To get more profit, producers should consider all options when selling sheep and goats
Small ruminants are popular on both small- and large-scale farms these days.
Like with any livestock, producers should have a purpose and a plan for sheep and goats in order to make it a profitable enterprise and not just a “hobby” that leads to a drain in resources.
Whether a producer already has small ruminants or is considering purchasing some, making concrete goals for animals and products is crucial.
For example, most hair sheep producers are commercial producers. Commercial producers sell lambs for meat.
Selling direct to customers
Many producers sell their sheep and goats through ethnic markets or by direct marketing their animals to consumers whose cultures revere lamb and hevon (goat meat).
It isn’t uncommon for consumers of different ethnicities to want to come to the farm and slaughter the animal they purchase themselves. This practice typically follows halal law for humane on-farm slaughter of animals, which dictates certain handling methods to reduce stress to the animal, both for animal welfare and for the finished quality of the meat. If producers choose to engage in this type of direct marketing, they should be prepared to potentially put facilities in place for on-farm slaughter, and to familiarize themselves with halal law. To make direct marketing to ethnic cultures a main part of business, it is helpful to have an idea of when holidays fall that typically have lamb or chevon as part of the traditional holiday feast, such as Passover, Ramadan and Diwali. If the market is large enough, producers can make their production decisions for their flocks and herds based on these dates.
Since many of these holidays move as much as three weeks from year to year, producers who want to target specific holiday markets will need to track these days as they plan breeding and kidding seasons, said J.J. Jones, Area Agricultural Economist and Kellie Curry Raper, Livestock Market Economist with the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Even when some of these holidays occur during a period of seasonally lower prices, prices tend to increase for the period two to three weeks ahead of the holiday.
Cornell University Sheep and Goat Marketing provides resources to producers including a holiday calendar, posters detailing the proper halal techniques, and producer and marketing directories to connect producers and consumers over high quality lamb and goat meat.
Some producers may opt to sell their lamb and/or kid crops through the local sale barn. This can sometimes be an advantageous practice, especially if a producer is trying to move large numbers of small ruminants, but it requires some careful research to ensure money and time is not lost.
“Producers need to visit with the sale barn owner/operator to see what types of goats are typically sold in their sales. They should count the number of buyers at the sale and watch what each one is typically buying. Usually buyers will stick to one or two types of goats. The more successful sales will have several buyers and large numbers of goats available to sell. Beginning producers also may want to visit with other local goat producers. They should ask them what type of goats they sell and where they sell them. Each producer may have a different opinion about where to sell and why. Listening to these varying opinions may help a new producer to decide where to sell. After visiting the sale barn and taking note of the types of goats sold and the prices received, producers can compare those prices to other sale barns in the area or state. They should visit other sale barns or look for the state’s official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported prices,” said Jones. “Selling at the local auction has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is the ease of process. Generally, all producers have to do is get their product to the barn by sale day. If the auction has multiple sale dates and the first one is inconvenient, then the next one will come up soon. Also, producers do not have to be concerned about payment for their product. A disadvantage may be the recognition of a superior product. Most sale barns do not single out producers who do a better than average job. These animals, although deserving of a higher price, may not receive it. Also, producers are at the mercy of the market conditions for that day. If, for some reason the market is off that day, producers may be forced to take the price offered or buy the animals back and pay commission.”
Yet another avenue for marketing sheep and goats is selling live animals directly off the farm as replacements or seed stock. Seed stock sheep may need to be registered, and replacement animals will need to be of high quality. Research what breeds are popular and find out what traits potential customers are seeking with replacement stock.