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.
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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.”