A Day at the Sheep Sale Barn

Sale Barn Sheep

Going to the sheep sale barn is an adventure and one of my few social interactions. Today was the first sheep auction of 2022 where I attend. The sheep auction I attend only sales sheep and goats on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. It is within an hour drive from my house. I have been attending this auction since it began five years ago. Last year this auction changed ownership. The new owner does a great job getting in buyers. There are buyers for a few sheep and goat processors, four or five broker buyers and lots of individuals. The sale barn is packed with buyers every sale, and there are over a thousand sheep and goats to choose from.

Sheep Sale Market Report from September 2021

Above is a photo of a sales market report for a sheep and goat auction in September 2021. Every auction has to post a market report of how each sale performs shortly after the sale. I track the price trends for the size of lambs I sale at the auction to know the best possible time to sell my lambs. This is not exact, but a common practice with people producing, buying and selling sheep. There are holidays during the year where the prices will jump up and after the holidays, the prices will drop.

The first sheep and goat auctions of a year, sort of set the pace of increase or decrease for the year. The first sale of 2022, the prices for sheep have not dropped from before Christmas. A safe assumption is the prices for lambs is going to remain high. I have spoken with buyers, processors and we all think the price for lamb is going to stay strong for a year to maybe almost two years. In two years, the United States will have another political general election for president…. and all can change.

People looking to start raising sheep or to have a few on their place ask me why is the price for sheep so high?

First, the United States does not raise enough lamb meat for to match the amount of lamb meat consumed. The United States imports over 2/3 of the lamb meat consumed. The lamb meat imported comes from Australia and New Zealand. I am not sure what happened if due to Covid-19 or politically, but starting in 2020, Australia and New Zealand did not import into the United States the as much lamb meat. With a drop in import and the demand still present, people were willing to pay more for a live lamb at the auctions.

Second, since the United States pulled the military forces out of Afghanistan, and brought to the United tens of thousands refuges, the demand for goat and lamb increased. There are over 6,500 new Afghan refuges in a city less than an hour from where I live. 6,500 meals a day of lamb, as that is their primary meat they are accustom to eating, is a lot of lamb. The thirty lambs I sell per lambing does not even touch the amount needed for the increase in demand.

Today’s price for 40 to 80 pound lambs was $4.00 a pound. My weaned lambs weigh over 50 pounds, they are worth $200 or more each.

People see the high price for lambs, and decide to raise lambs as an supplemental income on the small acreage they own. Or due to being home at the beginning of Covid-19, people decided to get a few goats and/or sheep to have some sort of activity to do since they were home all the time. The demand for ewes and rams has driven the price for ewes and rams upward. Today thin, plain ewes were selling for $275 each, really nice, healthy ewes sold for $425 each.

The demand for ewes usually increases in the spring as people do not want to purchase hay to feed during the winter. I think ewe prices will be higher in April and May. I feel like others, the price for market lambs is going to stay steady at $3.90 to $4.00 a pound for the year of 2022.

I will continue to keep all my ewe lambs to build my flock. The price of a ewe at this time will take more than a year to pay back from the sale of her lamb or lambs. A big advantage for raising my own ewes, is the health costs. I know my ewes lambs are healthy, come from good mothers and are not sick. I purchase a ewe at the sale barn and I do not know the care the ewe had been given, if she gets pregnant, or if she is a good mother. The safer investment is for me to raise my own ewes to build my flock.

Hope your year is Prosperous and Happy,


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