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Ridin' The Range
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We sell our butcher lambs(8-12 weeks old) for $150.
I'm sure breed has a lot to do with it, but how big are they at that age? My sheep are Dorper, Blackbelly, and Katahdin mix. They are mostly pasture raised, but get some feed each evening when I bring them in for the night. I'd have nothing but hair & hooves if I slaughtered them at that age. How do I put weight on them faster while still treating them well? By that I mean not penned up in a stall and force fed.
 

misfitmorgan

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It has nothing to do with breed. Very very few people eat lamb here, it is $8-12/lb at the store so most people have never even tried it.

We sell/raise suffolk sheep which average 150lbs by 6 months old(last years fair wether was 168lbs if i recall correctly) on pasture and light grain. We dont sell them to be butchered at 8-12 weeks old we sell them to be raised to be butchered. I'm not really sure of their weight for a fact at 8-12 weeks old, I would guess 6-70lbs at 8 weeks old and 8-90lbs at 12 weeks old.

We do have mutt sheep as well but we consider them throw away sheep and are planning on putting all the mutt lambs in our freezer this year.

Its not a fact of you doing anything wrong, hair sheep are smaller sheep. If you want them to gain faster though make a lamb creep area and feed them sweet feed. They can still go on pasture. Yes they would gain faster but we dont confinement raise our sheep either. If we did confinement raise we would only get an extra 20-25lbs on them by 6 months and its not worth it for us.

Our sheep have been dry-lotted the past 2 winters but we are working on winter pasture for them.
 

Ridgetop

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ere is some important information missing from your inquiry, that I would like to know.

What weight are the lambs you are selling?
How old are your lambs at that weight?
What breed(s) are you raising?
Do you weigh your lambs routinely or guess at their weight based on age?
Do you have a livestock auction in the area?
Are there many lamb producers in your area?
Is there a demand for lamb meat in your area? Are there any ethnic buyers?


This is kind of long, but it may help you in selling your lambs. I had to revamp my sales program this year, and other BYH members helped to point me in the right direction. When selling lambs, you must take into account the area of the country where you live, the breed and size of your sheep, how often they lamb, the rate of growth, customer ethnicity, and number of other lamb producers in your area. Certain areas of the country have more lamb eaters/ producers than others. Many areas that are traditional beef country don’t have a lot of call for lamb since sheep farmers were not welcomed for centuries. Consequently, lamb is not popular as a meat there except in certain ethnic communities.
  1. What is the weight at which you are market your sheep? You need to find out the most desirable weight for a sale in your area. Instead of simply raising your lambs to 100 lbs.+ and then advertising for buyers, advertise for the buyers first and custom raise the lamb to their wants. Some people want a lamb above 120 lb. for standard market cuts. Others may want a BBQ size lamb around 50-60 lbs. Still others have other requirements. Do you have ethnic buyers? Do you have buyers for certain holidays – Easter, Passover, Cinquo de Mayo, 4th of July, Memorial Day. Etc. Suit your lambs to the buyer requirements in your area and plan your breedings for sales at those times.
  2. The breed of sheep does play a large part in your ability to sell lambs at a certain weight and certain times of the year. Large breeds, like Suffolks and Hampshires, etc., (which we raised for many years) don’t make a suitably finished carcass before 6-7 months of age. They are growing their large skeletal development earlier, meat is put on later. They are cyclical breeders and only produce lambs in the spring unless hormonally induced to lamb at other times. If most of the lamb growers in your area have lambs only in the spring months, you will have a lot of lambs on the market at the same time. Following the market rule of supply and demand, more lambs available prices will be lower. Can you breed for different times when there are fewer lambs on the market? If the demand in your area is for larger carcass size, then stick with the larger, fast growing breeds. If the demand in your area is for small lambs, then you should breed the smaller breeds. If the demand is for BBQ size stay away from the very fast growing breeds since they will get too big too fast for your buyers.
  3. Rate of growth is everything when trying to raise a finished lamb on pasture. The shorter the time you keep the lamb before selling, the more profitable it is for your bottom line. The longer you hold the lamb, the more it costs you in feed or pasture to get him to selling weight. Don’t think that because your lambs are pasture grown that they eat for free. Pasture costs money and time to keep in good shape. If you carry too many sheep on your pasture without rotation, you end up with weedy or bare pasture the sheep will not be able to utilize. In a drought year overgrazing may result in no forage at all the following season. Supplying hay and supplements can be costly if not figured into the costs of running your operation. Proper pasture stocking numbers and rotation are imperative in a pasture operation. Do you have to creep feed in order to reach your target weight?
  4. Consider customer ethnicity. This is where our American lamb market is beginning to take off. Traditionally Hispanics were the only ones who bought lambs and kids at the auctions. Jewish people bought Kosher lamb for holidays. Demand was low and auction prices were low 20 years ago. Now, however, other ethnic people have emigrated in large numbers to the US. These new ethnicities include Armenians, Muslim and non-Muslim middle easterners, and Africans. People from Mediterranean countries also eat lamb. They have joined the Hispanics in buying lamb in our area. However, they do not want a finished 100-120 lb. lamb. They want a much smaller lamb ranging between 40 lb. to 65 lbs. Traditionally that is the size they are used to cooking and that is what they want. You can’t convince them that a larger lamb will still be tender. If you have a market for smaller lambs, then the smaller breeds might be what you want to specialize in. Those smaller breeds will produce a 50 lb. lamb at 3-4 months. 3-4 months is better for the ewe when removing lambs from a heavy milker. BBQ size lambs are desirable to Muslims who buy live lambs and butcher Halal themselves for their specialty shops. Like Kosher, Halal is a ritual type of slaughter where the slaughterer prays over the animal while killing it. Halal meat shops will pay up to $150 for a 40 lb. lamb live with tail and testicles. Horns on a goat kid are preferred. They do not usually want ewe lambs.
  5. If you have a livestock auction within a 2 hour driving radius, I suggest you call them, and find out what size lambs are selling at the auction for what prices. Ask what the most popular size is and what the prices are on all sizes. Do this for a couple weeks since a sudden push in buying may be due to a specific holiday. Compare the size of lambs that are popular with the prices they are bringing. It is possible that you may be raising your lambs to a less popular size than will bring the most favorable sale price.
IMPORTANT! You mentioned 4-H and FFA lambs being exorbitantly priced. 4-H and FFA lamb prices can’t be considered in these equations when figuring selling prices for your lambs. Those are specialty lambs selling in a closed Youth Auction. They are purchased from breeders who breed club lambs. They breed the style and type of lamb desired in the show ring. These lambs are tall, long, leggy, and large. They are designed to be flashy in the ring. These are not standard commercial lambs. These show lambs cost a lot of money. The youth exhibitors advertise and shop for their Fair auction buyers, and at many fairs family members and donors will give an “add-on” of money to the purchase price as a tax deduction. Fair Youth Auction prices are often ridiculously high since businesses will often buy the animal for the publicity. The price they pay is tax deductible.. With the Covid closure of so many Fairs and livestock shows, you are seeing a glut in the market of finished 4-H and FFA lambs, hogs, and steers, since many of the children had already purchased their show animals months ago. They paid a high price hoping to make a lot at the auction when they sold. Now they need to get back at least the purchase price of their lamb and the feed they have put into it. Many of the FFA kids have borrowed from the FFA Sponsorship program or the school AG Booster Club to buy the lamb. In heavily livestock or farming communities, agricultural banks often loan the kids money for the purchase of their animal. That money has to be repaid somehow. The price at auction would have paid off that loan and put some money in their pocket. Now they have to sell their animals for enough to repay the loans. Their prices do not reflect normal prices paid to the producers.

I don’t want to offend you, but you mentioned buying breeding rams for $300 and expecting to sell your market ram lambs for the same prices. When I buy a breeding ram, I buy one that is better than what I already have seeking to improve my flock. I don’t expect to sell my ram or wether meat lambs for what I pay for a good breeding sire. It sounds like you are trying to charge the same price for a meat lamb as you would pay for a better sire ram. You might want to reprice your ram lambs, and wether them before selling. Just a thought. When we take our lambs in to our butcher I always have him grade my carcasses. This lets me know if I am feeding right - too much fat, or not enough fat can change a carcass grade. It is essential to know so you can properly advertise the quality of your lambs.

You mentioned lambs in your area selling for $300. Are the lambs that are selling for $300 in your area better lambs? Larger? Meatier? Are they a different breed that is more popular in your area? If you are having trouble selling your lambs for the same price as the competition, you might want to go look at the competition to see if you are coming up short anywhere. On the other hand, those people selling lambs for $300 may not have any buyers either.

I know it's long, but I hope it helps you.
 

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