National Lamb Feeders Association's board of directors recently sent a letter to industry members outlining how a worldwide shortage of lamb and skyrocketing prices in 2011 killed demand and caused prices to plummet in 2012.
They also outlined the progress the industry has made since the last time similar problems occurred, in 2006, and suggested options for further progress.
"Our industry is very small and fragile. All segments need to be profitable for the sheep industry to be sustainable," the letter stated.
Accomplishments noted by the directors include:
* A crop insurance program, LRP Lamb, for producers and feeders to help manage risks. The program has put tens of millions of dollars back into the industry.
* The Wool Superwash system, creating the availability of a washable wool product in the U.S. Garment makers can source the product in the U.S. for the U.S. military to use in uniforms.
* Electronic grading to evaluate carcasses in real time and provide the retail value of each carcass and improve industry efficiency is ready to go.
* Certification of ultrasound technicians to be able to determine backfat and rib eye area in the live animal with great accuracy.
* The American Lamb Board keeping American lamb in the news and in front of the American consumer.
* USDA purchases of lamb, creating additional demand.
* Lamb processors discounted heavy and over fat carcasses and continued to invest in plant and equipment improvements to stay up with the demands of their customers and government agencies.
The directors' list of things that can still be done include:
* Producers can become more efficient through increased lamb percentages and genetics and by selecting sire rams with EPDs (expected progeny differences) or at least known rib eye measurements.
* The American Lamb Board could co-op with processors to bring electronic grading into practice.
* Feeders could develop a strong relationship with a processor for less volatile marketing.
-- Carol Ryan Dumas