By Ernie Over
The new executive director of the Wyoming Woolgrowers Association began her career loving horses, but a chance reassignment of duties in her college ag program resulted in a new love for sheep, which has brought her to Wyoming, a place she’s always wanted to be.
Dr. Alison Crane presented a sheep industry update at Fremont County’s Farm and Ranch Days last week. Crane said she is “production oriented” and that she wants to recruit more young people into the industry. One way to do that is creation of a woolgrowers mentoring program. “I want to set up emerging producers with a mentor,” she said. She’s also organizing a “Wyoming Sheep and Wool Festival” to promote the industry and highlight the uses of wool as a fiber with wool judging, live music and a dance, food vendors and the such to help “take the wraps off of how to use wool, and thus promote sheep.”
Just like every other livestock industry in the state, Crane said this winter “has been hard, tough on a lot of producers and, in fact, one of the hardest winters.” And it’s not only the weather to blame. “Prices for sheep have not fully recovered since the pandemic drop,” she said, although wool prices have been holding fairly steady. “Low, but steady,” she said.
The woolgrowers are looking into winter disaster relief programs to help the industry through this latest challenge, she said.
Nationally, Crane said the total number of sheep in the country is down about one percent at just over five million animals. Breeding sheep are down one percent and the 2022 lamb crop was down about two percent. Bucking that trend, Wyoming sheep are going up in numbers, to 102 percent or about 330,000 animals. She said Wyoming is expanding the industry. Wool production has also increased to an estimated 2.170 million pounds of wool in 2022.