Livestock Update, March 2002
Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech
2002 Virginia Ram Lamb Performance Test
Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2002 VA Ram Lamb Performance Test to be conducted at the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station located at the Shenandoah Valley Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Steeles Tavern. The test is open to sheep breeders in Virginia, and both purebred and crossbred rams may be tested. Rams will be delivered to the test station in early May, and after a two week adjustment period, will be placed on gain test for 63 days. In addition to measurement of growth performance, rams will be evaluated for carcass traits with ultrasound during the test, and DNA genotyping will be conducted for spider syndrome and scrapie resistance. Eligible rams will sell on August 24. In 2001, 51 rams sold for an average of $380. Rams born September 1, 2001 to February 28, 2002 are eligible. For rules and regulations, as well as entry forms contact Scott Greiner at 540-231-9159.
Virginia Sheep Numbers Remain Steady
Virginia's total breeding sheep numbers have remained relatively steady the past year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) semiannual sheep and goat report released February 1. Inventory numbers of breeding ewes one year old and older in the state remained steady at 37,000 head from January 1, 2001 to January 1, 2002. Modest increases in ram and replacement lamb retentions resulted in a slight increase in Virginia's total breeding flock since January 2001, with a current total of 47,000 head. On a national basis, total breeding sheep and lambs were down 1%, with a 3% decline in mature ewe numbers and a 9% gain in replacement lambs under one year of age. The U.S. flock currently consists of 3.98 million head of ewes one year old and older.
Total sheep numbers in Virginia totaled 59,000 head, down 3% from a year ago. This loss was a result of market sheep and lambs being down 3,000 head from year-ago totals. United States total sheep and lamb inventory on Jan. 1, 2002, totaled 6.69 million head, down four percent from 2001, and five percent from two years ago. The U.S. sheep inventory peaked at 56.2 million total head in 1942.
Virginia's lamb crop for 2001 stood at 135 lambs born per 100 ewes one year old and older. This compares to a national average of 110 lambs per 100 ewes one year old and older.
With an estimated 1,400 operations with sheep in Virginia, average flock size in the state is approximately 26 ewes one year old and older per operation. Counties in Virginia with largest total numbers of sheep include: 1) Augusta, 2) Rockingham and Highland (tie), 4) Shenandoah, 5) Montgomery, 6) Tazewell, 7) Wythe, and 8) Pulaski.
Total sheep shorn in Virginia was estimated at 43,000 head for 2001, with an average fleece weight of 6.5 pounds. This compares to an average fleece weight of 7.6 pounds on a national basis. Virginia wools received an average of $.20 per pound in 2001, compared to $.24 per pound in 2000. National averages for wool prices were $.33 in 2000 and $.36 in 2001.