How Much Is A Sheep Worth For Slaughter?

When you are looking to buy a sheep for meat, you’ll come across quite a bit of conflicting information regarding price. What’s the reason for all of the confusion?

The problem is you are only getting half the story. What most folks are leaving out is that sheep prices vary by season and location, so the price you find is only applicable if the buyer lives near you.

To figure out what you are likely to pay, we need to get more specific and find the slaughter sheep prices for your area.

The slaughter sheep you want are:The price will be:
not raised near youhigher
in short supply for the time of yearhigher
easily available in your arealower
at an age and condition that is common at that time of yearlower
Here is a basic overview of things that change slaughter sheep prices.

Value of the sheep depends the sheep and the market

The value of the slaughter sheep depends greatly on what sheep you are buying and how much that type of sheep is in demand in your area at the current time in that body condition (amount of fat cover).

I know that is a lot to figure out and since each one has some variability to it, we’ll go over them one at a time.

You should know going into this that your area determines the price.

  • Do you live close to where the sheep are raised or far away?
  • Do you want a sheep at the same time everyone else does, like for a holiday?
  • Are you looking for sheep that are hard to raise for that time of year or area?

These are just a few of the considerations that will affect the price of your slaughter sheep.

For example, if I sell a market lamb at auction this week it’ll bring around $200, but take the same sheep to an area of high demand and low supply, like a larger city, will be worth two or three times that much.

Is Raising Your Own Lambs For Meat Worth It? walks you through the expenses involved in raising a lamb for meat. As a buyer, this information will help you determine if the prices you find are reasonable or not.

What sheep is being sold?

What is the sheep that is being sold? Overall, any sheep that is in good condition for it’s size and age group will sell for more than a similar sheep that is lacking in weight or thriftiness.

What kind of sheep is it? I don’t mean breed as much as what type of sheep it is. For example, are you talking about market lambs, choice 55 pounders or aged sheep?

In my area, the market lambs would bring more total money than the 55 pounders and the culls would bring the least, if all of the sheep were in good condition.

How was the sheep raised?

How the sheep was raised can and does determine the value, as far as what should be paid for the lamb as well as the flavor of the meat.

If you are partial to one type of lamb, grass fed, for instance, then seeking out a lamb that was raised the way that matters to you will require a bit of work on your part to source and, more than likely, a bit more money to pay for the extra work required to raise these lambs and make it worth the farmer’s time.

lamb standing in front of ewes in barn
This lamb is a winter lamb, which is less common in our area than spring or summer lambs. This also means that he is likely sell for more when he at market weight simply because there are less lambs or his age at that time.

Prices vary by season

Prices vary by season, normally when there is a lot of something, price is lower, when there are less of a type of sheep than the buyers want, price is higher. This is just basic economics at work.

If we were to sell a cull ewe today, I would expect her to bring around $100, a market lamb $150-200 and a finished 55 pounder would bring $150-165.

Earlier in the fall, the market lamb would have been sold for more like $100-130 or so, which is a common lower priced time in our area.

We have sold a few cull ewes and some early in the season market lambs for nearly the same price per head, which was not great for the market lambs, for sure, but a pretty good price for the culls.

You must do some digging around and see what the going price in your area is, there is no way around it. Check out online ads as well as market reports to get a feel for prices.

How Much Will My Lambs Sell For? is an article I wrote on market reports (auction prices). It will help you understand the numbers that you need to in order to start your research on local sheep prices.

What is the demand for this type of sheep currently?

What is the demand for this type of slaughter sheep that you are looking for in your area? You need to find the current prices and look until you see some trends.

This is a critical question. In our area, sheep prices change dramatically through out the year.

Let me tell you what I mean: in our area as soon as everyone runs out of grass for the year, they start to sell their lambs. This means that there is a glut of lambs from August through the first of December or so.

All lambs sold during this glut tend to bring less than that same lamb would bring if it were sold in late December or after the first of the year.

So, if you are looking for sheep in late summer through fall, those are normally lower priced times.

However, if you are wanting a slaughter sheep later in the year or in the winter, prices change. The price difference is up to twice as much, at least on market lambs, and it’s a reliable upswing.

I can’t say if the same thing happens where you live, but it’s worth a few minutes looking through market reports and trying out some options on the calculator to see if this would make a big difference for you.

For us, selling later in the year, while it costs more to feed the lambs, normally brings in an additional $100 a head. Will that be the case this year, as well? I can’t say until we see what shakes out.

flock of white faced ewes eating hay on pasture in the fog
Other influences like weather or hay prices can and will unexpectedly change the price of slaughter sheep.

Unexpected supply changes to sheep market

Also, the demand for sheep can change due to things beyond normal seasonal changes.

Things like a short supply of hay or grass or high grain prices will have folks selling more stock than usual, which all goes through the slaughter channels and adds to the supply, which tends to plummet prices.

This means that if you buy slaughter sheep during a sell off time, they will be less than normal price for your area.

You should know that once the extra breeding stock sheep are sold, due to something like a drought, the next year or so the prices for sheep will be higher, since there are less adult sheep producing.

Are you buying sheep privately or at auction?

If you want to get out of the “other folks set my prices” situation, you can buy sheep privately.

Private sales should be set up to work well for both you and the seller so that each of you will benefit by dealing with each other.

You save time by not setting all day at the auction and the seller gets to sell a sheep without the fees that pay for the auction’s services.

As a sheep farmer, let me give you some tips for buying privately:

  • do not argue price
  • be courteous
  • show up on time
  • bring cash

I realize that these tips may not be popular or how you are used to doing things, but taking the time to make sure both you and the seller are happy with the deal keeps this buying opportunity open.

Here is the USDA Weighted Average Report from Centennial Sheep And Goat Action in Fort Collins, Colorado for the end of January 2023.

If you do not live in or near Colorado, you are looking for a report something like this to give you prices. Search “slaughter sheep prices (your area)” or “sheep slaughter prices near me” for area specific prices.

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