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Stronger wool market brings positive attitude to sheep convention
13
Feb '10
The year began with stronger markets for lamb and wool which helped provide a positive attitude to industry participants at the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)/National Lamb Feeders Association Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 20-23, 2010. Cull-ewe prices are the highest seen in years, wool markets are expected to be active, pelt prices are up this winter and lamb meat export numbers are strikingly higher indicating additional interest being shown around the world for U.S. lamb products.

"Attendance again exceeded that of the previous year, as has been the case for the last eight years," comments Glen Fisher (Texas), ASI president. "We were fortunate to have in attendance 55 of the 59 voting directors on the board of directors (BOD). The sheep industry across the country was very well represented as the industry approved policy for the coming year."

In an effort to quantify the non-traditional lamb market in the United States, it became apparent that sheep inventory numbers may be larger than previously reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS). In 2008, as many as 1.2 million head of sheep were channeled outside the traditional pipeline and into ethnic markets, specialty and regional markets or were sold direct to consumers off the farm. Therefore, a portion of American lambs do not show up in the federally inspected slaughter numbers and it is also likely that many ewe flocks are not accounted for in national reports. The actual number of lambs processed in this country could be as high as 3.5 million.

Fisher summed up the report by saying, "We have more sheep in the United States than estimated in recent years. Knowing more about how many lambs are being sold in the non-traditional market and something about where they are going provides opportunities to the trade and good information to the American Lamb Board as they design promotion and merchandizing programs. It is interesting information also for primary lamb, wool and pelt companies as they adjust their plans to this increasing trend of the U.S. sheep industry."

UDSA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Edward Avalos offered uplifting comments from the department regarding support of the agencies for the sheep industry, specifically mentioning the predator control and scrapie eradication programs.
Avalos commented, "A huge percentage of lambs born each year are killed by predators and such a high level of depredation is unacceptable."

Chris Wilcox, wool and livestock economist from Australia, stressed that wool prices are inventory driven but that demand is having an effect as well. Some of the drivers of falling wool production include climatic conditions, lower wool-income returns compared with other enterprises, a shift to sheep for meat production, predators and pessimism about wool. Wilcox was encouraging, however, for the 2010 wool market. He believes there will be a moderate recovery in key economies even though high unemployment levels will still be an issue. He expects that there will be better consumer demand for natural fibers in 2010 and that the tight supply of apparel wool - with little prospect to increase the supply - will have an effect.

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