Quality vs Quanity

July 2022 Lambs

“The more you sale, the more money you will have.” A common thought of the sheep farmers, goat farmers and cattle ranchers in the area where I live. But is this thought true?

I used to think just selling a lamb as a market lamb would make me a profit. Then at the sales, I noticed my lambs did not sale for the same price as other lambs. My lambs were bringing the lower end of the market prices at the sales. Why?

I learned those buyers for the packing house was grading my lambs and the price I received depended on the grade and weight of the lamb. What is grading?

Grading is a term used to define how much meat, fat and bone composes the carcass of a slaughtered animal. The more meat and proper amount of fat, the higher the grade.

I began to really get a grasp of grading when I started butchering my own lambs for my freezer. I saw that there was not much meat on my lambs when the carcass was cut up and packaged.

The first lamb I slaughtered and cut up myself was a painted desert bred lamb I had purchased. This lamb took several months to get to the weight needed to slaughter. I was feeding, and it was growing slowly. I slaughtered it and packaged it. I was also feeding some lambs I raised, they were receiving the same feed and amount of feed, but grew faster. They reached weight to slaughter at a younger age. When I compared the same cut of meat of these lambs, there was more meat on the Dorper lambs than the first lamb.

Conclusion to the comparison of same amount of feed and expense, with more meat and short time, Dorpers were more profitable to raise for market lambs.

Not all Dorpers are created the same. I started viewing my sheep flock differently as I learned how to grade the carcass the animal would produce if it were butchered. I began to select animals for breeding who had a higher carcass grade. Grading the individual animal influenced my purchase of breeding stock. The only way to improve the carcass of a market lamb is to have good quality carcass on the animals I was breeding.

I was improving the quality of the carcass on my animals, but what about the expenses of raising the animal. Not every Dorper ewe was a good mother, providing the milk for the first months of growth. These animals were culled. I only kept the ewes who produced lambs with good carcasses and fast growth. I set a goal for the lambs growth rate: 60 pounds at 8 weeks of age.

I took some lambs to the sale this past weekend. I saw a person I knew unloading some market lambs. I asked how old are the lambs, and was told six months, weaned at four months and been fed in a pen for two months.

I watched these lambs and mine and did a comparison. They had more lambs and could sell in a larger lot, but what price would they bring at the sale? Lot size does affect the price as buyers like to have lambs from the same place to fill a pen, helps with illnesses.

There lambs came through, average weight per lamb was 45 pounds, the sale price was $2.50 USD per pound, each lamb sold for $112.50, six month old lambs with low carcass grade score.

My lambs came through, average weight per lamb 60 pounds, the sale price was $3.25 USD per pound, each lamb sold for $195.00, ten week old lambs just weaned. High carcass grade score. Low lot number, I only sold three lambs.

The difference in sale price per lamb: $82.50. Plus I did not have the expense of feeding the ewes and lambs additional months.

The other sheep farmer sold 30 head of lambs, at $112.50 per lamb and fed for six months, total of sale = $3,375.00.

But what would I have made if I sold 30 head of lambs, at $195.00 per lamb = $5,850.00. In addition, I would have lower expenses since I only fed the lambs for 10 weeks.

Quality does make a difference in raising sheep regardless of the product you are raising your sheep for.


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