Sheep Producers Serious About Expanding Lamb Crop

Sheep Producers Serious About Expanding Lamb Crop

Demand is there to handle more lambs, producers say.

It's not often that a livestock farmer hosts an event where the message is for others to grow more of the same type of animal. Usually he's interested in better prices instead. However, Stanley Poe II and family opened their doors at their farm near Franklin last week at the request of the American Sheep Association. The goal was to attract media and others interested in promoting lamb production.

Earlier interviews carried in Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine this fall with the national ASA president confirmed that there is more demand than supply for lambs right now. That's why lamb prices were off the charts earlier this year. Lambs of 50 to 70 pounds easily brought $2.50 per pound in many markets at the time of peak demand.

The problem is that there just aren't enough lambs grown to meet the current demand. Ethnic groups are a major contributor to the growth in demand for lamb, as well as goat meat. Exports are also up for lamb. The net result is that although producers are getting good prices now for lambs they sell, there are people out there who would still buy lamb, even at higher prices.

The ASA is actually encouraging existing producers to increase their ewe flocks in hopes of generating more lamb production and having more pounds of lamb move into the meat market. It's an interesting position for a livestock segment to be in.

The Poe family has one of the larger flocks in Indiana, with about 500 ewes. They raise lambs both for sale to breeders, and for commercial meat production. They have both Hampshire and crossbred ewes and lambs.

Poe is innovative, inseminating ewes artificially to help better time lambing, and to make use of rams no longer alive. Semen was collected and is stored from those rams. He also offers the service to other breeders who bring lambs to his facility. This year, he also brought a Southdown ewe from a major herd in Oklahoma, and about 30 Southdowns were bred through the program.

A vet actually does the breeding work. It involved making incisions and inserting the sperm through the incision. There is typically a high success rate, Poe notes.

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