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Marketing and Death Loss on US Sheep Operations

28 July 2014

USDA

The largest marketing component of the sheep industry is the sale of lambs.

Overall, the majority of sheep operations with 20 or more ewes (52.5 per cent) sold their lambs at auction markets or sale barns. Large operations (500 or more ewes) are the exception, according to the USDA’s Reference of Marketing and Death Loss on US Sheep Operations.

Lamb Marketing

us sheep report 2Marketing on large operations is more diverse compared with the other operation sizes.

For example, a relatively equal percentage of large operations sold lambs directly to slaughter (24.4 per cent), directly to feedlots (20.8 per cent), at auction or sale barns (29.6 per cent), or directly to buyer/dealers (29.0 per cent).

Marketing characteristics also varied by region. In the Central and East regions the majority of operations sold lambs at auction or sale barns (58.0 and 52.0 per cent, respectively), while in the West region similar percentages of operations sold lambs directly to consumers (25.1 per cent), directly to another operation (21.3 per cent), at auction or sale barn (22.5 per cent), and directly to buyer/dealers (23.2 per cent). Not surprisingly, lamb marketing also varied by flock type.

The majority of fenced-range (59.4 per cent), pasture (51.3 per cent), and dry lot/feedlot (51.8 per cent) operations sold lambs at auctions or sale barns, while similar percentages of herded/open-range operations sold lambs directly to slaughter (22.9 per cent), directly to feedlots (27.2 per cent), and directly to buyer/dealers (25.3 per cent).

Overall, 75.3 per cent of lambs were sold in the United States during 2010. Of those, 27.3 per cent were sold at auction/sale barn, 24.9 per cent were sold directly to slaughter, and 17.3 per cent were sold directly to buyer/dealers. For all operations, the majority of cull sheep sold (60.4 per cent) were sold at auction markets or sale barns.

The majority of breeding and “other” sheep (51.7 per cent) were sold directly to another operation.

The primary reason for culling rams and ewes was old age.

The average age at which rams and ewes were culled was 4.9 and 6.3 years, respectively. Rams and ewes on large operations were slightly older when culled than those on smaller operations.

Death Losses

Predator losses have a substantial economic impact on U.S. sheep operations. Overall, coyotes caused the highest percentage of predator losses (51.8 per cent), but predator predominance varies by geographic location, fl ock size, and fl ock type. For example, mountain lions, cougars, or pumas were a cause of sheep loss on 26.8 per cent of operations in the West region but on only 1.3 per cent of operations in the East region.

Dogs were a cause of sheep loss on 39.3 per cent of very small operations (fewer than 20 ewes), while only 4.1 per cent of large operations reported predation due to dogs.

Death-loss evaluations in 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009 have shown lamb death loss ranged from 9.5 to 10.8 per cent of lambs born. In 2010, lamb death loss for all operations was 11.2 per cent of lambs born. In 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009, sheep death loss ranged from 5.6 to 6.5 per cent. In 2010, sheep death loss for all operations was 5.0 per cent of adult sheep inventory on 1 January 2011.

Predator losses were highest in the Central region, where 37.9 per cent of operations lost lambs and 22.5 per cent lost sheep due to predation in 2010.

Non-predator losses accounted for 3.8 per cent of sheep lost on 47.2 per cent of all operations during 2010.

Veterinary Use

Almost one-fourth of operations (23.9 per cent) had a private veterinarian visit for any sheep-related reason during 2010. For operations that did not use a veterinarian during 2010, 68.9 per cent indicated they had no health-related problems; 5.1 per cent reported there was no veterinarian with sheep experience available; and 11.8 per cent claimed veterinarian visits were too expensive.

Sheep Shearing

Overall, 80.2 per cent of operations with 20 or more ewes sheared lambs and sheep during 2010. A hired individual was used to shear sheep on 50.9 per cent of these operations, while 29.2 per cent contracted with a shearing crew, and 26.2 per cent used employees or the sheep owner to shear.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

June 2014

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