Net cash returns of U.S. sheep producers were positive for the past 18 years, yet the industry in 1986 experienced the largest declines in number of sheep farms and in sheep population since 1942. Per capita consumption of lamb and mutton has trended downward since 1962, remaining below 1.5 pounds for the past 13 years. The 1986 USDA Farm Costs and Returns Survey indicates that the major sheep production practices of shed and range lambing have not changed significantly since 1980, and losses from disease and predators are high. Sheep production requires more hired labor and operator time than any other livestock enterprises. Although sheep production is more profitable than cattle production, sheep producers require more net return than do cattle producers to expand production.
United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, "Sheep Production in 11 Western States" (1991). Agriculture. Paper 2.