from feeder lambs. Lamb feeders in higher rainfall climates shear lambs to be feedlot finished, and also do so in regions with hot summer periods when the lambs enter the feedlots. An estimated 70 percent of the lambs finished in feedlots are shorn (McDonnell, personal communication, 2007).
In 2006, the 14 western range and intermountain states accounted for 72 percent of sheep and lamb inventories but produced 77 percent of the U.S. wool clip and received 88 percent of the income from wool sales (USDA, 2007). The production cost and return budgets presented in Chapter 2 (Tables 2-3 and 2-4), for example, show that wool provided 14.5 percent of the income in Nevada public land range sheep production systems in 2006 and < 2 percent of the income in a 50-ewe farm flock operation, barely covering shearing costs. A frequent debate in the U.S. sheep industry is whether wool is a liability or an important economic component of sheep production that is often neglected. Wool may be a liability to sheep producers in one of three situations:
High-rainfall production areas. Wool breeds of sheep are not well adapted to high rainfall conditions. For this reason, there is growing interest in the hair breeds of sheep in the subtropical regions of southeastern states.
Farm flock production systems that emphasize lamb production. These operations generally utilize medium wool breeds or crossbreds that produce lower-quality fleeces that often do not generate enough income to pay for shearing costs.
Remoteness of wool markets. In this case, producers often have difficulty finding qualified shearers and market outlets for wool, providing some incentive to shift to hair breeds.
Wool is an important component of sheep production systems in other situations:
Range sheep production systems where arid rangelands limit the potential for increased lamb production. The best adapted range maternal ewe breeds all include some Merino genetics in their origin, from 100 percent in the Rambouillet and Merino to 75 percent in the Targhee and 50 percent in the Columbia. These breeds are all good wool producers.
Marketing of wool versus marketing of meat and milk products. Because wool is an easily stored commodity, producers can delay the marketing of wool, but must sell their meat and milk products more quickly. Some producers store their wool for a year or more for financial or market considerations.
Remoteness of lamb markets. The distance of their continent from major world lamb markets together with the storability of wool are pri-