How Much Will My Lambs Sell For? (Reading Market Reports)

sheep headed to the auction

Are you going hoping to raise some sheep this year but not sure of the price you’ll get for the lambs?

Price information is usually pretty easy to find, but it can be confusing to figure out, especially if you are a beginner. The solution: You need to learn to read a market report.

The current price for 80 pound lambs is $2.90-3.50 per pound live weight. The price depends upon supply, condition of the lamb, location and time of year.

The best way to know the current selling price for lambs is to check your local (or as close to local as you can) auction market report.

Most auctions will have their weekly market report online and have the reports from the past few years available for you, as well.

Wondering what to expect when you sell your lambs at an auction? Read my article How Livestock Auctions Work.

Here are some of our lambs we sold, this is early for us, but these were early born lambs!

How to read a market report for lambs

The first thing to know is that all auctions have their own way of presenting the information in the market report.

Generally, the more lambs the auction has or expects to have for the week, the more detailed the report will be.

Secondly, realize that the price is per hundredweight, abbreviated as CWT. CWT means that the price you see is the price per 100 pounds.

Most animals that are selling for market will sell by weight, not by the head.

Lamb on pasture with the main flock of sheep
Spring born lamb grazing with the main flock.

For example: if you are selling a lamb that weighs 100 pounds exactly and the price is $255.00 per head you will get $255.00 (before commissions are taken out).

If you are selling an 80 pound lamb at $3.25/CWT you will get $260.00 (before commission).

There are two market report styles you will see

One of our local auctions (we are fortunate enough to live in an area with multiple auctions within a reasonable driving distance) has a sheep and goat sale that just lists lambs. No divisions on weight or anything else.

Example of a market report lacking detail due to low numbers

This particular auction is popular for cattle and the best place to go for feeder pigs in the entire state, but lambs are a bit of an oddity here.

Since there are so few lambs going through this sale, the report puts them together.

Feeder Lambs up to 85#$175-240 CWT
This is the lamb section of the market report for 8/13/20. The report is basic because there were only 11 lambs at this sale.

Example of a higher volume lamb sale with a more detailed market report

Contrast this with the Mt. Hope Auction where we sell our lambs: this report is quite detailed, as are most market reports that I have seen from other large auctions.

Lambs are divided out by weights and outstanding lambs, listed as prime, are in their own section, as well.

This report provides quite a bit of information for both buyers and sellers.

Weight of Lambs (Aug. 12, 2020) CWT Price
Prime: 40#-60#$280-347.50
Choice: 40#-60#$240-277.50
Choice: 60#-80#$230-292.50
130# and Up$120-145
Mt. Hope Auction market report for August 12, 2020 for lambs sold. (Edit: as I review this article in Feb. 2021 prices are up substantially from the prices listed here.)

Updated prices from the same sale, to show you trends in lamb prices

Here’s an updated chart, same auction (Mt. Hope Auction, Mt. Hope, Ohio) but with the most current prices, November 3, 2021 from this market report.

This will give you a good idea of how prices are trending upward, at least for lambs. For all of the market reports for this auction, click here and select a date.

Weight of lambs (Nov. 3, 2021)CWT Price
Prime: 40#-60#$400-532
Choice: 40#-60#$350-397.50
Choice: 60#-80#$350-450
130# and up$180-240
Market report from Nov. 3, 2021.

Why is this report so much more detailed? That’s easy, they have more details to give since they sell more lambs per week.

If the market reports in your area are not very informative, it’s because there are not many lamb buyers or sellers who want the information.

Note: there is information listed in this sheep report, including total head sold, rams sold and ewes sold.

Since this article is only about lamb prices, I left any non lamb data out.

flock of ewes with lambs on pasture
Our main flock of ewes with their lambs on pasture.

Why is there a range in the prices?

The range in prices can be from any of the following:

  • Under or over supply for that auction
  • Condition of the lambs
  • Seasonality of demand
  • Holidays or celebrations occurring soon

Auction buyers are filling orders that vary weekly

Most of the buyers at an auction are reselling the lambs to others that have placed orders, like butcher shops, but do not want to attend the auction themselves.

The shop places an order including: number of head, condition/weight and what they are willing to pay.

The order buyer buys what he can to fill the order for the week. This order will change, which changes what the buyer needs and will pay for your lambs.

Another option is a processing plant has more demand than it can supply locally so the buyers bring in trailer loads of uniform lambs from auctions further away.

Over or under supply and holidays change pricing

To a bit of research to see if the prices for the past few market reports are normal.

The glut of lambs coming off of pasture, due to grass shortages or the end of the grazing season, will lower prices.

While this is the most popular time to sell lambs in our area, especially for people who have to buy winter hay, it is generally the lowest price of the year. Why? Over supply.

A few weeks before a holiday will tend to raise prices above the normal range.

How far over normal depends upon how easy it is for the summer pastured sheep to fill the needs of the holiday customers.

An example: This year one of the main holidays that usually brings high lamb prices for our area did not. The lamb price wasn’t much over normal.

What happened this year? The holiday rotates through the year and this year it happened to be during the glut of lambs coming off of pasture. There wasn’t much of price difference at all for sellers.

When this holiday falls opposite of normal lamb selling season, the price for these holiday lambs will be really high.

This year, and for the next few years, not so much.

Raising Sheep For Profit is an article I wrote that goes into this a little bit (the when to sell your lambs based on seasonality and demand for your area part.)

What are your options if you want a more steady price?

If you are not a fan of the variability of the auction prices for lamb, you do have an option: private sales.

The good news with private sales is you keep all of the money that the customer pays for the lamb. When you sell at an auction, you only get part of the money the eater will pay for the lamb.

The rest of the story is that private sales require more work, that’s why you get more money! If you are willing to do the marketing, work with the individual customers and set up processing, private sales are the ticket.

Some factors that alter price you are not in a market report

While the market report does have quite a bit of information, there are some important things not in the report.

Here are a few examples of factors that will alter price but will not be seen in the market report:

  • Condition of the lamb (aside from those listed as prime or choice)
  • Differences in structure/body type of lambs
  • Lambs in poor health
  • Limping
  • Seasonality
  • Under supply for the week
  • Over supply for the week
  • Unusual breeds

An example of a pricing trend that will not be on the market report

In our area, hair sheep lambs are listed in the market report like any other lambs. You would need to attend the sale to notice the difference in prices (if there is one).

From what I have seen around here, hair sheep lambs bring about $0.20-30 less per pound than wool lambs of the same quality.

Not sure why, but it is noticeable when you watch the sale.

Regarding hair sheep or wool sheep, some auctions list this out while others do not. It depends upon the preferences of your area.

What if there are no markets close to you?

What about people who live too far away from an auction to ever go there? Hopefully, you thought of this before you got into sheep and have been working on a people to sell your lambs to.

Even if you live too far away from an auction to make it reasonable for you to take lambs, it is wise to know what the current prices are. Unless your animals are pets, you’ll need to sell them to someone.

Knowing the going price is important. You’ll need to give the buyer a reasonable price and you should get a reasonable price for your efforts.

No market reports? Check online.

You have few options, I’d start with online listings. These will give you an idea of what is the going price for your area and what lambs are currently available.

Even with the availability of auctions in our area, many people choose to sell their animals privately. If they can do it, so can you!

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