Sheep and Goats in Kansas
The US has seen record breaking prices for lamb, wool, and goat kids in 2010 and 2011. January 1, 2011 numbers showed 70,000 head of sheep, 40,000 head of meat goats, and 4,700 head of dairy goats on Kansas farms. The Kansas sheep and goat industries have been profitable for the business minded producer in recent years.
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) announced the “Let’s Grow with Two Plus” campaign in January 2011 targeting three program goals by 2014. First, increase at least 2 ewes per operation or 2 ewes per one hundred head. Second, increase the average birthrate to 2 lambs per year. Third, increase harvested lamb crop by 2 percent. Current projections suggest accomplishing these goals would result in 315,000 more lambs returning $71 million for lamb and approximately $3 million for wool to producers.
Meat goat production is the fastest growing segment of the livestock industry nationally. The growing meat goat industry has led to a focus on a number of different breeds such as the Boer, Spanish, Kiko, Myotonics, the dairy breeds, and the resulting breed crosses. While goat meat, known as chevon or cabrito (milk-fed kid), is not the most heavily consumed meat as far as total pounds per person in the world, it is the most widely consumed red meat around the world. Angora goats are known for producing mohair sometimes called the “Diamond Fiber” because of the luxurious nature of the fiber. In the United States these animals once numbered in the millions and are now in the hundreds of thousands, but Angoras continue to produce excellent quality mohair that is experiencing high economic returns. Dairy goat production continues to draw the attention of producers due to the milk itself and the excellent cheeses and dips made from goat’s milk. Additionally, some health benefits of goat’s milk have created more attention by consumers.
Due to the cultural diversity of the US population and the health values of lamb and chevon, the sheep and goat industries may benefit tremendously because of the product demand. Lamb and chevon products are not readily found in mainstream grocery stores because industry supplies cannot meet the demand of its consumer on a consistent basis. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the US exports just 2 percent of its lamb and mutton production. In 2009, 6,975 metric tons of lamb valued at $21.5 million was exported. In that same year, 70,146 metric tons of lamb was imported into the United States with a value of $432 million. This accounts for nearly half of our domestic consumption. In 2009, 11,706 metric tons of goat meat was imported into the US.
The Kansas environment is suitable to all breeds of sheep and goats. Areas of the state with a great deal of brush are optimal for goat production. Sericea lespedeza is considered a noxious weed in Kansas. Goats have been identified as a potential source of sericea lespedeza control, but have not been approved as a biological control method. Predators and fencing are the biggest challenge facing the sheep and goat industries. However, guardian animals (dogs, llamas, and/or donkeys) and net wire or field fence can easily be utilized to combat these challenges.