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Chickens, Sheep Industry, Energizers

MARCH 2015 ISSUE

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How the sheep industry will look 10 years from now—

It's rash to make predictions but it's been a while, so:

I will break this up into the industry's segments. A segment is defined/determined by the primary reason that a producer keeps sheep. (I appreciate that they overlap each other.)
A. Show sheep and club lamb producers:
1. Extreme surgical tail docking will probably cease—if and when major packers collectively refuse to buy lambs with extremely short tails. The packers motivation for this change? To avoid misleading and destructive news articles like those that occurred in January in the New York Times. No one other than the packers seems able to make extreme tail docking go away. To protect the national industry, it needs to occur.
2. This segment is likely to grow—because the show experience (which is much broader than the show ring) is rewarding to so many.
B. Yarn producers (flock owners who raise sheep primarily for their wool for hand spinning and weaving):
1. This segment is also likely to grow—again because both yarn production and festival experience offers people more than $$/lb of wool.
2. Low prices for lambs with minimal muscle/lb of weight and days of age may encourage some yarn producers to use heavily muscled terminal sires like Texel, Ile de France and selected Dorsets for a portion of their ewe flock.
C. Direct marketers (those who sell lambs as meat directly to consumers):
1. This segment will grow—because it's profitable for those producers close to their market.
2. Direct marketers will gradually understand that all grass is not created equal in its ability to produce the best lamb meat eating experience. Dr. H. Zerby of Ohio State, an expert in this area, made it clear to me that keys to the best lamb eating experience are ensuring that the lamb gains rapidly in the weeks just prior to slaughter—and reducing stress between the farm gate and the slaughter moment. High-quality grass will do this. So will grain plus hay/silage/oat hulls or similar. But low-quality grass (either too mature or a species that's low in TDN/lb) alone is less likely to produce rapid weight gain.
D. For-profit farm flocks—I'll divide these into 3 categories:
1. Those with marketing contracts with packers. With a few exceptions, contracted production appears work to well for both producer and packer. Each needs the other party to do well. So expect to see more of them. Genetics used for a contract depend upon the packers' stated needs. Production system used depends upon the region and the contract. More contracted producers will buy NSIP rams because they're more predictable and more likely to produce heavily muscled fast-growing lambs.
2. Those who supply the ethnic markets directly or indirectly (via auction markets). If the high value of lighter lambs for this market continues and it pays as well as it does now, some "ethnic" producers will decide to change to accelerated lambing systems. If so, Premier's own experience suggests that one of the possible genetics for ewes might be Dorper/Romanov/Katahdin ewes. I expect this market to become saturated with lambs soon (as a result of high prices). When it does, the best prices will go to those able to produce:
Heavily muscled, well-fed lambs sired by early-maturing rams such as Texel, Ile de France, Dorper or selected Dorset rams.
Lambs born in the months of June-December.
3. All others. Those who can keep their labor and/or feed costs low will survive just fine.Those who can't probably won't be raising sheep in 10 years.
E. Lifestyle sheep owners (those who simply enjoy owning sheep):
Profit and loss may be a secondary aspect for them. This, in my view, is the largest segment of the sheep industry. How will they change over 10 years? They will switch to easy-care sheep genetics. What is easy care?
1. Sheep breeds able to lamb with minimal assistance at lambing—for either the lambs or the ewe.
2. Sheep breeds able to thrive on the local grass, hay and silage. It's a major delusion that all grass is equal. Far from it. Typical grass quality varies dramatically across the USA. The extremes might be Western Oregon/Michigan/parts of New England vs the southern third of the USA.
3. Sheep that don't need shearing (hair sheep).
F. Range flocks of the West and Southwest—again 3 subcategories:
1. Those with marketing arrangements with packers or other outlets (such as the retailer Whole Foods) will do well—if government interference in their land and labor circumstances doesn't increase.
2. Those with unique markets for their wool. They will do well, as will those without contracts who are able to produce enough wool that is also of very high value due to its consistency and low micron fibers.
3. All others will need to have external $$ sources (oil/gas wells, wind energy) to keep their operations alive.

What are the three biggest threats to the US sheep industry?

1. Cheap, consistent, year-around supplies of moderate-quality imported lamb. It's both a threat and an urgent motivation to change.
2. Resistance to change. This has been the most notable characteristic of some parts of the sheep industry for 60 years.

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Our 2015 Fences That Work Catalog should be in your hands (as long as you're on our mailing list).

2015 Fence Catalog

Here's a glimpse of some of the new items:

ElectroNet, ElectroStop and PoultryNet with Drivable posts: A plastic fence post that can be driven into the ground with a mallet or dead blow hammer. Redesigned spike allows post to direct force from hammer to the spike—makes insertion into the ground easier.
Bear QuikFence: Protects beehives and campsites from bears. Features our new Drivable posts—can be tapped in with a hammer, enabling users to install netting in hard or rocky soils without the need of clumsy double spikes. Ground cut-off clips are added to disconnect power to the lowest strands when grass becomes tall. Also able to be used as a Pos/Neg fence (best for soils with high resistance).
PRS-I 25, PRS-I 50 and PRS-B 50 energizers: Introducing our IntelliShock and .25 joule units. PRS-I will have a .25 or .50 joule unit with load sensing capability. Reduces battery draw when the fence is weed-free. Saving power and increasing longevity.
EzeWind for EzeReels: Fits onto a drill with a 1/2" drive. Speedily winds up EzeReels and EzeReel XL.
IntelliBraid Twine PE 3.0‚Äč: Braided design provides easier handling than twisted designs. Less likely to unravel at ends.
T Ground Rods: Grasp by hand and twist to break contact with the soil for easier removal.

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PRS Solar Energizer
Fencing season is here. You'll find our video above on "How to get your PRS Solar Energizer ready for fencing season" helpful, with instructions and tips the folks at Premier have learned by experience.

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Solar shed lights
Easy to install solar shed lights provide illumination in coops and barns that lack electrical connections.

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Chicken Toy
New Poultry Products. Featuring the Chicken Toy.

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