Thursday, November 30, 2006

The U.S. Sheep and Lamb Market

In 2005, federally-inspected sheep/lamb slaughter totaled 2.55 million head. This does not include state-inspected, custom exempt, or on-farm slaughter. Total slaughter was estimated to be 2.76 million head. The 2005 U.S. lamb crop was 4.13 million head; thus USDA slaughter accounted for 61.9 percent of the lamb crop, vs. only 31 percent of the U.S. kid crop.

Lamb slaughter is very concentrated. Four slaughter plants account for two-thirds of federally-inspected sheep/lamb slaughter. Six plants account for almost 80 percent of the lamb kill. Colorado processes more sheep and lambs than any other state, almost 40 percent. While PA-NY-NJ account for almost 50 percent of federally-inspected goat slaughter, these states account for only 7.7 percent of federally inspected sheep/lamb slaughter. Yet, there are 116 USDA plants in PA, NY, and NJ that process lambs, compared to only 17 in Colorado.

The average liveweight of sheep/lambs slaughtered in 2005 was 138 lbs. The average dress weight of lambs and yearlings was 71 lbs. These are considerably heavier than the weights of lambs typically marketed in the Northeast.

Though people have varying opinions on lamb imports, imports comprise a significant portion of the U.S. lamb market: ~45 percent in 2004, compared to less than 20 percent in 1995. Australia (~67%) and New Zealand (~32%) account for 97 percent of lamb/mutton imports. The Australian sheep industry is changing some of its breeding management (using more meat-type sires) to better meet the needs of the export market.

2005 Livestock Slaughter Summary (March 2006, USDA-NASS)

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