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March 2007

Release Date: March 19, 2007

Area Wool Producers Eyeing Better Year in 2007

The strengthening economies of China and Russia and decreasing exports of wool from Australia could result in a banner year for West Texas wool producers, according to Dr. Mike Salisbury, associate professor of animal science at Angelo State University.

China has recently completed construction of several plants capable of completely refining wool from its raw state to finished products and has also formed a strong trade channel with Russia for those products. As a result, Chinese imports of wool have dramatically increased.

“They are currently purchasing about 60 percent of the world’s wool production and they are using about 60 percent of what they import for domestic production,” Salisbury said. “They are also exporting a lot of the product that they make from their wools on to Russia. With both of those countries being fairly cool countries with stronger economic status, their desire for warm wool products has increased and now they can afford to buy them and manufacture them.”

While Australia continues to be the world’s largest exporter of wool, it has experienced a gradual decline of both production and exports due to a 10-year drought. Wool production has also declined in West Texas, but area producers are hoping to take advantage of the new foreign demand for their product.

“With demand being higher and wool domestic production being lower, we are looking at potentially considerably higher wool prices across the entire region,” Salisbury said. “That’s both on our fine wools, which is typically what the wool market is set on, and even our coarser wools as well.”

Another potential boon for sheep ranchers is higher prices being paid for their lambs that are headed to the feedlots in late summer and fall.

“We’ll see fewer of our ewes and ewe lambs going into the meat trade and being kept around operations for wool production and also lamb production for next year,” Salisbury said. “So, we could see our lamb prices go up because we’re going to have a higher demand and lower supply of lambs going to the feed yards and, eventually, to the packers.”

With the start of shearing time just about a month away, West Texas sheep ranchers are primed for a much better year in 2007.

"The highest concentration of the state’s wool producing sheep is in the counties surrounding San Angelo,” Salisbury said. “We could have two Christmases this year, wool sales in the summer and lamb sales in the fall.”

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