Sheep and goat prices improved in 2014. Sheep prices were above 2013 and the five-year average while goat prices started strong in 2014 and have averaged the highest prices since 2011.
It has been a rollercoaster the last few years in the sheep industry. A price spike caused by tight supplies in 2011 was followed by collapsing prices resulting from a combination of the industry backing-up and over-finishing slaughter lambs, increasing production, and record high feed costs. Price rebounds were then capped by a significant drought-driven increase in imports from Australia and New Zealand during 2013.
The last two months of 2013 showed an uptick in lamb prices as slaughter lamb problems were mostly past and corn prices finally started decreasing. That momentum generally carried into 2014 with a continuation of moderately stronger lamb prices. Consumer demand still appears to be a bit softer than originally forecasted, however, especially in light of record high prices across the beef and pork sectors.
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The national flock is not expected to grow in 2015 due to the drought in California and surrounding western areas, which is contributing to increased mature ewe disappearance in 2014 as well as discouraging ewe lamb retention. That sets the stage for the supply of lambs to remain tight, supporting prices. Lamb prices may range around $199 to $205 per hundredweight (CWT), up 8 percent from the year before. National slaughter lamb carcass price are forecasted to be between $292-298 per CWT about a 7 percent increase from a year ago. Domestic demand concerns remain, however, with large supplies of lamb in cold storage.
In December 2013, 40- to 60-pound kid goat prices soared to an average of $2.34 per pound in San Angelo, Texas. That was 39 cents over 2012 and 5 cents over the five-year average. These high prices continued into 2014, reaching record high prices at $2.60 per pound. Prices took a normal summer decline but only dropped to $2.15 per pound before rebounding back to $2.40 for October. So far in 2014 prices have averaged $2.32 per pound. This is the highest yearly average eclipsing the old mark of $2.01 set back in 2011.
Meat goat numbers had another decline in 2014 to 2.275 million head in the U.S., down 1.7 percent from 2013. This decline in supplies has led to a decrease in goat slaughter. In 2014 slaughter numbers were slightly below 2013 and well below the five-year average. Dwindling supplies have helped support record prices seen in 2014.
Imports have remained steady at just over 15 million metric tons since 2011. Australia continues to be the main source of goat meat imported into the U.S.
Decreased production and steady imports, coupled with higher prices for most livestock, should help support goat prices in 2015. Prices should remain strong but producers should not expect prices to continue to climb much above 2014 record levels.