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August Sheep Update

Livestock Update, August 1996

Steve Umberger, Animal & Poultry Sciences


Lambs produced from spring-lambing programs are marketed as feeder or slaughter lambs. In general, the production of feeder lambs does not generate as much income as the production of slaughter lambs. However, when managed properly, feeder lamb production still returns a consistent year to year profit for producers. That will certainly be the case for 1996 with feeder lamb prices expected to be over $.75 per pound for the remainder of the year. Feeder lamb production works especially well for new producers. After lambing, the only major management input that remains until marketing is the control of internal parasites. With feeder lamb production, profitability is highly dependent upon the percentage of lamb crop marketed. A goal of marketing 150 percent lamb crop (1.5 lambs per ewe) is not unrealistic and assures a break-even price for producers of approximately $.42/lb. On the other hand, heavier lambs at the time of marketing compensate for a lower percentage lamb crop marketed and contribute to higher levels of profitability. Another factor to consider when marketing spring-born lambs is the historically low lamb market in September and October of each year. If possible, producers should avoid marketing lambs during this period. Leaving lambs on fall pasture, grazing aftermath hay fields, or supplementing grain on pasture during the fall are all strategies that can be used to delay the time of marketing. After all available forage resources are depleted, lambs can be placed in a feedlot to be fed to heavier weights using a whole-grain feeding program.


An extremely stronglamb market continues to contribute to record profits for sheep producers throughout the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Slaughter rates are running about 15 percent less than a year ago, and for the year to date are down 10 percent. In many cases, lambs are being held longer than normal to be marketed at heavier weights. Heavier lambs are bringing higher prices than light lambs, a trend that will likely continue through October. At present, stock ewes are still being liquidated in Texas, with no noticeable break in their three-year drought. Virginia sheep producers can take advantage of the positive outlook for sheep production by expanding their flock size through the retention of high quality replacement ewe lambs this fall. Assuming a very conservative drop of $.20 per pound in the lamb market over the next five years, replacement ewes placed back into the flock should yield a 100 percent return on investment when amortized over a five year period at 11 percent interest.


USDAhas set Tuesday, October1 as the date for the second vote on the National Sheep Checkoff Referendum. The results of the first Referendum were invalidated by USDA after a review of voting procedures that confirmed the referendum rules were applied differently and inconsistently by the official polling places. Voters in the second referendum may vote in person or request absentee ballots at their County Cooperative Extension Office. All producers, feeders and importers who certify they were engaged in the production, feeding or importation of sheep or sheep products in 1994 are eligible to vote. Absentee ballots must be requested from the Extension Office serving the county of voter residence for individuals, or the county where the business headquarters is located for corporations. Absentee ballots may be requested in person or by mail between August 26 and September 17. They must be returned to the Extension Office by the close of business on September 27.

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