an injection at 10 to 12 weeks and six to eight months.

Lastly, Redden encouraged producers to stay on top of their parasite control program in ewes and lambs once they are turned out to grass. Ewes should be wormed after lambing, before and after going to grass and as needed during the grazing season, he said. 

Stillborn lambs

It can be normal to see two to three percent of the lambs born as stillbirths, commented North Dakota State University Sheep Specialist Reid Redden. 

“If the number gets much higher than that, I would have a diagnostic test done to find out why,” the sheep specialist said. 

Diseases like chlamydia, vibriosis and toxoplasmosis can all cause stillbirths, abortions and weak lambs. 

“Chlamydia is caused by a pathogen that is transmitted through the placenta and birthing fluids,” Redden said. “Unexposed ewes, including ewe lambs, have a high rate of abortion around 20 to 30 percent, whereas previously exposed ewes have a much lower rate of abortion, around zero to five percent. A high rate of weak and unhealthy lambs can be a sign of chlamydia in a sheep flock.” 

He continued, “We recommend that shepherds add feed-grade antibiotics to late-gestation diets to treat ewe flocks diagnosed with chlamydia. Vaccines also can improve resistance to the disease; however, they are not 100 percent effective and do not provide lasting immunity.”

Vibriosis is caused by bacteria transmitted through birthing fluid. Redden recommends feed-grade and injectable antibiotics to treat the disease during an outbreak and vaccinating the ewes annually prior to breeding and during mid-gestation. 

Toxoplasmosis is typically spread through feed contaminated by cat feces or birthing fluids. Although no effective treatment is available, Coccidiostats can be added to the ewe’s diet during gestation to prevent the disease, he said. 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As sheep producers begin to see lambs on the ground, Pipestone, Minn. Veterinarian J.L. Goelz encouraged producers to take steps to improve potential for healthy lambs.

Goelz also covered nutrition and lamb health in his presentation at the Northern Plains Sheep Symposium.

Producers can control when and where the ewe lambs, and the environment that lambs are born into, said Goelz. 

Lambing environments

“Consider that when the lamb is born, it is leaving a sterile, water-filled environment that is 102 degrees where it passively absorbs nutrients,” he explained. “Then, it arrives wet into your lambing barn, shed or pasture. Ask yourself, is it cold and drafty? Is it clean? Do the ewes have enough space, or are they crowded?”

If a lamb stays wet and gets chilled after birth, it can be detrimental to its health and make it more susceptible to disease. 

The size of the pen is also important. 

Strong offspring

Producers also need lambs that can aggressively seek out the udder, find the teat on their own, have strong vigor after birth, and are not compromised by abortion pathogens. 

“The major causes of lamb mortality the first three weeks after birth are starvation and hypothermia, scours and pneumonia,” the veterinarian said. “Most people say a sick sheep is a dead sheep, but what really happens is a sheep that dies was not detected as sick and treated early enough to have a reasonable shot at treatment success.”

“Sheep are a prey species. If they show pain, discomfort or signs of sickness, they are coyote bait,” he added. 

Lamb health

Goelz told producers they should never be afraid to tube feed lambs to get them started if they aren’t nursing. 

“It is the best $4.96 you will ever spend,” he stated. “People think the tube is too rigid, but it is that way for a reason. Its rigidity keeps it from going into the trachea.”

To properly tube lambs, Goelz said, “Measure the end of the tube to the stomach of the lamb. Put a piece of tape around that mark. When you stick the tube down the lamb’s throat, if you don’t get it to the mark, you have it in the wrong pipe and will need to start over. If it goes to the mark, it is in the stomach.”

“If it doesn’t, it is in the trachea, and the lamb will probably be coughing,” he explained.

If you bottle-fed the lambs, Goelz continued, by two feedings the lamb will not consciously recognize where its nutrition comes from. 

“It will think you are mom,” he said. 

Instead, he recommends tube feeding the lamb twice, eight to 10 hours apart. By then, it should pick up and be able to nurse on its own, he said.


Deworming is also important at lambing. 

“As the ewe approaches lambing, the parasites come out of hibernation because it’s mating time and will be easier to kill,” he said. “Deworming at that point also prevents or delays infections in lambs. The only place they pick up parasites is in their environment. If you can deworm them, it can delay the infections much longer.”

Lambs should also receive a Clostridia Type C and D vaccination at three and six weeks, or at four and seven weeks, depending upon the operation and whether the lambs are being creep fed. 

“I would give it as soon as possible to prevent lambs from dying,” he said. 

Other medical concerns

Goelz also encouraged producers to send in a sample if lambs are scouring. 

“We used to have a good vaccine for scours, but we don’t anymore,” he said. “It is important to take a sample and send it in right away so the diagnostician can tell us which drug to use to treat it.” 

Producers can use drugs like LA200, tetracycline, NuFlor and Draxin to treat pneumonia, if it is caught early, he said. 

“Most of the time, if a lamb dies from pneumonia, 80 percent of their lungs will be shot,” he said. 

Lastly, Goelz encouraged producers to cut open dead lambs and send pictures by phone or email to their veterinarian. 

“With all the new technology, veterinarians can usually look at a photo and tell you if a lamb died from scours or pneumonia,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to get help, so you don’t get in over your head.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


New Orleans, La. – At the conclusion of the 2019 American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Annual Convention, a new slate of officers was selected, and among them, Wyoming’s Brad Boner of Glenrock was elected as Secretary/Treasurer of the board. 

“I strongly believe there’s more opportunity in the sheep industry right now than in the last 50 years, both for lamb and wool,” Boner says. “Hopefully my experience in the producer, feeder, packer and wholesaler sectors can help the sheep industry takes advantage of these opportunities and comeup with sustainable solutions that help every sector.” 

Boner was elected after a nominating committee selected him for the position. Nominations were also taken from the floor, and candidates were voted on by a Board of Directors. 

“The vote comes down to our Board of Directors, which includes one member from each state that pays ASI membership,” he explains. 

While the Secretary/Treasurer position is a two-year obligation, Boner says that traditionally, the commitment to service extends up to six years.
“Historically, the Secretary/Treasurer moves up to Vice President and President positions,” he describes. “With each position, officers stand for election, so there is the possibility of a challenge from the floor, but traditionally, the Secretary/Treasurer transitions to President for a total of six years of service.”

“ASI is a tremendous organization filled with tremendous people,” Boner comments. “It’s an honor to be able to give back to an industry that has given me so much.” 

Other officers

Benny Cox of San Angelo, Texas was elected President to succeed Mike Corn of New Mexico. 

Cox started his career in the livestock industry in the late 1960s with his employment at Producers Livestock Company. Today, he remains employed at Producers as the sheep and goat sales manager. 

His personal involvement in sheep – whether it be in production, feeding or trading – has lasted more than 35 years. 

Susan Shultz of DeGraff, Ohio was elected Vice President after serving as Secretary/Treasurer the past two years. With her husband Bill and son Joe, Shultz operates Bunker Hill Farm, a fourth-generation diversified family farm. 

They breed black-faced terminal sires primarily for the western range commercial industry and are committed to genetic improvement through the use of objective measurements and the National Sheep Improvement Program. She was co-chair of ASI’s Production, Education and Research Council, chair of the Roadmap Productivity Improvement Committee and chair of ASI’s Let’s Grow Committee.

Industry issues

As he begins his service, Boner says the sheep industry faces a number of issues and the ASI convention was filled with good ideas to address growing challenges. 

“As an industry, we’re working to be more positive in our messages,” he says. “We also continue to be more proactive instead of reactive, so we can begin to address issues before they happen.” 

In Wyoming and surrounding states, Boner explains one big issue is the conflict between Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep.

“The Bighorn sheep issue is huge, and it will continue to be huge. We’re still fighting against losing grazing allotments,” he says. “We also face lawsuits from Western Watersheds Project and other groups in this area.” 

The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station and funding for research is another area of concern for the industry. 

“On the positive side, our American Wool brand continues to grow,” Boner says. “We continue to see good demand for wool domestically and internationally.”

As ASI continues to attack issues from both political and production perspectives, he adds, “We will continue to promote our products, and our political activities will keep us busy, as well.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from interviews with Boner and ASI press releases. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..