Here are the Top 10 Sheep Stories of 2011, according to the American Sheep Industry Association.
1. Let’s Grow Campaign – This campaign encourages producers to expand their sheep numbers by 2014, and will result in 315,000 more lambs and 2 million more pounds of wool.
2. Federal Spending Package Includes Wild Sheep Language – The omnibus spending package prohibits the U.S. Forest Service from using funds to reduce domestic sheep grazing because of conflicts with bighorn sheep, unless the management is consistent with a state wildlife plan.
3. Industry Defeats Anti-Wildlife Services’ Amendment – An animal-rights led amendment to cut funding to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services Agency by $11 million was rejected by the U.S. House of Representatives.
4. Wool, Lamb, and Pelt Markets — prices hit all-time highs this year and sheep producers agree that this is a great time to be in the sheep business.
5. Superwash Line Begins Production – According to wool warehouses, more than $1.5 million in premium prices were paid to producers this year due to the superwash equipment.
6. Wal-Mart and Kroger’s Announce American Lamb Programs – Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery store chains, launched an American lamb branded campaign and Super Wal-Mart announced that all distribution centers would exclusively carry domestic lamb.
7. Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Delisted – Legislation passed to delist the gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, as well as portions of Oregon, Washington and Utah, from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife.
8. Drought Hits Texas Moving Record Number of Sheep Out of State – In 2011, the sheep industry experienced a dramatic shift in breeding sheep numbers. Because of the drought in Texas, hundreds of thousands of breeding sheep from the nation’s largest sheep-producing state were exported to farms around the U.S.
9. NASS Sheep Report Off and Then On Again – In October, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) announced it would be discontinuing the Sheep Inventory Report, eliminating the only annual report provided to the sheep industry. The report has been conducted since the 1860s. In December, NASS reinstated the sheep report. The report provides critical inventory and production information.
10. Superior Farms Closes Iowa Processing Plant – Superior Farms closed its lamb-slaughter plant in Hawarden, Iowa, after acquiring the facility from Iowa Lamb Corporation.