Raising Sheep Popular Among New Farmers

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The run at the sheep and goat auction in Colfax was a light one on November 29. With 210 head of sheep sold, feeder lambs averaged $2.11 per pound. Fed lambs brought in $1.52 cents per pound on average and prices on the 97 head of goats ranged from $102.50 to $165 per head.

Raising sheep is also becoming more popular. USDA reports a 6.25 percent increase in the number of farms raising sheep since 2007.

American Sheep Industry Association Executive Director Peter Orwick says this was a good year to raise sheep with lower inputs costs on feed, prices on feeder lambs averaging higher than two dollars per pound, and strong demand for wool.

But he says interest in raising sheep from new producers stems from a few different areas.

"A lot of people are more comfortable with the size of sheep, in terms of handling. It doesn't take a lot of specialized equipment to run sheep. And they're grazing most if not the entire year around. So I think a lot of people are attracted by that." Orwick says, "Also, we have a growing market, in this country, we call it non-traditional market, but essentially, there are folks out there that wherever in the world that they've come from, lamb is a major part of their diet, and they love to know the ranchers. If they can get to know a rancher or farmer that's raising sheep. That's a great marketing strategy."