sheep inventory

USDA-NASS Reports 2 Percent Drop in Sheep Inventory

Dan Sheep-Goats, USDA-NASS

sheep inventory

Increased slaughter of mature sheep in 2021, thanks to drought and high mature ewe slaughter prices, played a role in a 2 percent decrease in the American sheep inventory as reported by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

As of Jan. 1, the American sheep and lamb inventory totaled 5.07 million head. Breeding sheep inventory was 3.71 million head, down 2 percent from 3.78 million head on Jan. 1, 2021. Ewes 1-year-old and older were at 2.91 million head, also 2 percent below last year. Market sheep and lambs totaled 1.36 million head, down 3 percent from a year ago. Market lambs comprised 94 percent of the total market inventory. Market sheep comprised the remaining 6 percent of total market inventory. The 2021 lamb crop of 3.16 million head was down 2 percent from 2020. The 2021 lambing rate was 107 lambs per 100 ewes 1-year-old and older on Jan. 1, 2021, down 1 percent from 2020.


Shorn wool production in the U.S. during 2021 was 22.5 million pounds, down 3 percent from 2020. Sheep and lambs shorn totaled 3.2 million head, down 2 percent from 2020. The average price paid for wool sold in 2021 was $1.70 per pound for a total value of $38.2 million, down 1 percent from $38.4 million in 2020.

While the sheep inventory was down nationally, several states showed increases. With a bump from 555,000 to 575,000, California posted the largest inventory increase in the nation and remains second only to Texas – 700,000 sheep, down from 730,000 a year ago – in total sheep and lamb numbers. West Virginia reported the largest percentage increase in the nation as it jumped from 30,000 to 32,000 – a 7 percent increase.

Additional states that showed increases in the latest report included: New Mexico, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, New York and Ohio. Sheep numbers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont are grouped into a New England region, which posted a 5 percent increase. A second region labeled Other States consists of 17 states, mostly in the Southeast, Alaska and Hawaii posted a 3 percent increase in total sheep numbers.

(From the American Sheep Industry Association)