U.S. sheep population down


WASHINGTON – The USDA’s Sheep Report, released July 20, indicated that there were 8.3 million head of sheep and lambs in the United States on July 1. That was a 2 percent decline from the July 1, 2000, report.

The biggest year-to-year decline came in breeding sheep numbers, suggesting the U.S. sheep industry will not expand within the next year.

The breeding sheep number fell 130,000 head – or 2.5 percent – below a year ago to 4.9 million head. The number of 1-year-old and older ewes declined 2 percent while the number of breeding rams declined 5 percent.

The total number of replacement lambs available July 1 was estimated at 640,000 head, 70,000 head below a year ago.

The USDA estimated there were 3.4 million head of sheep and lambs in the United States on July 1 – 70,000 fewer than in 2000.

Could strengthen lamb prices. The U.S. lamb crop in 2001 was projected at 4.4 million head, 4 to 5 percent below that of 2000. Combining the lower lamb crop with the lower market lamb numbers suggests that lambs available for slaughter will be below year-earlier levels in the fourth quarter of 2001 through the first half of 2002.

Although this should be supportive of live lamb prices, factors such as lamb quality and the amount of lamb from other sources may play a bigger role, according to the American Sheep Institute.


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