sheep production, feeding, trade, pricing, and policies in the United States, the chapter concludes with a summary discussion of the major accomplishments and future opportunities as well as the key challenges facing the live sheep component of the U.S. sheep industry.


In the United States, sheep and lambs are raised primarily in small farm flocks in the Midwest and the East and on larger ranching operations in the West. Market lambs are the primary source of income for sheep producers, with some additional income being generated from the sale of wool and cull ewes and rams.

Sheep Inventory and Operations

The five largest states in terms of sheep inventories are Texas, California, Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota (inventories by region are shown in Table 2-1). Over one-third of all sheep (34.1 percent) are found in the mountain-range states of Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Together, these states, along with Texas and New Mexico and the western states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, account for nearly 70 percent of all U.S. sheep and lambs, but only 37.1 percent of U.S. sheep operations, indicating clearly that the U.S. sheep industry is still primarily dominated by range sheep production systems. An estimated 25 percent of the national sheep inventory spends a significant portion of the year grazing on western public land permits managed by the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior (USDI) (ASI, 2002). In contrast, midwestern and eastern states account for roughly 30 percent of all sheep and lambs but nearly two-thirds (62.9 percent) of all sheep operations, indicating that more intensive smaller farm flock production systems are the norm in these two regions (Table 2-1).

Productivity (lambs produced per 100 ewes) is much higher in the confined, intensive systems of the Midwest and East (Table 2-1). The lower level of productivity in the range states is primarily due to their extensive, low-input production systems and higher predator losses. The Mountain states have a higher level of productivity than the other range states primarily because they still utilize shed lambing systems.

Approximately half of all U.S. sheep are found on farms with fewer than 500 head of sheep and the other half on farms with more than 500 head (Table 2-2). Even though sheep numbers are evenly divided between large and small operations, the latter account for most of the sheep operations in the United States (98.4 percent). Consequently, only about 1.6 percent of all

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