Selling Sheep

Sheep farmers sell their sheep or wool to have an income. I raise sheep for meat and breeding stock. There are two things I concentrate on when I am selling sheep regardless if it is for meat or breeding.

Number One: I want my sheep to look good. No sheep farmer wants to purchase skinny or unkept sheep. When I first got started with sheep, I would buy the skinny, unkept sheep at the sheep auction since they were the lowest priced animals at the sale. I would deworm and feed them to where they looked nice for resale or were able to produce lambs for me. Getting skinny, unkept sheep healthy is a lot of work and time on good feed.

I remember I purchased a grade ewe that looked Dorper. I did not check her teeth, as she arrived after the sale had started. I purchased her for $55.00 USD, comparable to today’s market, $125.00 USD. When I went to load her, she had a hard lump on the side of her jaw bone. Examining her closer, the hard lump was the only teeth she had in her head. I had made a bad purchase.

I took the old gal home, named her Granny. At that time I was feeding a couple of horses alfalfa hay. I would gather the loose leaves of the alfalfa hay that fall on the ground when feeding and put those loose leaves in a bucket for the ewe to eat. I kept alfalfa leaves in front of her at all times. I also fed her some grain. Since she had no teeth, there was no need of putting her on grass. I almost hand fed this ewe for a month. When she gained weight, I put a ram with her. Thinking the only way I am going to break even is to have a lamb from her. As she got closer to lambing, my husband made the comment, “she is so old, she will probably die having the lamb.”

That set my mind to thinking, it is better to cut my losses instead of having a total loss. Granny ewe was looking pretty good, was heavy with lamb, so I thought I would be close to breaking even if I took her to the sheep sale. I definitely was not going to sell her to a person who purchased sheep from me.

To the sheep sale we went. When her time came to enter the ring, she came bouncing in, spry like a young ewe. She looked good. I almost bid on my own Granny ewe – she looked that good. The bidding started at the price I paid for her. My thoughts were at least I would get back the purchase price. The bidding kept going, the price getting higher, I am getting happier. When the final bid was said the price Granny ewe sold for was almost triple what I paid for her.

The difference was Granny ewe looked good and felt good, even though she had no teeth.

Number Two: The time you choose to sell your sheep is important. In my area the meat market is strongly influenced by the ethic population. The market lambs sell higher as important holidays approach. Knowing the dates for the holidays, and the size of lamb they prefer to butcher helps the sheep farmer make the most when selling market lambs.

Watch and record the market. When the sale price is up, what is going on during that month or the next month. I keep record of the market reports of three sheep auctions in my area. There are certain months the market lamb price is high or low. Same with ewes and rams. Ewes in my area sell for more in the spring, rams sell higher in the fall. Watch the markets in your area and learn the seasonal flow of the markets. The dollar amount may change, but the rise and fall does not.

The same as with any sheep, the market lambs need to look good and be fat, ready to butcher. Skinny lambs sell for almost half what a fat lamb sells for. I get above the highest price at the sheep auction for my market lambs. The meat process buyers know I raise my sheep well, there is no worry about withdrawal times as I do not give my sheep any treatments 60 days before taking them to market.

I have had others selling at the sheep auction ask how I get the higher price for my sheep. The answer is I make sure they look good and are fat. I see skinny market lambs come in and bring less money. I hear sellers complain to management that their lambs sold for less money, and the answer as everyone there can see – skinny and light weight lambs do not sell well in a market where most of the buyers take them home and butcher them.

When I sell breeding stock, I want all my sheep to look good. I show people the sire, if I still have him, and his other offspring. I show the potential buyer the dam as well and other ewe lambs she has produced. People like to buy animals that look good, something they can be proud to own.

When you go to sell your sheep or wool, is the animal something you would want to buy? What condition is the animal in that you are selling? Are they free of parasites and wool is has no patches missing?

Take a look at your sheep from the perspective of a buyer, is this the sheep you would be proud to own?


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