Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Much like the cattle markets, sheep and goat markets have been doing well, with producers being able to get record high prices for their stock in most situations. But, there are some areas where the market isn't doing quite as well ,due to higher food prices and other factors.
According to the USDA-NASS, "U.S. all goat inventory on Jan.1, 2012, totaled 2.86 million head, 4 percent lower than last year. Breeding goat inventory totaled 2.38 million head, and market goats were at 487,000 head.
"The 2011 kid crop was 1.88 million head for all goats, down 2 percent from 2010. Meat goats (and goats other than milk and angora) totaled 2.36 million head, down 4 percent from 2011."
"In Texas, it depends on what market you read, or who you talk to, but I think we have lost over half of our sheep and goats, as far as breeding animals," Craddock said. "So, we are way, way down. We went through a drought and we didn't have a real good lamb or kid crop from that, and what we did save, they didn't breed up very well, so it hasn't been a real good year."
According to the USDA report, in Texas alone, Angora goats have dropped from 100,000 head in 2010 to 85,000 head in 2012, and meat goats have declined from 990,000 head in 2010, to 850,000 in 2012. The breeding animals seem to have declined the most. Since 2011, replacement sheep numbers went from 125,000 to 75,000. This leaves Texas down approximately 24 percent in its overall sheep population since 2011.
"We have lost over half of our sheep and goats -- they sold off all their breeding females," Craddock explained. "That is just plain fact because people couldn't feed them. So, sheep are down, goats are down, cattle are down -- that is the main thing right there."
With dwindled numbers, those that are in the market to buy are being forced to pay a premium price. Buyers have been paying higher prices for sheep and goats for more than a year now, according to Craddock.
"They went up to $2.50 a pound, before that, they were about $1.50 a pound," he said. "We are up considerably. They have been that way for the last year, we have seen prices way more than what we have ever seen before looking in the last 12 to 15 months. I think prices are going to hold. They may not to the extent that we see them right now, they may drop a little, but they are going to be a lot higher than what we have ever witnessed I think."
Wool and mohair prices are also higher than usual, and producers are seeing good prices for fiber and meat -- all of which Craddock says will most likely hold for some time.
"Fat lambs" however are a different story. The regular commercial feedlot lambs are not up as much as hair sheep and the lighter goats. Craddock says this is because the ethnic buyers are the ones driving the market at the time, and they don't want these traditional heavy sheep from the feedlots.
"We don't see the fat lamb trade, so we got the feedlots full, and they are trying to empty out the feedlots," Craddock said. "So, prices for our commercial sheep are down right now, they are not real great until they can get that cleaned up and take more lambs in.
"These big sheep that are in the feedlot now, those are the ones that go into the hotels, restaurants and those kind of things," Craddock explained. "They are bigger animals, they have bigger cuts and that is what they want. But the ethnic groups, they don't want that, they want these smaller animals 80-90 pounds. That is where these hair sheep fit in so well, because they are not a big animal. They mature and reach puberty a lot sooner, so they go into the ethnic groups and that kind of stuff."
The "normal" sheep that are raised in Texas are in the 140- to 150-pound range when they are considered finished
"I think the secret on these goats and lambs right now is don't get them too heavy," Craddock advised. "We are probably talking about a 70-pound goat and about an 80- or 90-pound sheep, if you are not getting them over those weights, then they sell very, very well on the ethnic market and that is what is driving things."
So, when trying to get the best price for sheep and goats, it is actually better to put the feed scoop down a bit and keep stock at lighter weights to ensure a premium price.