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“Lamb is a trendy protein, and I think it’s something we are able to have value for within our industry,” said Travis Hoffman of North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

On April 25, Hoffman led a discussion for the Let’s Grow Initiative of the American Sheep Industry Association on lamb meat quality and current market trends.

General consumers

Approximately 40 percent of consumers have never eaten lamb, said Hoffman, citing a study by the American Lamb Board.

“I think we can be well aware that many probably have never tried it,” he commented. “If we had more people that tried it, we can be able to hope to have more repeat customers.”

When looking at the demographics of lamb consumers, Hoffman noted that males consume a slightly larger amount of lamb.

He continued, “Those with a greater amount of income are also more prone to consume lamb,” explaining that those consumers expect to spend 30 percent more in sales or retail for lamb products.

In general, U.S. lamb consumers prefer to purchase lamb raised in the United States.

“Not only would they prefer to buy it, over half of them are willing to pay for it,” Hoffman stressed. “There’s certainly a little bit of a price disparity in comparison to our competition, and that’s why we need to focus on our quality attributes.”

Growth

“We can certainly identify the weeks or time of the year, which is around Easter, where we can expect a spike in both dollars and pounds sold,” said Hoffman.

According to a survey, Hoffman explained that 38 percent of the households that consume lamb purchase the protein for home preparation each year.

When analyzing consumers who are purchasing lamb, there are two primary groups that increase in size and amount purchased.

“One of those groups is the millennials and those individuals who are able to make a little bit of money now and be adventurous in their purchasing options,” commented Hoffman.

He continued, “Also, we’re seeing an increase with some of those mature perfectionists, as some people have termed, who are people on the back end of their career who just want to do something a little more entertaining in what they’re consuming.”

Prices

According to Hoffman, the average price of all lamb cuts in the United States in 2016 was $6.97, and there was an increase in the amount of product sold.

“In 2016, at retail, we had an increase in lamb dollars sold of 1.5 percent and an increase in the pounds of lamb sold of approximately 3.7 percent relative to the number of pounds sold at retail,” he said.

When looking at features recorded by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Hoffman noted that the most frequently featured product was bone-in leg at $5.70 per pound.

“That was followed by racks at $10.85 per pound, loin chops at $7.82 and shoulder chops at $4.98,” he commented.

When looking at the percentage of cuts and primals sold, the largest percentage that goes to retail is loins.

He continued, “Loins are followed in popularity by leg, rack, shoulder and ground lamb.”

Restaurant trends

When looking at the top trends in the restaurant industry, Hoffman highlighted three as being important factors in how to market U.S. lamb.

“In the top six restaurant trends, I want to note natural ingredients and clean menus, environmental sustainability and locally sourced meat and seafood,” he said. “I think those three will all pertain to how lamb can fit into those restaurant trends.”

In the restaurant industry, Hoffman explained that high value cuts still dominate, but others are increasing in popularity.

“Rack of lamb is used most often, followed by the loin chop, as we would expect, but there is still some market share out there for restaurant opportunities for sausages, shank, loin and leg and shoulder,” he commented. “We’re also seeing an increase in lamb burgers.”

Ethnic marketing

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about lamb quality and a little bit on the nontraditional market,” said Hoffman. “Not only is this area continuing to grow, it’s changing the game.”

According to Hoffman, ethnic markets provide opportunities to connect with more consumers, as well as to utilize more varied cuts.

“With our ethnic marketing, we have an opportunity to meet the needs and requests from several different individuals within our American scheme of consumers,” he commented, noting that there is an increased interest in ethnic cuisines.

“When people want a bold flavor or something that’s more entertaining, they can now look through Mediterranean, Spanish, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, French or Thai restaurants,” Hoffman concluded.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, sheep milk accounts for one percent of milk that is produced globally.

During a webinar by the American Sheep Industry Association on March 14, University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Sheep Management and Genetics David Thomas led a discussion on the future of sheep milk production globally and in the U.S.

Global

Thomas explained that the top countries in the production of sheep milk cheese are primarily in the Mediterranean basin, including Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey and Portugal.

“Italy, far and away, is the biggest country in the world as far as production of sheep milk cheese for export, followed way behind by France and then Bulgaria. Way behind them is Greece, Spain and Romania,” said Thomas.

He noted that commercial milk sheep production has been occurring in these countries for centuries, and many popular cheeses are actually produced from sheep milk

“Many of us may recognize the names of some of these cheeses but may not realize that they are made from sheep’s milk,” commented Thomas.

One of the most famous sheep milk cheeses in the world is Roquefort, which is made in the Roquefort area of southern France.

“It’s 100 percent sheep milk cheese made from the milk from Lacaune sheep that are raised in that particular area,” he said.

Another common cheese is Pecorino-Romano, which is a hard cheese that is produced in Italy.

“We may oftentimes be eating it on our pizza when we think that it’s Parmesan. It’s imported in very large quantities into the U.S.,” said Thomas.

Manchego cheese from Spain is another iconic sheep milk cheese that can be found in the cheese case at a regular grocery store.

“It’s denoted by this waxy case that has a basket-weave appearance to it,” he commented.

U.S. production

Historically, North America started out in the wool industry before moving toward meat production.

“There’s no real history of dairy sheep production here,” explained Thomas.

The first commercial dairy sheep farms were established in the mid- to late-1980s and was done using the domestic sheep breeds that were in the area at that time.

“It was like starting the dairy industry with Herefords and Angus. We didn’t have the Holsteins of the sheep breeds,” said Thomas.

The last census by the North American Dairy Sheep Association found that there were 167 farms in North America that were milking sheep, but he noted that the numbers were considerably outdated.

“The North American Dairy Sheep Association is planning on redoing this census to get more up-to-date figures,” continued Thomas. “My guess is that we might have anywhere from 250 to 275 farms now.”

Throughout North America, he explained that there were higher concentrations of farms in 2010 in southern Ontario and Quebec, and Wisconsin led the U.S. for most production farms.

“We have about 19 licensed sheep dairies in Wisconsin,” he commented. “Then New York and New England follow, with sheep dairies spread throughout the rest of the U.S.”

Comparison

When comparing milk composition of goats and cattle, Thomas noted that there are many similarities.

“It has about the same percent protein. It has about the same percent fat and has about the same percent total solids,” he said.

However, sheep milk is vastly different, having higher protein, fat and higher total solids.

These differences make sheep milk much more efficient for making cheese, he explained.

“Whereas it takes nine pounds of goat’s milk or cow’s milk to make a pound of cheese, it takes about five pounds of sheep’s milk to make a pound of cheese,” continued Thomas. “Sheep’s milk has almost twice the yield of cheese compared with either cow or goat.”

Opportunity

“If we assume now that rather than 100 farms, there’s 125 farms milking sheep in the U.S., if they’re averaging 150 ewes per farm and if they produce 500 pounds of milk in a lactation, we might be producing something under 10 million pounds of sheep milk in the U.S.,” said Thomas.

That would equate to approximately 2 million pounds of sheep milk cheese produced in the U.S. each year.

“Remember, we’re importing 53 to 73 million pounds, and we’re only producing maybe 2 million pounds,” he continued. “There’s 28 to 38 times as much sheep milk cheese imported as what’s produced here.”

While there may be tremendous opportunity for expansion of domestic production, Thomas cautioned producers to count the cost and consider potential negatives to production including lack of milk processors.

“Nothing is as simple as it might seem or maybe it isn’t quite as good as it might seem,” Thomas concluded.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Billings, Mont. – With a full schedule for their three-day meeting, the Montana Wool Growers Association (MWGA) convened the 133rd Annual MWGA Convention on Dec. 1 with a presentation by Bridger Feuz, University of Wyoming Extension livestock marketing specialist, who looked at the state of sheep markets across the West.

Beginning with the economy, Feuz said, “An economist is someone who will know tomorrow why the things predicted yesterday didn’t happen, but I’m going to provide a lot of data so sheep producers can make up their own minds in terms of where they think the market is headed.”

Economic trends

Feuz noted that, since the recession of 2009 and the subsequent four consecutive quarters of a declining economy, the U.S. has not seen either impressive recovery or remarkable continued decline.

“It’s been a stable, steady economy over the last several years, but nothing to really get excited about,” he said.

Looking at consumer trends, Feuz also noted that there is general unease from U.S. consumers on the economy.

“There’s not a lot of consumer confidence,” he continued, “but we’ve had some relatively stable times.”

However, the growing consumer base is a positive signal in terms of red meat production.

Demographics

For the sheep industry in particular, changing demographics in the consumer sphere are relevant to production and potential sales.

“Changing demographics can’t hurt us as more ethnic groups that consume lamb come into the U.S.,” Feuz said. “That’s a good thing, but I think as an industry, sheep producers can’t rest on their laurels with those groups.”

He continued, “It takes heavy marketing and targeting to effectively sell to those groups, and research shows it doesn’t take very long to assimilate to a U.S. diet.”

Ethnic groups can’t be counted as “free consumers,” he added, also noting that, as generations change, continued marketing is necessary.

Global economy

Looking to the markets of the future, Feuz noted that the exchange rate is an ever-changing factor to consider.

“When we look at the U.S. dollar against the Australian dollar, things were good in 2011-13,” he explained. “The dollar was weak. We couldn’t buy a lot of Australian and New Zealand lamb.”

At the same time, other factors meant that Australia didn’t have a lot of lamb to sell.

However, as the U.S. dollar strengthened, the U.S. was able to purchase more lamb at cheaper prices, and lamb imports have increased.

“The other issue is timing,” Feuz said. “Australia is finally coming out of drought and starting to build their herd. As the dollar strengthens, that’s an issue for us.”

The increase of the dollar has begun to taper off, which is positive, but Feuz noted that it remains to be seen whether it is a true trend or simply a minor break.

Demand

Feuz explained that consumption is defined as demand multiplied by price, or how much people want to eat combined with how much they are willing to pay.

“In 2016, we have done really well in terms of per capita consumption, which is pretty unusual for red meat,” he said. “If we look at the beef industry over the same period of time, they’ve been on a fairly continual downward slope.”

Feuz continued, “That is good news for the lamb industry.”

Looking forward, Feuz also noted that the Livestock Marketing Information Center projects that sheep producers will see these gains maintained.

“It’s a good story for lamb,” he said. “People are currently eating a little bit more lamb per capita each year.”

At the same time, he noted that consumers are also willing to pay more in terms of retail price.

“It’s always good news when we can raise the price and raise consumption,” Feuz noted. “2016 was really strong in terms of consumption and price, so that is one of the reasons for really good price support in terms of the industry.”

Looking forward

Feuz summarized, “This level economy has lead to consistency in terms of stable retail prices and demand.”

“Changing demographics also help, but we need to be aware that locally produced products aren’t captured in data,” he continued. “There’s not a lot of hard data we can look at in terms of changing consumer patterns. I would say anecdotally that there’s a growing market from ethnic groups and millenials, but there isn’t a lot of data to support that.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – Seamstresses from around the state gathered to compete in the Wyoming Make It With Wool (MIWW) competition that was held on Dec. 4-5. State contestants presented a fashion show at the opening luncheon of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup.

“MIWW is an annual youth-centered sewing competition to promote the beauty and versatility of wool fabrics, yarns and fibers,” says the National MIWW website.

Contest

Contestants in the MIWW competition must construct, knit or crochet their own outfits out of fabric or yarn that is at least 60 percent wool. They then model their outfits for the audience.

Entries are judged on multiple factors including quality of construction, creativity and suitability of style and fit for the contestant.

Participants first compete in district competitions held throughout Wyoming during October and November.

Over 60 contestants participated in the district contests this year. Wyoming has the largest number of contestants in the United States due to the district contests that are held.

All contestants at the state contest received 2.5-yard lengths of Pendleton wool fabric, donated by the Wyoming Wool Growers Auxiliary.

In addition to the contest, state competitors also participated in an educational workshop on the sheep and wool industry during the event that was taught by Wyoming MIWW Coordinator Lynda Johnson.

Lynda noted that the event was, “a very enjoyable time. We not only go through the contest, but we have a workshop, we also tie a quilt together and have some good activity time together.”

Junior contest

Five young ladies aged 13-16 participated in the Junior Division of the MIWW competition.

First place in the Junior Division went to Ashlynn Johnson of Encampment, who modeled a four-piece ensemble including a teal, green and brown bouclé wool coat, teal asymmetrical-style jacket, ivory shell top and tailored brown slacks.

Ashlynn also received the Outstanding Construction award for the Junior Division and the People’s Choice award for the entire contest.

Grace Belize Anderson of Devils Tower earned second place in the Junior Division with her pink dress and pink and purple plaid jacket.

Adult division

The Adult Division boasted eight contestants at the state competition.

First place in the Adult Division went to Estella Munroe of Encampment. Munroe modeled a brown and black cashmere coat and a tailored brown wool and silk dress. She also received the Outstanding Construction award for the Adult Division.

Second place in the Adult Division was awarded to Cheyenne resident Cindy Todd, who modeled an ivory Chanel-style jacket and a gored skirt she designed to compliment the jacket.

Michelle Elser of Casper received the Creativity Award for her hand-crocheted dress with an owl design that revealed a cream colored underdress.

New this year, a “Judge's Award” was given to Patty Swanson of Lingle, who has been a contestant in the wool contest for over 30 years. In her bio, the MIWW contest veteran commented that she wasn’t sure if she should continue to compete in the MIWW contest due to her age, to which fashion show emcee Lynda Johnson and the audience enthusiastically said, “Yes.”

Other contests

Other divisions that were available at the district level but did not have representation at the state contest include the Pre-Teen Division, Senior Division, Made for Others and Wearable Accessories.

In addition to the main contest, participants from around the state entered their designs into state contests for quilt and wall hangings, afghans and a knitted or crocheted apparel competition.

Barbara Lahr received top honors in the wall hanging division. Deb Matlock was the award winner in the afghan division and Lynda Johnson won in the knitted apparel contest.

Opportunities

Ashlynn will represent Wyoming in the Junior Division at the national MIWW contest on Jan. 26-28 in Denver, Colo.

As the Adult Division winner, Munroe will send her outfit, photos and a video of herself modeling the outfit to a national judging committee. The national winner is then selected and the winner is invited to attend the National Convention in Denver, Colo.

For further information regarding the MIWW competition in Wyoming, please contact Lynda Johnson, State Director, at 307-399-6723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Because of anthelmintic resistance and increased interest from a lot of producers in alternative dewormers, researchers came together and said, ‘Let’s see if we can repeat these results in controlled experiments,’” said Virginia State University Cooperative Extension Small Ruminant Specialist Dahlia O’Brien.

In a presentation for sheep and goat producers through Maryland Extension, O’Brien discussed the current status of alternative deworming product research, as well as practical management strategies for reducing a flock’s susceptibility to internal parasites.

Mixed results

According to O’Brien, a flood of personal testimonies on the efficacy of various alternative products for deworming has been available in recent years, but very little conclusive research has been done.

“A lot of the information we have on herbal dewormers is anecdotal or hearsay, and there has been limited research to provide verification,” said O’Brien. “Even when producers can find research that supports the anthelmintic properties of individual herbs and natural plant products, the products are inconsistent.”

She illustrated this point by referencing a variety of studies on the use of garlic, papaya, pumpkin seeds and other herbal dewormers that all had conflicting results on the products efficacy in reducing fecal egg counts.

“I came across an article where sheep were inoculated with the Barber pole worm and then treated with papaya where fecal egg counts were reduced by 98 percent,” said O’Brien. “However, in control experiments conducted in Arkansas and Maryland, there was no effect from garlic or papaya on fecal egg counts.”

She commented that, because of the mixed results, she could not make a confident statement whether herbal products have any effect on fecal egg counts.

“What I will say is that herbal dewormers should always be combined with other integrated parasite management techniques,” said O’Brien. “It is important to know the status of drug resistance on our farm, so these techniques can be used in conjunction with an effective chemical dewormer.”

Copper use

Considerable research has been done on the use of copper oxide wire particles (COWP), which is commonly used to treat copper deficiency in sheep and goats, in parasite control programs.

“There’s overwhelming evidence that it reduces fecal egg counts in both sheep and goats,” said O’Brien.

She did caution that sheep are particularly sensitive to copper and can easily be intoxicated.

“Their margin of safety between required amount of copper and toxic level is extremely narrow, so we should be cautious when using any kind of copper product in our herd or flock,” she explained. “It’s best to know the copper status on our farm before we start using copper products.”

In multiple studies looking at using COWP to reduce fecal egg counts, researchers have found that it is effective against the Barber pole worm. It is suspected that the product changes the environment in the abomasum and causes physical damage to the larvae.

“COWP been tested in both sheep and goats, and it’s been tested in multiple locations. It’s been tested in young animals versus old animals and has been found to be effective in reducing fecal egg counts. Therefore, we can be more confident in recommending that COWP be included in an integrated parasite control program, specifically to control H. contortus,” asserted O’Brien.

Tannin feeding

Feeding animals plants containing concentrated tannins, such as sericea lespedeza and chicory, is another alternative option that researchers have found promising for use in parasite control programs.

In studies that looked at grazing or feeding hay to animals made from concentrated tannin plant species, O’Brien noted that there was considerable impacts on Barber pole worms and protozoan parasites.

“Feeding fresh, dried or preserved forms of sericea lespedeza has been shown to have some level of anti-parasitic activity against H. contortus,” she said. “Research has also shown that it is effective against protozoan parasites that cause coccidiosis in sheep and goats.”

Forage chicory is another species that has been evaluated and found effective in reducing fecal egg counts. However, producers should use discretion when feeding concentrated tannins, as extended feeding may result in adverse effects on the animal’s nutrition.

“Plants that contain condensed tannins appear to be very good choices in integrating in a parasite control system, but extended feeding can cause problems with trace mineral absorption,” commented O’Brien.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..