WASHINGTON –There has been a significant decline in the U.S. sheep and lamb flock vs. a year ago, according to the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service Sheep and Goat report. Lack of profitability in 2008 was the main driver behind the decline in the U.S. flock, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

As of Jan. 1, there were 5.75 million head of sheep and lambs in the U.S., 3.4% or 203 thousand head below 2008’s and 7% smaller than in 2007. Breeding sheep, at 4.25 million head, was down 185 thousand head from last year. U.S.D.A. did make a notable downward revision to the 2008 inventory numbers, L.M.I.C. relayed.

The number of ewes as of Jan. 1 one year and older totaled 3.40 million head versus 3.54 million head last year, a larger decline than expected. Despite higher lamb prices in 2008, sheep producers are not planning for significant flock expansion in 2009, given the current economic environment.

As of Jan. 1, there were 1.42 million head of market lambs reported, which was about 17 thousand head or 1% less than in 2008. That was the smallest number of market lambs reported since U.S.D.A. began the survey.

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