Livestock Update, March 1997
Steve Umberger, Animal and Poultry Sciences
1997 Virginia Lamb Market Makes Strong Start. From January 1 through the middle of February, Virginia slaughter lambs averaged $1.05/lb. The first two weeks of February saw old-crop slaughter lamb prices ranging from $1.10 to $1.20/lb. Slaughter lamb prices for January and February of last year ranged from $0.84 to $0.97/lb. To date, lamb slaughter numbers are down nationally approximately 18 percent for the same period last year. New crop and feeder lambs are selling considerably above anything in the past. Already, new crop lambs, some not even born yet, have been contracted in the west for late summer and fall delivery. Mixed fat and feeder lambs in Idaho weighing 110 to 140 pounds were contracted for July and August delivery at $1.00 per pound and for September delivery at $0.95 per pound. Historically, March and April are the best months of the year to sell cull ewes. This year should be no exception. Look for cull ewes to bring in excess of $0.40 per pound.
Make Wool Consignments By March 15. Wool pool consignments are due at Virginia Cooperative Extension Offices by no later than March 15. To consign to the wool sale, producers simply indicate the number of ewes they sheared or plan to shear this spring. The date for the Virginia-North Carolina Wool Sale has been set for Thursday, May 8. To date, wool sales have been light. Consequently, it is difficult to get a handle on where prices might be this spring compared to last year. Based on the small amount of wool sold last fall and so far this year, it is highly unlikely that Virginia sheep producers will experience much of a change in wool prices from last year. The average weighted price paid for wool sold through the 1996 VA-NC Wool Sale was $0.48 per pound with a range of $0.41 to $0.52 per pound. On average, Virginia commercial ewes produce approximately 6.5 pounds of wool per head per year.
USDA Indicates Another Decline In National Sheep Inventory. Total sheep and lamb inventory in the U.S. on January 1, 1997, totaled 7.94 million head, down 6 percent from 1996 and 11 percent below two years ago. Inventory has slowly declined since 1942 when all sheep and lambs reached its peak of 56.21 million head. Ewes one year old and older were at 4.84 million head, 6 percent below last year's record low. In Virginia, total sheep and lamb inventory went from 84,000 to 80,000 head, a decline of 5 percent. Total breeding sheep declined by just 3 percent, and Virginia sheep producers retained 1,000 more replacement ewe lambs in 1996 than 1995. At 130 percent, Virginia ranks sixth in the nation for the number of lambs born per ewe lambing. That compares to a national average lambing percentage of 103 percent.
American Sheep Industry Association Initiates Reorganization. The elimination of the National Wool Act by Congress in 1993 coupled with the failure of the National Sheep Industry Referendum conducted last October has left the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) with only a meager source of funds for continued operation. At its national meeting held in January, the American Sheep Industry Association Board of Directors approved a drastically reduced budget that will carry the Association through to the end of 1999. The new proposal targets industry issues and maintains visibility through communications, market information, trade communications, and baseline promotions. The directors also moved to continue the industry's legislative work, which is funded through state affiliate dues and contributions to ASI. The projected budget for the next 31-months is $5.2 million. An 11-member staff will administer the program.