Texas sheep and goat producers are experiencing a mixed bag of good-to-stable prices amid increased market uncertainty as they get farther into 2020, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Bill Thompson, AgriLife Extension economist, San Angelo, said goats and sheep were experiencing two markets beset by myriad factors, good and bad. Thompson recommends the new AgriLife Extension Lamb and Goat Market Forecast app to stay up to date on the latest price and market analysis.
“COVID-19 has not created any identifiable problems for meat and wool producers as of yet,” he said. “But there are certainly other marketing conditions that are aiding some prices and hurting others.”
Goat prices flying high
Texas’ goat prices have been “on fire” for several months, Thompson said. COVID-19 and the negative economic ripples it created have not unsteadied supplies, prices or demand so far.
The nation’s goat herd is up almost 2% to 2.09 million, compared to 2.06 million last year, Thompson said. Texas increased 3% during the same time to 765,000 head from 740,000 head.
The state’s largest sheep and goat market in San Angelo reported goat sale numbers were 10% higher than in 2019, he said. Even as sale numbers rose, so did prices.
“Prices went up an average of 4% this season,” he said. “Volumes are up and prices are up, and those typically don’t go up together. So, demand is obviously there.”
Kid and nanny prices in San Angelo were $289.40 and $148.07 per hundredweight, respectively, on March 18, Thompson said. Peak prices for those class goats were $267.47 and $133.96, respectively in 2019. For even more perspective on the rise of goat prices, kids were more than $101 per hundredweight higher this March than the average price per hundredweight in 2011.
Thompson said goat meat production may be insulated from any disruptions from COVID-19 because animals are not processed at large centralized facilities. These large facilities could face disruptions including sick workers or shutdown times for extra sanitization. However, multiple smaller operations are expected to fare better and stay on schedule.
“It remains to be seen what the impact to beef, chicken and other proteins’ production capacity could be, but most processing operations are running at capacity right now,” he said.
Texas sheep producers face a bit more uncertainty and risks mostly due to other market factors so far, Thompson said.
Wool prices have been down for some time, especially compared to two years ago, he said. Wool production is still profitable, but producers face tighter margins due to labor costs and the availability of shearing crews.
“Wool took it on the chin last year,” he said. “The market lost all the gains from the two prior years. There is still money to be made, but it’s not even close to what it was.”
The trade war with China may have hurt the wool market because China is a major garment manufacturing hub, Thompson said. But the ongoing petroleum price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia added another negative market factor to the mix.
“As oil prices drop, it makes man-made materials, like rayon, more competitive with wool,” he said. “Manufacturers are doing amazing things with wool, but it makes it harder for clothing manufacturers to ignore man-made fabrics due to the price.”
Sheep and lamb market
In recent years, many Texas producers switched from Rambouillet sheep, which are a wool and meat producing breed, Thompson said, to meat-producing hair sheep like dorpers.
Meat prices are experiencing a better price situation, Thompson said. However, COVID-19 could become a market factor due to the amount of lamb consumed in restaurants.
“Lamb markets are more at risk, and we don’t know if that could fall into other sheep categories,” he said. “If carcass prices drop on Rambouillet lambs it will likely weigh on the price of hair sheep.”
Prices for feeder lambs in San Angelo were $197.03 per hundredweight on March 18, Thompson said. They averaged $166.16 per hundredweight last year.
Thompson said lamb has continued to grow in popularity beyond the traditional consumers. Many livestock producers have added sheep herds or switched from goats to sheep to diversify their operations.
“There’s a bit more uncertainty in the sheep market right now, and as we have seen, the markets hate uncertainty,” he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Conditions were too wet to work in the fields. Oats were starting to head out, and producers will start cutting fields for forage as soon as they dry. Bermuda grass was starting to break dormancy. Soil moisture was good going into the growing season. Some corn and grain sorghum were planted. Wheat looked good. Stock ponds were full, and cattle were in good condition. Some supplemental feeding was needed for livestock.
Some areas reported up to 7 inches of rain. Winter wheat crops continued to improve. Some areas reported signs of wheat mites, aphid pressure and armyworms in wheat pastures. Cattle producers continued supplementing cow-calf and stocker operations with protein supplements and hay where forages were limited.
Rainfall varied from trace amounts up to 6 inches. The heavier rainfall was spotty, and most areas were still dry. Corn and grain sorghum planting continued, and emerged crops looked good. Most producers were on hold planting cotton. However, some was planted and emerged. Some cotton was dry planted as forecasts called for some rain. Fertilizer applications on hay fields and pastures continued. Hay feeding continued. Cattle remained in good condition. Cattle prices were down quite a bit due to COVID-19.
Some areas received up to 3 inches of rainfall. Grasses were greening up, which allowed some producers to halt supplemental feeding. Fields and pastures were difficult to work due to recent rains. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Cattle prices dropped due to COVID-19. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Houston County reported buffalo gnats were getting worse. There were reports some horses and cattle ran themselves to death trying to escape the gnats. Dehydration and overexertion were cited as the causes of several livestock deaths after a local veterinarian made a diagnosis on a horse that survived. Wild pigs continued to cause damage in hay meadows and pastures.
Wheat looked fair with recent moisture. The district received up to 3 inches of rain. Rain, cloud cover and cooler temperatures kept the ground wet. Livestock were looking good. Producers without grazing were still providing supplemental feed. Some growers were not able to access fields due to excessive rain.
Most areas received some rainfall and reported adequate topsoil and subsoil moisture. Winter wheat was in fair condition and improving. Field work continued in some areas, and corn planting should begin when fields dry. Pastures and rangelands were in fair condition.
Topsoil moisture levels were adequate to surplus. Many areas received close to 6 inches of rain. Low-lying fields were flooded. High winds during thunderstorms caused some tree damage. Producers were reporting difficulties working in saturated clay soils. Winter wheat was doing well. Winter and spring pastures looked good but needed some sunshine to grow. Extended rain provided runoff to cisterns, tanks and ponds. Livestock experienced mild stress from moving through muddy black clay. Flies were also a nuisance to some livestock. Feral hogs were active.
High temperatures were in the upper-80s with lows in the mid-40s. Most areas reported a trace to 4 inches of rain. Winter wheat was making good stands and should make a good cutting. Soil moisture levels should be good for cotton planting in the coming months. Large amounts of rain in El Paso County delayed ground preparations, including disking, leveling and listing. The delayed planting schedule may impact Pima cotton acres. As a result, there was expectation for more upland/short-season acres to be planted. Alfalfa weevil hit the El Paso area hard this year. Recommendations to producers were to spray or mow. Pecan orchards were pruned. Rangeland conditions were improving, and grass was starting to come back strong. Lambing and kidding were wrapping up. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.
Conditions were warm and dry before turning cold and wet. Weeds were growing rapidly and required management. Winter wheat was in excellent condition and growing rapidly. Pecan bud break occurred. Rangelands and pastures were in mostly good condition. Winter supplemental feeding of livestock slowed down. Livestock pond levels were rising from recent rains. Forage and grain sorghum acres were expected to be planted soon. Cattle prices for feeders were down $8-10 per hundredweight, while cull cow prices were $1-3 higher per hundredweight.
Several counties reported scattered showers to good rains that improved soil moisture levels. Pastures were beginning to green up and soil temperatures were rising. Rangeland and pasture ratings were excellent to poor with good ratings being the most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with adequate being most common.
Isolated moisture was reported throughout the district. Amounts ranged from mist to 2 inches in places. Pasture conditions improved from the moisture. Producers worked hard to get seeds in the ground. Supplemental feeding continued in most area. Cattle prices were down, but goat prices were rising.
Mild weather and dry conditions were reported. Northern parts of the district reported very short to adequate soil moisture levels. Western parts reported short soil moisture and eastern and southern areas reported very short soil moisture. Atascosa, Maverick, Dimmit and Frio counties reported good rain. Cabbage and spinach harvests continued. Potato fields continued to develop and were in good condition. Wheat and oat crops were heading. Corn planting should be completed soon in some areas. Corn that had emerged was in fair to good condition. Germination in spring plantings continued to be a problem. Many row-crop farmers were at a standstill because of poor soil moisture conditions. Hidalgo County reported most of its cotton acres were planted. Corn and sorghum fields there were being irrigated. Onions were being harvested. Dryland farmers and ranchers in many areas faced tough decisions in the next couple of weeks without rain. Pasture and rangeland conditions were poor. Livestock supplemental feeding continued amid short hay supplies. Some producers were selling off large chunks of their herds, and others were hauling hay and water daily. La Salle County reported a high of 93 degrees. Coastal Bermuda grass fields were green and should start making hay bales soon. Vegetable crops were almost all planted and looked to be in good condition. Zavala County reported extremely dry conditions caused all dryland wheat and oats to prematurely head and began reaching maturity, so significant yield reductions were expected. Some producers with fencing around wheat and oat fields were grazing them out because of conditions.