Arizona Sheep Worth $10 million?

Today’s blog comes exclusively from an article that appeared in the Arizona Republic, December 27, 1925. There are several interesting points starting with this quote which began the article:

“With an investment of approximately $10,000,000, Arizona’s sheep industry is one of the most profitable and successful phases of the livestock and agricultural industry of the state and brings a tremendous return each year to the growers”.

Two things with the above quote: 1. What about the cattle industry in 1925? and 2. This was not the height of the sheep industry as that would be before the end of World War I when sheep were needed for their wool and meat for the troops. An comparison of the sheep to the cattle industry would have been interesting. That information should be available with a little more research.

The Arizona Republic stated that the best estimate for the number of sheep in Arizona for 1925 was about 580,000 excluding any owned by the Native American. The reasons given for non-recording of Native American stock was the “lack of records, supervision, or methods of marketing prevent any accurate estimate.” The Navajo Tribe would have had the most sheep of all the tribes.

The total value of Arizona ranch land, equipment, sheep and other necessities for sheep raising had a minimum value of $10,000,000.  Annually it is estimated that the gross return on the clip from the sheep amounts to $2 million from approximately 5 million pounds of wool, grease basis, and 2 million pounds cleaned.

Quoting again from the newspaper, “Pure bred Rambouillet have been found to bear the heaviest fleece and predominate in Arizona flocks. About 95 per cent of the sheep found in Arizona are Rambouillet and the remaining animals are Hamsphires.” Boston mills are the primary market for Arizona’s wool. The Republic continued, “Arizona sheepmen keep in close touch with market conditions and are enabled to take advantage of situations arising at any time in the sale of their wool.”

The newspaper gave a little history on the first sheep brought into Arizona. “Sheep were first introduced into Arizona by Felix Subrey (most likely Aubrey) in 1852, and as far as is known he was practically alone in the business until following the settlement of the Indian troubles of the seventies, when the sheep industry in this state started to grow. These sheep were drawn from Utah, Colorado, California and New Mexico. The foundation stock at that time was a degenerate Mexican breed descended from sheep brought to Mexico by the Spaniards much earlier than the introduction of sheep in the English colonies. By the time these sheep had reached Arizona, however, they had been considerably bred up. It is interesting to note that sheep and the domestic manufacture of wool were firmly established in Mexico early in the 16th century.” 

This is interesting as a family has reported to this author that their family had sheep in Arizona on a Spanish Land Grant in the 1700s. More information will be forthcoming on this family and their claim. We do know that Father Kino, who was the traveling priest in the Pimeria Alta from 1680s until his death in 1711, had brought both sheep and cattle into this region. Where exactly were these sheep is uncertain but we do know that a wool industry was in progress during Kino’s lifetime. We know that there were sheep in the mid-1700s on the Navajo Reservation according to early reports by a padre that had visited.

Another interesting piece of data was the number of sheep that the Republic stated were in Arizona for various census. It stated, “The census of 1870 shows Arizona with 1,000 head of adult sheep. In 1919, the census gives the state 917,000 head, valued at three and a half million dollars. The 1920 census shows 882,000 sheep with a valuation of over seven million dollars, a decrease in numbers but an increase in evaluation.” Arizona ranked thirteenth for amount of wool produced in the United States.

And that is your sheep news for today or rather what was happening in 1925!

Lambs waiting for their mom’s to get sheared, Auza Farm

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