ASI Survey Results
Series 1: Profile of the Average Sheep Producer in each ASI Region
By AMY TRINIDAD
Sheep Industry News Editor
(April 1, 2010) In an effort to get a better understanding of today’s sheep producers, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) administered a survey this past winter…and the results are in. One of the key reasons for the survey was to assist the Re-build the Sheep Inventory Committee in its ongoing national effort to strengthen U.S. sheep production. The information will be published in a series of articles in the Sheep Industry News, the first profiling the average sheep producer in each of the eight different ASI regions.
Following are some summary data:
1. The structure of the sheep industry at the producer level has changed. The portion of producers with one to 100 head of sheep has increased from 20 years ago. According to a survey conducted by ASI in 1989, this sector comprised 59 percent of the industry, today, it is 64 percent of the industry. And the next largest sector, at 24 percent, is the 101 to 500 head.
2. Nearly 60 percent of the survey respondents are 51 years and older, similar to 20 years ago.
3. Sixty-four percent of the producers reported being commercial producers, 22 percent are seedstock, 10 percent are club lamb producers, 4 percent are lamb feeders and 0.4 percent are dairies.
4. Fifty-three percent of producers’ total agriculture operation revenue is from sheep.
5. A majority – 75 percent – of the sheep operations have family members working as part of the operation; however, 65 percent of the producers surveyed reported family member do not plan to take over the sheep operation when the older generation retires.
6. Regarding lambing, the typical percent of lambs born per ewe exposed averages 159 percent, the typical percentage of lambs weaned per ewe exposed is 146 percent and the average weight per lamb weaned is 69 pounds.
7. Of those producers who sell slaughter lambs, 54 percent report they sell them at livestock auctions, 43 percent sell lambs live to consumers and 29 percent sell meat to consumers.
8. As for wool sales, 35 percent sell their wool direct to a buyer, 29 percent sell to a woolpool and 25 percent sell through a warehouse. Among the other responses for how producers sell their wool, 28 percent reported they do not have wool to sell.
9. The average annual ewe replacement rate is 18 percent nationally.
10. More producers are utilizing the services of a veterinarian for the sheep operation. In 1989, that portion of the industry was 30 percent, today, it is 72 percent.
11. More than 70 breeds and crosses were identified in the survey. Meat breeds are the most popular but hair sheep ranked number nine and 10 in the top 10 breeds. The top 10 breeds are Suffolk, Rambouillet, Dorset, Targhee, Polypay, Suffolk crosses, Hampshire, Columbia, Katahdin and Dorper.Region VIII – Calif., Ore. and Wash.
Of all of the respondents of the survey, 13 percent are from this region with 65 percent of the producers raising a flock of sheep less than 100 head, 23 percent with a flock between 100 and 500 and 8 percent raising a flock between 1,000 and 5,000 head. Sixty percent the sheep producers are between the ages of 51 and 70 and another 17 percent between the ages of 41 and 50. In this region, 74 percent of the producers have family members as part of the sheep operation; however, only 32 percent say family members plan to take over the sheep operation when they retire. Sixty-six percent of the producers in this region consider themselves to be commercial sheep producers, another 18 percent are seedstock producers and 12 percent are club lamb producers. Producers in this region say they get 52 percent of their total agriculture operation revenue from sheep. Regarding lambing, producers in this region average 154 percent of lambs born per ewe exposed and wean 146 percent of their lambs per ewe exposed. The average weaning weight is 82 pounds. Half of the producers say they place their own lambs on feed before slaughter. Of those who sell slaughter lambs, 24 percent sell them live to a consumer, 21 percent sell meat to a consumer and 18 percent sell lambs at a livestock auction. Of those who sell wool, 37 percent of these producers sell it directly to a buyer and another 34 percent sell it through a woolpool. Their average annual ewe replacement rate is 14 percent, the lowest percentage rate of all the regions, and 68 percent use a veterinarian for their sheep operation.
The journal Rangeland Ecology and Management has published a special issue entitled Global Grazing Lands and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes. This issue includes contributions from an international group of rangeland ecologists, economists and social scientists, providing a scientific basis for a quantitative understanding of the role of grazing lands in greenhouse gas fluxes. Several papers synthesize the existing literature and present new information to advance the knowledge on the role of grazing lands in carbon-credit markets, as well as promoting guidelines to use these credits for rangeland conservation and poverty alleviation projects. To access abstracts or purchase publication click here.
Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) and barbed goatgrass (Aegilops triuncialis) are noxious annual weeds that rapidly invade grassland, savannah and woodland ecosystems of the western US. Both are found extensively in Mendocino and Lake Counties with Medusahead being the most prevalent. While livestock will eat the early vegetative stages of both these grasses they are not as palatable as other grasses. Once awns are formed very little consumption takes place and these awns help spread the seed through attachment to the grazing livestock and wildlife. Herbicidal control is difficult as most herbicides that attack these pests will also kill the desirable species and is probably not economical. Both of these weeds tend to spread and block out more desirable forages and actually devalue the carrying capacity of the range.
Researchers Jimin Zhang, Tag Demment, Craig Schriefer, Corey Cherr and Emilio Laca at UC Davis sought to develop effective and economical strategies for controlling Medusahead and barbed goatgrass that would not damage more desirable species. In their work they applied precision mechanical defoliation at three intensities (3, 6, and 9 cm stubble height), and nine times (April 15, 19, 25, 28, and May 1, 4, 8, 12,16, 2007) before Medusahead and barbed goatgrass seeds had reached maturity.As a result of these mowing treatments plants did exhibited some regrowth, but Medusahead seed production was practically eliminated by mechanical defoliation to 3 and 6 cm height during the R4 and R5 growth stages. These growth stages are when the awns and anthers, respectively, become visible. Mechanical defoliation at the same ranges of height and growth stage also reduced barbed goatgrass seed production by 95 % or more. Where geography permits, the use of temporally precise mowing is an effective tool to control these rangeland weeds.
The United Nations (UN) has admitted a report linking livestock to global warming exaggerated the impact of eating meat on climate change. A 2006 study, Livestock's Long Shadow, claimed meat production was responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions - more than the transport sector.
In Clearing the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change, principle investigator Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., associate professor and cooperative extension specialist in air quality from the University of California at Davis, said meat and milk production generates less greenhouse gas than most environmentalists claim and that the emissions figures were calculated differently for the meat sector than they were for the transport figures, resulting in an "apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue."
The meat figure had been reached by adding all greenhouse gas emissions associated with meat production, including fertilizer production, land clearance, methane emissions and vehicle use on farms, whereas the transport figure had only included the burning of fossil fuels.
Attempts to apply these global numbers to the United States are misleading because the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions attributed to livestock production result from deforestation and converting rain forests and other lands to grow crops or pasture. Such changes do not occur in the United States, which has seen an increase in the total acreage of forested land over the last several decades even while total agricultural production has increased.
In 2007, only 2.8 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions came from animal agriculture, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This number has remained nearly constant since 1990, which is impressive considering the U.S. increases in meat production of almost 50 percent over the same time period.
"The fact that greenhouse emissions have remained nearly constant while industry production has increased shows that U.S. livestock and meat producers have taken responsible steps to protect the environment, such as improving feed efficiency, implementing better manure management strategies and using cropland more effectively," said J. Patrick Boyle, American Meat Institute president and chief executive officer. "We've accomplished this feat all the while providing the most abundant, safe, diverse and affordable meat supply in the world.
Reprinted in part from meatandpoultry.com
Growing consumer interest in grass-fed beef products has raised a number of questions with regard to the perceived differences in nutritional quality between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle. Research spanning three decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content of beef, albeit with variable impacts on overall palatability. Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (C18:2) isomers, trans vaccenic acid (TVA) (C18:1 t11), a precursor to CLA, and omega-3 (n-3) FAs on a g/g fat basis. While the overall concentration of total SFAs is not different between feeding regimens, grass-finished beef tends toward a higher proportion of cholesterol neutral stearic FA (C18:0), and less cholesterol-elevating SFAs such as myristic (C14:0) and palmitic (C16:0) FAs. Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries. Fat conscious consumers will also prefer the overall lower fat content of a grass-fed beef product. However, consumers should be aware that the differences in FA content will also give grass-fed beef a distinct grass flavor and unique cooking qualities that should be considered when making the transition from grain-fed beef. In addition, the fat from grass-finished beef may have a yellowish appearance from the elevated carotenoid content (precursor to Vitamin A). It is also noted that grain-fed beef consumers may achieve similar intakes of both n-3 and CLA through the consumption of higher fat grain-fed portions.