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Economics Support Sheep

With the economy slowly turning around, agriculture remains a growth industry. For those interested in entering agriculture, especially livestock, lamb production makes good business sense.

“The low cost of entry and relatively fast expansion from the base flock are advantages for new entrants,” says Margaret Cook, Executive Director with the Alberta Lamb Producers (ALP). “Lamb production is profitable, unlike many other livestock sectors. Interests rates are low, demand is high and the market for lamb is expected to grow over the short and long-term.”

ALP is encouraging new producers to consider lamb as one part of an expansion campaign launched in October. In addition to encouraging existing producers to expand or diversify, they are also asking others to investigate sheep production as they consider a career in agriculture. One of the biggest incentives for new producers is that it is possible to become a profitable sheep producer with a relatively small time and monetary investment.

“We currently do not supply enough lamb to meet demand, and no other livestock industry is in that position,” says Cook. “With lamb, you don’t necessarily need a lot of land, with the initial entry costs being the price of purchasing the flock, fencing and feed. Sheep can begin paying for themselves in the first year of production. A sheep operation can start small and be grown relatively quickly by retaining a proportion of ewe lambs.”

The Agriculture Financial Services Corporation offers the Alberta Farm Loan Program, with special low interest rates for new ventures, designed to provide the financing needed to start, develop and grow farming operations. Both AFSC and Farm Credit Corporation have expressed interest in, and requested information on, the sheep industry on behalf of their customers. ALP provides sheep industry information for all lenders, and offers the same information to any producer to share with their lender or financial advisor.

The federal government recently announced an increase in funding for the Outstanding Young Farmers Program, which encourages innovation, and growth for young producers. In addition, they have recently announced changes to the Canadian Agriculture Loans Act to improve access to credit for new farmers.

Cook says ALP’s goal is to grow the provincial supply by five percent a year, as well as increasing the consistency and continuous availability of lamb. Many existing sheep producers are nearing retirement and those farms have to be replaced in addition to adding new farmers into the mix to meet growth targets.

“We want to make sure that anyone looking for a way into agriculture and livestock specifically knows about the opportunities in the sheep industry and are able to include it in their range of options,” she says. “We are seeing more and more young sheep producers in our numbers which is terrific both for our industry and for agriculture.”

Since ALP launched their expansion campaign, they have seen a significant rise in the number of requests for new producer packages. While they are aware that nothing changes overnight, the organization feels confident that as people become aware of how solid a business sheep production can be, the number of new producers will increase.

For more information on new producer packages, visit the ALP website at www.ablamb.cawhich contains information about the industry and production resources. ALP zone directors throughout Alberta can also provide local information and advice. ALP is a member of Canadian Sheep Federation and additional new producer information is available on that site at www.cansheep.ca.

Alberta Lamb Producers is a producer directed and funded organization that represents the interests of Alberta sheep and wool producers.

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