Article from New Hampshire Business Review
Industry picks up steam as a niche business
“Go back to the 1850s and ‘60s, the mainstay of agriculture in New England was sheep,” said David Kennard, owner of Wellscroft Farm in Chesham and co-founder of the NH Sheep and Wool Growers Association.
Stonewalls seen lining properties and, now wooded, areas across New Hampshire are the lasting symbol of the sheep industry’s heyday in the state.
“There were more sheep in Cheshire County alone then there are in New England today,” said Kennard.
But the post-Civil War era opened up the Midwest, which offered richer soil and open plains, propelling the beef industry. And, over time, New Hampshire’s thriving mills dried up as a result of cheap labor in the South, strikes and the Depression.
Today, there are about 42,000 lambs and sheep in New England – the U.S. Department of Agriculture only tracks the six New England states collectively. To provide some perspective, in 2015, there were 5.28 million sheep and lambs in the U.S., with 720,000 in Texas and 600,000 in California. For 2016, market lambs in New England are expected to fetch $4.86 million, while the U.S. market will hit $607 million, according to USDA estimates.