Pinpointing optimal market strategies for small ruminants 

The demand for small ruminants continues to trend in an upward trajectory in the United States. The positive direction translates into the opportunity for increased profitability for small ruminant operations. Producers who know the best strategy when it comes to when to sell and how to market their animals can maximize their profits. 

Peak Sale Times

According to livestock extension specialists, market trends and consumer behavior help to pinpoint the time of year farmers will get the most money for their sheep and goats. In the spring, prices tend to spike around Easter. “Cultural traditions and religious beliefs highly influence sheep and goats’ markets in the United States; however, in Missouri, we also add the climate influences due to pasture availability,” Eleazar U. Gonzalez, Ph.D., state extension specialist and assistant professor at Lincoln University College of Agriculture, Environmental and Human Sciences, said. 

The peak time for prices in the spring coincide with religious festivities and celebrations. Additionally, many producers choose to sell their small ruminants prior to summer to avoid the unpredictability of scorching temperatures and grazing conditions. Conversely, some small landowners want to buy sheep and goats during the spring to help manage invasive bushes on their property.  Another time where prices peak is in the fall. “However, prices may not be as high as in the spring, mainly because grazing and pasture availability is limited in states with cool winters like Missouri,” Dr. Gonzalez added. 

  According to Dr. Gonzalez, research tracked by the Agricultural Economic and Marketing Program at Lincoln University Cooperative Extension confirms the peak price points in spring and fall as well as indicates the time of year that producers can get the most money for their livestock. “From May 2022 to April 2023, goat producers in Missouri who sold their animals at the stockyards received their best price in March 2023,” Dr. Gonzalez stated. 

Marketing Strategies

Livestock extension experts encourage producers to formulate a marketing plan that fits their operation to maximize profits. “Producers should always consider direct marketing and take advantage of the selling season to create niche sustained markets, mainly in the springtime when cultural, religious, and natural conditions align with consumers’ preferences,” Dr. Gonzalez said. 

Producers looking to direct market their product may want to consider local farmers markets and road stands. Additionally, online platforms are growing avenues for small ruminant producers to tap into for sales. Social media and other platforms allow producers to find a niche market of consumers. 

Castration Considerations

There are several factors to consider when trying to decide whether to castrate a buck or ram. First, castrated animals tend to have a more temperate disposition. “Castrated animals are easier to manage than uncastrated animals. Uncastrated bucks and rams are more aggressive and show a higher temper than castrated ones,” Dr. Gonzalez said. 

Additionally, uncastrated bucks and rams bring a reduced price in some markets. “Consumers or processors who buy small ruminants always offer lower pricing per pound (for uncastrated bucks and rams) due mainly to low meat quality and intense flavors not only on the meat products but during the processing of products,” Dr. Gonzalez stated.

Create Business Plan

Producers looking to maximize profits may also want to consider creating a business plan to help them determine the best marketing strategies. “I will encourage new small ruminant producers to start the business with a business plan and those currently producing to adopt one and have production and financial projections synchronized in the business plan; it will help them to know when and where to sell and how to approach effective management of the herd,” Dr. Gonzalez concluded. 


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