The demand for sheep and goats continues to be strong in a growing market for meat, wool and mohair, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
The demand for quality Texas sheep wool is high, which means producing a fleece is no longer a break-even enterprise for producers, said Dr. Reid Redden, AgriLife Extension state sheep and goat specialist, San Angelo.
“It used to be that wool prices would barely cover the shearing cost, but now producers are seeing profits range from $25 to $50 per fleece,” Redden said.
Redden said the annual cycle of shearing sheep is coming to a close. West Texas wool is typically marketed for fine wool yarn used to create worsted or woolen clothing.
“There is a lot of interest in Merino wool for performance wear,” he said. “That type of wool is produced by Rambouillet sheep and represents the majority of wool produced in Texas. That market is very strong.”
Mohair from Angora goats, which is used to make clothing and other textiles, has also become a profitable product for producers. Goats are shorn twice a year, typically in March/April and August/September.
“The value of mohair, which is used to make clothes, rugs and other products is up roughly 30 percent higher than it was last year,” Redden said.
But the wool and mohair markets are just a bonus for producers who are experiencing growing demand for lamb and goat meat, Redden said.
“The lamb and goat markets have really been gaining momentum the last five years,” he said. “Producers can’t keep up with the demand for lamb, driven primarily by ethnic markets. But lamb has become a trendy meat option for millennials as well.”
U.S. demand for lamb is well beyond what we currently produce, Redden said. Imported lamb from Australia and New Zealand helps meet this demand.
Texas producers market two classes of meat lambs – feeder lambs, typically 70-90 pounds, and lightweight slaughter lambs, typically 50-80 pounds – which have steadily risen over the last 10 years, Redden said. Prices have risen from $1.35 per pound in 2010 up to $1.95 per pound in 2017.
“There can be big seasonal swings in prices,” he said. “Prices go up in the winter when supplies are low and go down during the summer when supplies are high. We’ve seen prices go up as much as $1 per pound when supplies can’t keep up with demand.”
Texas is the No. 1 producer of goat meat, Redden said. The state produces about 35 percent of the national supply. Texas ranks No. 1 in sheep production, but supplies about 15 percent of the market. The state also ranks No. 1 in mohair production, but is behind other states in wool production.
Predation and parasites make production of small ruminants more labor intensive than beef cattle, but Redden said managers who can control these issues are quite profitable.
Much of the state’s production is concentrated in the Edwards Plateau area where low rainfall and brush provide a good environment for small ruminants like sheep and goats, Redden said. But research into parasite resistance could open more of the state to production.
“There’s been a big transition in the last 10 years in the meat market, and now that demands for quality wool and mohair are helping those markets, we’re really seeing profitability opportunities that warrant inclusion of sheep and/or goats into beef cattle operations,” he said. “There are more challenges in production, but the market for Texas producers is strong and all the trends are positive.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts
CENTRAL: The district received heavy rains. Temperatures and wind speeds were increasing and will dry out soil moisture quickly. Wheat continued to dry down with good yield potential. Corn and grain sorghum were progressing nicely with warmer temperatures and good soil moisture. Cotton emerged and was looking much better. Pecan producers made a third zinc application. Pasture conditions improved due to recent rain and warmer temperatures. Some producers were cutting hay. Cattle and other livestock remained in good condition. Stock tank levels improved. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good in most counties.
ROLLING PLAINS: Rainfall helped pastures and remaining winter wheat fields in some counties. Rain was needed, especially in counties that have not received any rainfall in recent weeks. Small quantities of cake or hay supplements were still necessary despite improvements in pastures. Winter wheat was yellowing and maturing fast. Leaf rust increased on wheat. Many producers planted sorghum, Sudan and haygrazer recently, and it was emerging. Cotton producers were still able to list and spray weeds. Most no-till farmers were terminating cover crops or have already completed the process. Cotton planting started at a slow pace. Stocker calves continued to be moved from maturing and dried wheat pastures. The calving season continued.
COASTAL BEND: Conditions were hot, humid, windy and very dry and continued to deplete topsoil moisture. There were some reports of wind damage to younger cotton. Corn started to silk and producers were irrigating where possible. Pecan producers treated for pecan nut casebearer. The first hay cutting was in full swing, and there was still a hay surplus. Rangeland and pasture conditions deteriorated quickly due to lack of rain. Cattle remained in fair condition.
EAST: High winds, rising temperatures and lack of rain negatively impacted soil moisture. Topsoil moisture was short in Angelina, Harrison, Houston, Sabine, Smith and Trinity counties with all other counties reporting adequate conditions. Subsoil conditions were short in Angelina, Shelby and Tyler counties, while all others reported adequate conditions. The transition from winter forages to warm-season grasses has begun in all counties. Fertilization was taking place in Gregg and Smith counties while Harrison County producers were reluctant to put out fertilizer. Hay production was in full swing in Cherokee and Henderson counties, while Houston and Gregg counties were just getting started. Trinity County producers reported pastures couldn’t keep up with grazing pressure from livestock, and cut hay was still being utilized. Rusk County reported excellent pasture and rangeland conditions, but all other counties reported fair to good. Jasper County reported corn, oats and wheat in fair condition. Livestock in all counties were in good condition. Gregg County reported cattle prices were up a bit and holding locally. Houston County reported a stronger cattle market, and Shelby County reported good numbers with solid calf prices, but cow prices were sluggish. Wild hogs continued to plague Gregg, Henderson, Trinity and Wood counties. Flies continued to be a nuisance in Henderson County.
SOUTH PLAINS: Drought conditions moved from severe to extreme for parts of the district as precipitation continued to miss the area. Temperatures of 100 degrees and above and blowing winds caused extreme drought conditions. Growers were holding off on planting cotton unless they have great irrigation capacity. Cotton and corn that was planted emerged very quickly with the high temperatures. Wireworms were a problem in some recently planted fields. Irrigated cotton and peanut planting picked up as farmers tried to get these crops up. Average ground temperatures ranged from 65-69 degrees. Some wheat was cut and baled; however, most wheat was terminated as a cover crop for cotton. Rangeland conditions were bad due to lack of rain.
PANHANDLE: Conditions were hot and windy for most of the district. Above-average temperatures were reported throughout the district. Soil moisture levels were very short. Corn and cotton planting was very active. Irrigation on wheat was very active. Some wheat was cut for hay, and the first cutting of alfalfa was about a week away for some. Fall calves were being weaned. Spring calving was winding down, and most were being moved to summer pastures. Rangelands were mostly brown and trying to green up, but soil moisture was deficient. Irrigation on surviving winter wheat ended, and producers were watering corn and cotton fields. Producers continued to plant all crops with the last day for cotton planting nearing at the end of the month. Fires continued to break out because of drought conditions.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from adequate to short. No rain was received. Daytime temperatures were in the high 80s with nighttime temperatures in the 60s. A warm southerly wind blew throughout the reporting period and dried things out. The ground remained soft, but cracks were beginning to show. Nights were warm enough for summer grasses to begin growing. Wheat and oats were maturing, and harvest will likely begin in June. Some fields looked good with filled out heads, but some didn’t. Corn, sorghum and soybeans looked good, and disease and insect pressure was tolerable. A few rigs proactively sprayed for aphids, mites, rootworms or borers. Producers were drying and baling hay in some places. A lot of cattle were being worked and/or shipped since winter pastures were playing out. Some Sudan or sorghum varieties were planted for summer forage for stocker calves.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the 100s with lows in the 60s. Extremely high winds were removing any remaining moisture and growers were irrigating where they could. Producers in eastern parts of the districts began shutting water off in an attempt to cut costs and limit losses. Cotton emerged in the Rio Grande Valley. All Pima cotton was up, as was most short staple upland cotton. There were a few cotton fields being planted. Pecan orchards looked good. Alfalfa looked very good. Fire conditions continued, and high winds were increasing damages by fires.
WEST CENTRAL: An unseasonably warm and windy reporting period quickly dried out soil moisture from recent rains. Pastures and rangeland responded well to those rains. Cropland acres need significant rain during the latter half of May or there could be big trouble for crops heading into the summer months. Stock tank levels remained in critical condition. Cattle markets were very active with strong demand. Stocker steers and heifers sold steady with a select group of 15, 569-pound steers selling for $170 per hundredweight, and six, 591-pound heifers selling at $141 per hundredweight. Feeder steers were $5 higher with 14 643-pound steers selling at $160 per hundredweight and 47 1,049-pound steers at $112 per hundredweight. Feeder heifers were $3 higher; packer cows were $1 lower; and bulls were steady. Pairs and bred cows were steady. Wheat was probably two to three weeks away from harvest. Pecan producers were actively monitoring for pecan nut casebearer.
SOUTHEAST: Daily temperatures were starting to increase into the 90s, and irrigation pivots started to run. Warmer temperatures and lack of rain was beginning to dry the soil considerably. Growing conditions were still good, but rainfall was needed. The rice crop was progressing. Dry conditions were causing rice farmers to water. Pastures and hay meadows were in poor condition. Dry weather was stunting grass growth. Livestock were in good shape. Corn leaves started to roll, or pineapple, from heat and water stress by mid-morning. Sorghum was faring better, but still needed moisture. Cotton was doing OK and was showing 4-8 leaves in most places. Warmer temperatures and lack of rain were beginning to dry the soil considerably. Growing conditions were still good but more rainfall was needed. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to very poor with fair ratings being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Soil moisture remained in good condition for most counties due to recent rains. Rangeland and pastures supplied adequate forage for livestock. Recent dry, windy weather and warming temperatures meant crops and pastures will require significant rain soon. Some hay was made. Wheat harvest should start soon. Mesquite trees were in bloom, and livestock were in good condition.
SOUTH: Northern and western parts of the district reported dry weather conditions with short moisture levels. Eastern parts of the district reported warm, dry weather with adequate to short moisture levels. Conditions were hot and dry in the southernmost parts of the district with short to very short moisture levels. Producers in Zapata County reported scattered rains throughout the county with some producers reporting 1-4 inches of rain. Areas that received the most rain saw immediate short-term improvement of rangeland conditions. Some producers reported stock tank water levels increased considerably. Hot temperatures and no moisture quickly dissipated any temporary improvement in conditions. Supplemental feeding of cubes and hay continued for most producers. Jim Wells County reported 0.5-1 inch of scattered rain. Starr County reported 1.5 to 6 inches of rain throughout the county. Cotton was planted and corn was growing fast. Peanut planting and wheat harvest will begin soon. A lot of forage was cut and baled. Food corn harvest started. Wheat, oats and red potatoes were harvested. Corn and cotton were under irrigation. Pastures and rangelands were drying out, but some responded well in areas that received recent rains. Supplemental feeding increased. Body condition scores remained fair but were beginning to decline. Irrigated crops, like Coastal Bermuda fields and some vegetables, were in good condition. Cabbage harvest resumed, late spinach harvest ended and onions made good progress with harvest starting. Hidalgo County reported the citrus harvest was winding down, with vegetable harvest still ongoing and sugarcane harvest almost complete.