Where does a beginning sheep farmer go to purchase sheep? There are many places to purchase sheep auctions, sheep brokers, breed shows and from other sheep farmers. A concern for the sheep farmer and especially for a beginning sheep farmer is not to pay too much for a sheep or to purchase an old or sickly sheep.
There is advice for the beginning sheep farmer from the internet and people to not purchase sheep at an auction. The information in many articles I have read just use the word auction, with no definition on what type of auction. There are different types of auctions to buy sheep from. Each type of auction has pros and cons.
First type of auction is the sale barn livestock auction. This is where anyone and everyone brings animals to sell. There are all types of breeds of sheep, sheep of various ages, ewes and ewes with lambs, rams and weaned lambs at a sale barn livestock auction. There is fat sheep, thin sheep, healthy sheep and sick sheep. Sometimes sheep are consigned to a sale barn auction as the sheep farmer is selling off their entire flock of sheep or the family of a sheep farmer is selling the sheep from the estate. When this consignment is made there is advertising of the sale. These types of consignments give the opportunity for a sheep farmer to get some good sheep for their flocks. The sale barn auction is definitely a place the buyer needs to beware and really look at the animal before the auction begins.
There are pros to purchasing at a sale barn livestock auction the first being the price of the sheep. The sale barn auction is where the bottom price for ewes and rams is established. A person that examines the sheep, has knowledge of what to look for can purchase good sheep at this type of auction and not pay the higher prices asked for by other sheep farmers or specialty auctions. A necessary skill for anyone interested in purchasing sheep at a sale barn auction is to do the calculations rapidly as most sheep are sold by weight. The calculation of price per hundred pounds and the weight of the sheep being auctioned to know the price of the sheep. Their are a lot of young lambs at the sale barn auction and a sheep farmer can purchase a group of ewe lambs and let them grow up into breeding ewes. A person wanting to become a sheep farmer with a limited budget can get started by getting one or two sheep at a time to build a flock or a group of young ewe lambs using the sale barn livestock auction.
There are various methods of making money with sheep. One method of making money uses the sale barn livestock auction as the main source to provide light weight lambs to purchase. Feed lots and processing businesses buy the lambs for slaughter from sale barn auctions using buyers to make their purchases. The feed lots and processing places want lambs that have a specific weight. Where I live in north central Texas the specific weight is 55-60 pounds. Not every lamb going through the sale ring weighs 55-60 pounds. I and others purchase the light weight or under weight lambs at the sale barn auction. The lambs are dewormed and put on pasture and supplement feed to grow and fatten up, then returned to the sale barn auction when they reach 60-65 pounds. Every animal brought to any auction looses some weight from the stress of being moved and strange environment, this is defined as shrinkage. To make sure the lambs weigh 55-60 pounds when the lambs go through the sale ring, I weigh the lambs and sale when their weight is 65-68 pounds.
There are disadvantages of purchasing sheep at a sale barn livestock auction. The sheep farmer has no history on the sheep they are looking at purchasing. There is no history on if the sheep have been dewormed, vaccinated, if the ewe is a good mother and provides sufficient milk for the lambs or breeding history on the rams. Another fact about sale barn auctions is this is the place to sale a sheep when a sheep farmer can not sell the sheep to an individual and maintain a good reputation as a provider of good sheep to buy. The sale barn livestock auction is the selling place for all culls from a flock.
Another auction is a specialty auction call replacement auction. A replacement auction is specifically selling young ewes and rams from breeders. These auctions are held once or twice a year with the number of sheep limited. There are specific requirements the sheep must meet in order to be consigned to this type of auction. Majority of the animals offered for sale are registered and under two years of age. The rams at a replacement auction usually have been semen tested and are breeding sound. The sheep are consigned to this auction come from different breeders. I have purchased good registered sheep at replacement auctions. A replacement auction is a good place to meet other sheep farmers and make contacts in order to purchase directly from the farm instead of an auction. A word of caution on purchasing registered sheep is to be diligent in checking the sheep for conformation and breed standards. Not all registered sheep are good sheep for the breed standard. A sheep farmer should examine any sheep being considered for purchase and understand the rules and guarantees in relation to the animals being sold.
Herd reduction auctions are when one or more sheep farms schedule an auction to sell their excess ewes and rams. Majority of herd reduction auctions offer registered sheep for sale. There usually is advertisement for several months allowing interested buyers the opportunity to schedule an appoint at the farm to examine the sheep. Majority of the sheep offered are ewes and rams ready to breed with a few proven ewes and rams. Proven ewes and rams are sheep who have produced offspring that has won in sheep shows. This type of auction allows a sheep farmer to look at and purchase sheep to improve the genetics of the sheep farmer’s flock. Herd reduction auctions allows the interested buyer the opportunity to examine the sheep, learn the history of individual sheep and see the sire and dam of the animals offered. Being able to see the sire and dam as well as other offspring by the sire and dam shows the genetic strengths and weaknesses of the sheep offered at auction. The prices at these type of auctions are on the high side, but the quality of the sheep are also equally high.
In 2020 with the Covid-19 restrictions large sheep farms held herd reduction auctions online. The sheep were exhibited with photos and videos to interested buyers, but the sheep stayed on the farm. Once the auction was over, the buyer had to make arrangements to get the sheep to their farm. Transporting the sheep could be an issue especially if the sheep farmer purchased sheep from more than one sheep farm. Majority of the sheep farmers are good about talking to interested buyers and answering questions on the sheep consigned to the auction. The online auctions I looked into had health and breeding soundness guarantees for the sheep consigned. Having a relationship with the sheep farmer or farmers consigning to the auction gives the interested buyer a level of trust with the person selling the sheep. I am a person who likes to see what I am bidding on in person, physically check the teeth and get a good look at the sheep before I bid or purchase. I am not comfortable with photos and videos due to the ease in photo shopping. Depending on the angle of a photo, the faults of the sheep can be hidden and the sheep look better than it actually is.
Breed show and sales, replacement auctions and herd reduction auctions are good places to meet sheep farmers and see their stock. This allows a beginning sheep farmer to have the information to visit a farm for purchase of sheep. I use these types of auctions to see the sheep and meet the sheep farmers to purchase my rams. The sheep farmers are usually helpful in sharing information about raising sheep and like people to visit, giving the opportunity to see how barns, pens and working alleys are laid out. A good sheep farmer is proud of the sheep raised on their farm and like to show others their accomplishments. Sheep farmers will sometimes transport the sheep from their farm to the new home for the sheep usually for a fee.
Finally there is the sheep broker. A sheep broker buys sheep and sells sheep. Sheep brokers go to all types of auctions and estate sales to purchase sheep. Brokers will put together a flock of sheep for a buyer. They do the leg work and gathering for a sheep farmer who is looking for sheep to start a flock or to increase a flock. A sheep broker might know the history of the sheep or they may not. They can gather together sheep of all one age and breed, registered or not registered, and various breeds depending on what the sheep farmer is looking for. The sheep farmer can make arrangements with the sheep broker to have the sheep delivered, once the price for the sheep is paid. If sheep are purchased at an auction of any type, the buyer of the sheep is responsible to haul the sheep to their farm.
Regardless of where the sheep are purchased, always look the sheep over for health. It is hard to start a sheep flock with sick sheep.
Remember, every sheep farmer was at one time a beginning sheep farmer.