Project Information:

Project Title: New Harvesting Plant

Recipient Organization Name: Colorado Lamb, LLC

Project Report

Annual Report Type: Final Grant Report

Reporting Period: February 2020 – September 2021

Performance Narrative:

Colorado Lamb, LLC is a state‐of‐the‐art harvest facility located in northeast Colorado, the largest lamb feeding region in the United States. There has not been a new packing plant

built in the region for over thirty years. During the construction phase (2019‐2021), it was the largest infrastructure project underway in the United States to benefit the American

sheep industry.  Similar to businesses across the United States, Colorado Lamb, LLC faced significant setbacks and challenges due to COVID19 which pushed the originally planned

 opening date of January 2020 to September 2020. Colorado Lamb, LLC has a production capacity of 1,800 head/day. Due to very tight supplies of feeder and fat lambs, the plant is

 currently processing 3,000‐3,600 head/week, and ready to ramp up harvesting as soon as more lambs are available. The new processing plant gives western and mid‐western

 states lamb producers and feeders expanded marketing opportunities for their lambs. Keystone principles of this new and innovative plant include strict adherence to all

 applicable federal/state regulations for employees; food handling and storage; and best management practices for animal welfare and humane handling.

The Colorado Lamb, LLC harvest facility will help alleviate the constricted flow of lambs from pasture and feedlots that bottleneck into the limited capacity of existing processing

 plants. The bottleneck at the packer level periodically creates a backup of lambs in feedlots and on pasture, resulting in a less desirable product when lambs must be held on feed

 and can’ be harvested on time. Because of the severe drought in the western United States lamb producers are facing difficult choices regarding feed and flock management. The

 Colorado Lamb, LLC plant provides a harvest option that may reduce transportation costs for some western and mid‐western states growers.

Colorado Lamb, LLC is meeting the USDA mandatory price reporting requirements by transmitting carcass trade on a daily basis, and packer owned lambs on a weekly basis.


# Accomplishment/Activity Relevance to Objective


Colorado Lamb, LLC was operational by September 2020

Objective: Colorado Lamb, LLC harvest facility completed and operational by January 2020


Colorado Lamb, LLC has an operational capacity of 1,800 head/day on a 5‐6 day work week. Objective: Reduce the amount of overfat lambs that enter the U.S. food chain.

Because of limited supplies of slaughter lambs the plant is currently harvesting 3,000 –3,600 head/week. A contributing factor to overfat lambs in the U.S. food chain has been

 limited harvesting capacity in the western United States.  Limited harvest capacity means that lambs are held on feed, much longer than the optimal time to achieve ideal harvest

 weight, which results in heavy, overfat lambs at slaughter time. The additional capacity of Colorado Lamb, LLC to harvest 10,000 head/week will be a significant factor in reducing 

the bottleneck as lambs leave pastures and feedlots and enter into the processing chain.


Colorado Lamb, LLC is meeting the USDA mandatory price reporting requirements by transmitting carcass trade on a daily basis, and packer owned lambs on a weekly basis.

Objective: Enable USDA to meet confidentiality requirements and resume Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) for U.S. lamb carcasses

The current USDA regulations regarding confidentiality need to be updated and adapted to the changing structure of the U.S. sheep industry so that all segments have access to

available market information. At the present time, a very small portion of the industry has control of a crucial amount of information that USDA could be providing to all segments of 

the U.S. sheep industry.


Colorado Lamb, LLC is currently specializing in sales of whole carcasses to breakers.

Objective: Provide new source of U.S. lamb carcasses for the breaker industry.

Colorado Lamb, LLC is currently a supplier to east coast breaker businesses and plans to expand its customer base as lamb supplies expand and become more cost‐effective.


Colorado Lamb, LLC was operational by September 2020. Colorado Lamb, LLC has a harvest capacity of 1,800 head/day on a 5‐6 day work week.

Objective: Reduce packer concentration in the U.S. lamb meat industry

At the time of opening for Colorado Lamb, LLC there were only two other major lamb packers in the western United States; so the opening of Colorado Lamb, LLC has

been a significant factor in reducing packer concentration in the American lamb industry.


Lambs from the western and mid‐west United States are being harvested at Colorado Lamb, LLC.

Objective: Create a more competitive marketplace for U.S. lamb

The new harvest facility increases marketing options for both lamb producers selling live lambs and breakers/fabricators that are purchasing carcasses.


Lambs from the western and mid‐west United States are being harvested at Colorado Lamb, LLC.

Objective: Reduce market volatility by expanding processing options Currently, the western lamb market is experiencing a tight supply of feeder/slaughter ready lambs due to the

impacts of covid, drought, ethnic demands on traditional supplies, etc. However, historically seasonal production combined with not enough packers in the marketplace periodically

causes a backlog of lambs in the feedlots and on pastures that cannot be processed on time, creating an overfat, less desirable product. Feeders and producers that do not have a

standing relationship with a packer when the pipeline is full, usually don’ have an option to get their lambs processed on time. The backlog of unprocessed/overfat lambs can cause

the cash live market for lambs to crash. Expanding the industry’ processing capacity should help diminish the volatility of the cash live market.  Lambs can be processed in a

more‐timely manner, and then placed in cold storage.  Cold storage vs. maintaining live lambs on  feed increases profitability through expanded flexibility in marketing; and

preserves the optimal quality and flavor of American lamb.


All lambs processed by Colorado Lamb, LLC are Halal‐certified.  Colorado Lamb, LLC is in the final stage of completing its Kosher processing section in order to begin Kosher sales by

the end of the year.

Objective: Meet diverse consumer preferences by providing Halal and Kosher processed lambs

The ethnic/non‐traditional demand for lamb continues to increase in the U.S. To help meet this growing segment of the market, Colorado Lamb, LLC. processes all lambs harvested at

the facility by Halal certified standards. (This will exclude the lambs that are contracted to go through the Kosher processing system when it comes online later this year.)


The live animal handling system at Colorado Lamb, LLC. was designed by Grandin Livestock Handling Systems, Inc. and has been installed. Dr. Grandin toured the harvest facility on

October 12, 2020 and was pleased that the custom design for the plant is working very well.

Objective: Provide excellence in animal handling and welfare standards Low stress livestock handling ensures that lambs are being handled by humane methods and helps ensure

that consumers are receiving a high‐quality red meat product.


Harvest facility tours have been conducted for U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, U.S Representative Ken Buck, the American Lamb Board, and the

Pawnee Prairie FFA chapter.

The American Sheep Industry Association had planned to tour the plant for the 2021 ASI national convention that was scheduled for Denver, but unfortunately the convention was

changed to a virtual format.

Objective: Provide educational opportunities for students and organizations. Providing plant tours and a discussion forum gives participants exposure to important facts about

livestock production, harvesting, and marketing.  With misinformation rampant on social media, it is important for students and organizations to have the facts about

harvesting, production, and marketing. Accurate information increases consumer support for American Lamb, highlights Colorado Lamb, LLC. has worked with the  American Master

Chefs Order to provide lamb for their educational program

American Lamb Series – Fabricating, Cooking and Presenting Lamb.

the importance of sustaining agriculture  production in the U.S.

Challenges and Developments

# Challenge or Development Corrective Action or Project Change 1

Construction Delay: Precast concrete walls The company that manufactures the precast walls, delayed production to go do bridge work in Nebraska. In 2019, Nebraska had historic

flooding beginning in March and continuing September. It’s estimated that $3 billion in damage occurred to infrastructure and property in Nebraska during the floods last year. As

important as it was to get the lamb plant built, we realized it was more important for the concrete company to help our neighbors in Nebraska recover from the devastating

floods (15 bridges were damaged or destroyed in the initial flooding in 2019).

Construction resumed immediately upon delivery of the precast concrete walls.


Construction Delay: COVID19

After Colorado Lamb, LLC received the precast concrete walls, and began picking up momentum again, COVID‐19 hit. As with most other businesses in America, progress

was severely impacted by the pandemic.  Numerous construction delays occurred as a direct result of COVID‐19 including road paving, installing the gas and sewer lines,

refrigeration equipment, hydraulics, and other mechanical operating systems. Tragically, one construction crew member died from COVID‐19 which further delayed

construction. Because of COVID‐19 delays, the equipment manufacturer in Great Britain was unable to ship the pelt puller and supply chain until later in the year.

Construction was greatly hindered but  proceeded based on the availability of labor, equipment, and materials.


Computer Software Design Delay

Because of the aforementioned delays, Colorado Lamb, LLC missed its contracted time to work with Steve Heintzelman (AskSteve, Inc). Heintzelman is the computer expert that is

responsible for making sure all the computer software correctly interfaces with the plant hardware and equipment. There is no one else in the United States with his level of

expertise, and we had to wait until he was available later in the year to get the management software operational.

As soon as Mr. Heintzelman was available, the software and hardware at the harvest plant was integrated and operational.


Market Volatility and Lamb Supply Disruptions

Because of unprecedented market (live weight prices exceeding retail values) and supply conditions (COVID19, ethnic demand on traditional lamb commodity market,

drought, increased production costs) the current supply of lambs available for slaughter is very tight.  Because of the tight supply of lambs available to packer at a breakeven price,

processing capacity is below the plant’ optimal level of 1,800 head/day. The plant is currently harvesting 800‐900 head/day, 4 days/week, and is looking forward to increasing daily

harvest rates and the fall run of lambs come off the mountains in the western United States.


Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) and American Meat Institute (AMI) training delays. Due to the impacts of COVID19 on the construction schedule and

labor force, training had a delayed start. Quality Assurance personnel currently working on a third party outside food safety audit, Safe Quality Food (SQF) food safety certification

that is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI); and is currently working on a USDA food safety audit. Anticipated completion of audit procedures by December 2021.

AMI training estimated completion date October 2021.

Outcome and Indicator Results to Date

# Outcome/Indicator Quantifiable Results


Harvest Rate

Because of limited supplies of feeder/slaughter lambs the plant is currently harvesting 3,000 – 3,600 head/week. When supplies improve the plant is ready to harvest 1,800



Mandatory Price Reporting

Colorado Lamb, LLC is meeting the USDA mandatory price reporting requirements by transmitting carcass trade on a daily basis, and packed

owned lambs on a weekly basis.