January 1921 Wool Prices and Range Conditions

At the start of 1921, the sheep industry and for that matter, the cattle industry, were in bad shape. Both had seen good years during World War I as the government bought the meat and wool was used for making uniforms. It took wool from approximately twenty sheep to make all the needed clothes for one soldier.  But as 1920 ended wool prices were low, the Arizona range was dry, reducing feed for sheep and cattle, and many sheep men were concerned with the future of the industry. By the end of January there was hope that the wool situation had taken a turn for the better. The Salter Brothers, Boston wool brokers, had expressed in letters to M.I. Powers of the Citizens Bank, Flagstaff and Babbitt Brothers that there was considerable improvement in the wool market. The Salter Brothers were offering 30 cents per pound on wool three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, the price from another mill in Boston had offered 32 cents.  Another mill had offered to buy Arizona wool at 35 cents a pound. “Salter Bros. say that they feel once they have sold a block it will ease up the situation considerably and there will be money to loan on the new clip.” (Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, January 28, 1921)

For a perspective on those amounts: 30 cents in 1921 would be worth $4.37 today, 32 cents equivalent to $4.66 and 35 cents would be $5.09.  The sheep industry today would be thrilled to receive that type of money today for a pound of wool!

Range Conditions through most of 1920 were not good. The ranges were dry which reduced feed for livestock in many areas of the state. The outlook for 1921 seemed a little more promising as rains began to fall in the later part of January. Rain fell in the western portion of the state partially filling dry water holes and providing moisture for winter annuals to begin. A good inch of rain fell in Seligman vicinity. Yuma exceeded their monthly total for the month of January. The area received over a half inch. In the northcentral portion of Arizona snow had fallen but it melted without runoff to any stock ponds. The Grand Canyon and Williams areas had three inches of snow still on the ground. Water tanks were frozen though. The Coconino Sun, Flagstaff reported that some snow had been on the ground since winter began and livestock had been able to graze far from established water holes. The eastern and southern portion of the state reported to be in need of precipitation as the range was dry and water scarce. In the Douglas area the stock was in poor shape as water was scarce.

A Flagstaff observer reported, “Recent light snows melt within a few days after falling’ this moistens the ground, and will put it in good condition for farming, but it does not run and makes no stock water. Stock on the lower ranges adjacent to the San Francisco Peaks (the Canyon Diablo country, etc.) is wintering well as the weather has not at any time been severe and there is plenty of dry feed.” 

In other sections of the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff for January 28, 1921, we learn more about the condition of the range from sheep men who visited Flagstaff.  Returning from Phoenix, Lewis Benedict told of range conditions in the south as serious and there was a fear of heavy loss of sheep if the rains did not come soon.  In the Congress Junction area, William Pitts, foreman for the Howard Sheep Company, reported that the recent rains in the area had made good feed and the range had greatly improved in the last ten day. Two other sheep men, Harlow Yaeger and Charlie Woolfolk, who had winter sheep ranges in close proximity to one another, said that even with little rainfall in the area since last spring, the feed for their sheep was splendid.

Let us hope that our winter 2021 rains continue for the next several months with rain in the Salt River Valley and snow in the high country.  Slow melting snow in the high country with runoff will fill the stock ponds that both cattle and sheep men rely on and that water makes its way to the Salt River Valley for use by the farmers in the southern portion of the state.