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Market outlook Recent report shows sheep market holds steady

Written by Natasha Wheeler

Buffalo – Bridger Feuz, UW Extension livestock marketing specialist, is optimistic about the market outlook for sheep.

“We have had a steady increase in consumer confidence,” he said.

Feuz was one of several speakers at the Northeast Wyoming Sheep Symposium, held Dec. 11 in Buffalo.

Economy

Feuz noted that the total U.S. population estimate continues to increase and that changes in demographics could be positive.

“We are getting more ethnic populations, and we know that the ethnic market has been a solid market for the sheep industry,” he said.

The challenge, according to Feuz, is that these populations eat less lamb after they have been in the country for some time.

“There has been some research to show that it only takes about 15 years of an immigrant living in this country for their diet to be completely changed to a more standard U.S. diet,” he stated.

Imports

Moving to imports, Feuz reported that the U.S. gets a lot of its lamb from imports, although the amount varies. He noted that the dollar is strengthening in Australia, which he considered to have a negative impact on demand.

“The good news is that Australia is at record lows in terms of production, so they don’t have a lot of supply to send to the U.S., even though they would like to, with our strengthening dollar,” he said.

Overall, he noted that consumption has held steady in the U.S., and retail prices have increased.

Supply and demand

“A level economy has led to consistent consumption and retail prices. It has helped us stabilize demand,” Feuz said.

He also noted that supply and production have been relatively stable.

“New inventory decline has slowed. Dressed weights would indicate we are current in our inventory, and lamb and mutton production are projected to slightly increase,” stated Feuz.

Discussing inputs, he noted that corn and feed barley prices are below the five-year average. Alfalfa and other hay are still above the average but not in a shortage.

“I have talked to a lot of producers who have hay left over from last year, and they are not planning on selling,” Feuz stated. “Producers are just trying to bank hay right now.”

Looking at the fundamentals, Feuz remained optimistic as he projected that next fall’s prices will be similar to those from this fall.

Support programs

Feuz also noted a number of programs that Wyoming sheep producers might find useful when managing their operations.

“The Wyoming Wool Master Program is a combination of animal production and economic topics,” he said.

Feuz recommended this day-and-a-half long program to both new and experienced producers, as it can help them to combine business management with production.

“At the Master Stockman Institute, we take producers to a location, take their car keys away and keep them there for three days, feeding them full of economics and business management,” Feuz continued.

This program, for both cattle and sheep producers, is designed to help make business decisions on the ranch, he explained.

“We give producers tools, where they can look at a business plan, doing some basic economic analysis,” he said. “Producers can take that plan to the bank and show hard facts about their own ranch and what can be done with actual costs and returns,” stated Feuz.

Lastly, he introduced the Management Transition Program, as one of the newest programs offered by UW Extension. In this course, discussions cover management skills that the current generation has already worked on and developed.”

Feuz explained that the program is designed to “translate those skills and transition them to the next generation.”

By offering these programs, UW Extension hopes to address some of the issues that are facing the sheep industry today.

Natasha Wheeler is 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..