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Could sheep become a new profit niche?

Whether you’ve ever raised any livestock, particularly sheep, or not, or swore you never would, this story is worth reading!

“The biggest challenge facing our industry right now is meeting the demand for both meat and wool,” says Margaret Soulen Hinson, current president of the American Sheep Association. She knows something about sheep. Her family has 8,000 ewes in the mountain country of Idaho, plus 800 beef cows.

“We’re at all-time record-high prices for lamb and wool, and there is still a worldwide shortage,” she says. Demand has increased several years in a row, she notes. The demand is coming from changes in ethnic groups, with certain ethnic groups wanting more lamb, plus increases in demand for lamb in places like China and the Middle East.

Key Points

ASA sheep president tours one of Indiana’s largest flocks.

Sheep leader confident all signs point to increasing demand for lamb and wool.

ASA launches program to increase lamb production in Indiana and U.S.


“This isn’t a blip on the screen — this is real,” she says. “We simply need to raise more lamb to meet demand. We’re not at all worried that we will overproduce — the demand is just very great right now.”

Sheep leader in Indiana

She made her comments while visiting Poe Hampshires sheep farm near Franklin. Although dwarfed by her flock, it’s still one of the biggest commercial flocks in Indiana. “That’s what makes the sheep business interesting,” the president says. “We’ve got all kinds of operations all over the country, and they’re all different.”

One thing she and the ASA executive board viewed at the Poe farm was artificial insemination of ewes, a relatively new practice. Stanley Poe says he will have four days when the vet comes and performs the procedure this year. He built a special facility so they could perform the procedure, which involves surgery, in the proper environment.

Growth initiative

The ASA has kicked off an initiative aimed at increasing the amount of lamb and wool produced in the U.S. by 2014, the president says. It’s called “Let’s grow with two plus.” Basically, it’s a program with three goals.

First, ASA hopes producers will increase their flock by two ewes per operation, or two per 100 head. Second, producers should take the steps necessary to work toward increasing average birthrate to two lambs per ewe per year.

Finally, ASA wants to encourage producers to increase the harvested lamb crop nationwide by 2%. That would move it from 108% to 110%. Currently, there are 5.63 million head of sheep in the U.S. More than 60% of U.S. wool is exported. Yet the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of American wool.

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Hosts lamb leaders: Stan Poe introduces ASA directors from around the country to Indiana lamb production.

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On the stump: American Sheep Association president Margaret Soulen Hinson brought good news about the increased demand for lamb and wool to Indiana.

This article published in the September, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.