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Sheep and lamb outlook

Area sheep producers are knocking at the door of garnering $2 per pound for finished lambs. According to USDA’s Weekly National Lamb Market Summary on March 18, shorn South Dakota lambs weighing 130 pounds (lbs.) traded at $195 per hundredweight (cwt.), while their wooled counterparts weighing between 140-170 lbs. traded $177-$199/cwt.

“Right now we have historically high prices – wool prices as high as they’ve been in almost 25 years,” explained Jeff Held, South Dakota State University cooperative extension sheep specialist. Producers in the Belle Fourche, SD-area are expecting $3/lb. for their wool grease basis. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in the sheep industry that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

“What’s driving these record-high prices?” Held asked attendees at the March 17 Regional Sheep Producer Forum in Brookings, SD. He quickly pointed out supply, but noted there are many factors that play-in to sheep and lamb prices.



Looking at the past year 2010-11 live lamb and cull ewe values, Held reflected on what the market did: record high feeder lambs ($1.20-$2.60/lb.); record high finished lambs ($1.25-$1.90/lb. live weight; $2.02-$3.25 carcass weight); record high cull ewe prices ($40-$90/cwt.); and high wool prices (62s and finer – $1.25-$2.25 grease basis).

Held thought he’d surely see the markets shift with holidays in 2010 – from the Fourth of July onward. When that didn’t happen, he thought perhaps ownership change at Iowa Lamb Corporation becoming part of Superior Farms would impact the market. “But no, it went higher,” he said in awe.



One of the major reasons driving demand for lamb is the growth of non-traditional lamb consumers. “Our industry is changing dramatically because we have a new audience in the U.S. that consumes lamb and mutton on a weekly basis,” Held said. “According to U.S. estimates, by 2042 those with European decent will fall to less than 50 percent of the U.S. population.”

Hispanic and Middle Eastern people are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population – with regular lamb, mutton and goat consumption. According to a 2008 industry study on the impact of the non-traditional consumer, approximately one-third of the U.S. lamb crop has moved outside the traditional industry infrastructure to feed this non-traditional lamb market.

“Record high cull ewe value is the real indicator,” Held said, in regard to the demand shift. He went on to explain that historically cull ewes had relatively low value due to the inherent inefficiencies necessary to move them into Mexico. “When cull prices hit $80 per hundredweight last year, it became clear that changes in the movement of cull ewes was in play with more being consumed in the U.S.,” he noted. “Cull ewe value is perhaps the most intriguing component for current sheep value discussions,” Held said.

Area sheep producers are knocking at the door of garnering $2 per pound for finished lambs. According to USDA’s Weekly National Lamb Market Summary on March 18, shorn South Dakota lambs weighing 130 pounds (lbs.) traded at $195 per hundredweight (cwt.), while their wooled counterparts weighing between 140-170 lbs. traded $177-$199/cwt.

“Right now we have historically high prices – wool prices as high as they’ve been in almost 25 years,” explained Jeff Held, South Dakota State University cooperative extension sheep specialist. Producers in the Belle Fourche, SD-area are expecting $3/lb. for their wool grease basis. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in the sheep industry that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

“What’s driving these record-high prices?” Held asked attendees at the March 17 Regional Sheep Producer Forum in Brookings, SD. He quickly pointed out supply, but noted there are many factors that play-in to sheep and lamb prices.

Looking at the past year 2010-11 live lamb and cull ewe values, Held reflected on what the market did: record high feeder lambs ($1.20-$2.60/lb.); record high finished lambs ($1.25-$1.90/lb. live weight; $2.02-$3.25 carcass weight); record high cull ewe prices ($40-$90/cwt.); and high wool prices (62s and finer – $1.25-$2.25 grease basis).

Held thought he’d surely see the markets shift with holidays in 2010 – from the Fourth of July onward. When that didn’t happen, he thought perhaps ownership change at Iowa Lamb Corporation becoming part of Superior Farms would impact the market. “But no, it went higher,” he said in awe.

One of the major reasons driving demand for lamb is the growth of non-traditional lamb consumers. “Our industry is changing dramatically because we have a new audience in the U.S. that consumes lamb and mutton on a weekly basis,” Held said. “According to U.S. estimates, by 2042 those with European decent will fall to less than 50 percent of the U.S. population.”

Hispanic and Middle Eastern people are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population – with regular lamb, mutton and goat consumption. According to a 2008 industry study on the impact of the non-traditional consumer, approximately one-third of the U.S. lamb crop has moved outside the traditional industry infrastructure to feed this non-traditional lamb market.

“Record high cull ewe value is the real indicator,” Held said, in regard to the demand shift. He went on to explain that historically cull ewes had relatively low value due to the inherent inefficiencies necessary to move them into Mexico. “When cull prices hit $80 per hundredweight last year, it became clear that changes in the movement of cull ewes was in play with more being consumed in the U.S.,” he noted. “Cull ewe value is perhaps the most intriguing component for current sheep value discussions,” Held said.

Area sheep producers are knocking at the door of garnering $2 per pound for finished lambs. According to USDA’s Weekly National Lamb Market Summary on March 18, shorn South Dakota lambs weighing 130 pounds (lbs.) traded at $195 per hundredweight (cwt.), while their wooled counterparts weighing between 140-170 lbs. traded $177-$199/cwt.

“Right now we have historically high prices – wool prices as high as they’ve been in almost 25 years,” explained Jeff Held, South Dakota State University cooperative extension sheep specialist. Producers in the Belle Fourche, SD-area are expecting $3/lb. for their wool grease basis. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in the sheep industry that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

“What’s driving these record-high prices?” Held asked attendees at the March 17 Regional Sheep Producer Forum in Brookings, SD. He quickly pointed out supply, but noted there are many factors that play-in to sheep and lamb prices.

Looking at the past year 2010-11 live lamb and cull ewe values, Held reflected on what the market did: record high feeder lambs ($1.20-$2.60/lb.); record high finished lambs ($1.25-$1.90/lb. live weight; $2.02-$3.25 carcass weight); record high cull ewe prices ($40-$90/cwt.); and high wool prices (62s and finer – $1.25-$2.25 grease basis).

Held thought he’d surely see the markets shift with holidays in 2010 – from the Fourth of July onward. When that didn’t happen, he thought perhaps ownership change at Iowa Lamb Corporation becoming part of Superior Farms would impact the market. “But no, it went higher,” he said in awe.

One of the major reasons driving demand for lamb is the growth of non-traditional lamb consumers. “Our industry is changing dramatically because we have a new audience in the U.S. that consumes lamb and mutton on a weekly basis,” Held said. “According to U.S. estimates, by 2042 those with European decent will fall to less than 50 percent of the U.S. population.”

Hispanic and Middle Eastern people are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population – with regular lamb, mutton and goat consumption. According to a 2008 industry study on the impact of the non-traditional consumer, approximately one-third of the U.S. lamb crop has moved outside the traditional industry infrastructure to feed this non-traditional lamb market.

“Record high cull ewe value is the real indicator,” Held said, in regard to the demand shift. He went on to explain that historically cull ewes had relatively low value due to the inherent inefficiencies necessary to move them into Mexico. “When cull prices hit $80 per hundredweight last year, it became clear that changes in the movement of cull ewes was in play with more being consumed in the U.S.,” he noted. “Cull ewe value is perhaps the most intriguing component for current sheep value discussions,” Held said.


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