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Sheep Update

Livestock Update, June 2005

Dr. Scott P. Greiner Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

Record Lamb Prices Continue
Virginia sheep producers have enjoyed sustained record lamb prices for several months. 2004 proved to be a strong year for lamb prices, with slaughter lambs consistently $10-15 cwt. higher compared to 1999-2003 averages. Since January, 2005 prices have been $10 cwt. higher compared to a year ago with lambs consistently selling for $110 and higher per cwt. since January. These strong prices are in part due to tight supplies, as a result of low sheep numbers nationally over a period of years. Domestic demand has been rather flat over the past few years. Shortages in domestic supply have been made up by imports, which in 2004 were at historic levels. Despite record import, U.S. producers enjoyed high prices lambs in 2004 as noted earlier. Forcasters project 2005 lamb prices to be on pace with 2004, which would result in another strong market through summer and fall.

Historically, lamb prices have been rather seasonal. Since 1999, lamb prices have tended to be strongest from late spring and into summer, prior to a decline into fall and winter. Seasonal highs and lows have been less extreme in recent years. Although seasonality remains in the market, 2004 prices could be characterizes as strong throughout the year. The ethnic market continues to strongly influence local lamb prices in Virginia. The holiday of Ramadan will begin on October 4, 2005 and Eid al-Fitr will be November 4, 2005. Typically, these two holidays result in strong demand for lambs.

These principles provide producers with several options regarding marketing of the 2005 lamb crop. Management of the lamb crop will vary depending on the projected marketing date. Important considerations to project a marketing date include cost and availability of forage and feed, availability of viable marketing outlet, and management considerations. Cost of gain is determined primarily by the cost of feed inputs (forages and/or grain supplements), as well as health costs such as dewormer. Efficient utilization of abundant, high quality forage through summer and into fall has proven to be an economical way to make heavier lambs to be marketed in the fall or winter. Of critical importance is forage quality and availability, which are both influenced by weather conditions. Effective parasite and predator control programs are also critical to the success of a lamb grazing enterprise. Alternatively, feed costs are currently low and lambs can be finished to marketable weights economically in a feedlot environment. These lambs should be fed for maximal gain, and marketed in a timely fashion. With the strength of the lamb market currently, either system provides opportunities for profit.

Wool Pool Dates Set for 2005
The Virginia-North Carolina Wool Pool will be marketing wool to Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association based in Canal Winchester, Ohio. Each pool will sell wool on either a cash or grade and yield basis. Producers are encouraged to package, handle and store their wool in an appropriate manner in order to maximize the value of their wool clip. Wool should be packaged by type/grade (ewe vs. lamb wool, long staple vs. short wools, fine vs. medium wools) in plastic bags, and be clean, dry, and have foreign material (straw, mud, manure) removed prior to packaging. Following is a list of local pool delivery dates, and locations where wool will be picked up by Mid-States:

June 21 -- Williamston, NC
June 22 -- Albemarle, NC
June 22 -- Asheville, NC
June 23 -- Rockbridge Co., VA
June 28 -- Orange, VA
June 28 -- Farmville, VA
June 30 -- Sparta, NC
July 1 -- Wytheville, VA
July 7 -- Christiansburg, VA
July 12 -- Augusta Co., VA
July 20 -- Russell Co., VA
July 25 -- Tazewell, VA
July 27 -- Clarke Co., VA

To confirm the above dates, and for more information regarding specific times and locations, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office.

Virginia Ram Lamb Performance Test 2005
A total of 73 rams from 14 Virginia consignors were delivered May 3 to the Virginia Sheep Evaluation Station located at the Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Steeles Tavern, VA. Consignment numbers and breeds of rams consigned include: 34 Suffolk, 18 Dorset (both fall and winter-born), 7 Katahdin, 8 Hampshire, 2 Southdown, and 1 crossbred. The rams began the 63-day test period on May 17, which will conclude July 19. At the completion of the test, rams will be evaluated for reproductive and structural soundness. The top 60 eligible rams will sell at the station on Saturday, August 27. Complete performance information will be available on all rams, including measures of growth performance, ultrasonic estimates of carcass merit, and scrapie resistance genotypes. For information, please contact Scott Greiner, phone 540-231-9159.

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