Limited Goat, Lamb Production May Improve ’24 Prices

David P. Anderson, Livestock Marketing Specialist, Texas AgriLife and Texas A&M university
JJ Jones, Area Agricultural Economics Specialist, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics
(Previously published online with: Farm Progress, Southwest FarmPress: January 25, 2024)

2023 lamb and goat prices lagged behind the record-high prices of 2022. Based on limited production in 2024, prices have the opportunity to rise.

The past year was difficult for lamb and goat prices. Early 2022 saw record-high prices, but they collapsed in the year’s second half. It took until the second half of 2023 for prices to increase above the year before, but they still lag well below the earlier record highs. Prices have the opportunity to grow in 2024 based on limited production.

Lamb outlook
Several factors worked in the lamb’s favor to allow prices to slowly climb much of the year. Lamb imports were the lowest since 2019. The amount of lamb in Continue reading

Manage Feed Costs by Evaluating Hay Waste

PennState Extension
(Previously published online with PennState Extension: May 26, 2023)
Sheep and goat operations all experience some amount of hay waste during winter feeding. Now is a good time to look back and evaluate how much hay was wasted.

The largest input cost for any livestock enterprise is feed costs. In forage dependent operations, most of these feed costs occur during the winter when feeding hay. Spring is a great time to assess hay feeding areas and consider how much hay the sheep or goats wasted over the winter.

Is there a large amount of wasted hay lying next to the hay feeders? Did pens inside the barn require minimal bedding last year due to the amount of hay waste? A “yes” answer to either of these questions should inspire producers to look more closely at feed quality and feeder design. Using feeders should be an obvious means to help reduce waste. Less obvious perhaps is the concept that feeders can also help to promote animal health. This occurs by preventing fecal or soil contamination that can lead to problems such as internal parasites, coccidia, or listeriosis. Hay losses can range from Continue reading

Where to Buy Sheep?

Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK) Communications Committee
(Previously published online with EAPK: June 23, 2023)

We often get asked “Where’s the best place to buy sheep?” A lot depends on your goals and what you’ll use the sheep for, but one thing is pretty much certain: Don’t buy sheep from the local sale barn. Below are some of the more common sale venues with some of the pros and cons listed.

Venue Pros Cons
On Farm
  • Often lowest cost option
  • Least chance of biosecurity issues
  • Least stress for animals
  • Ability to inspect the whole flock and observe management
  • Potentially more choices of one farm’s genetics
  • May allow better opportunity to develop relationship with seller, especially important if looking for a mentor
  • More flexibility on sale dates
  • Limited to only that farm’s genetics
  • Location (potentially)
  • If out-of-state, veterinary transport certificate may require additional time/expense
  • Seller may require cash-only payment
In-Person Breed Auctions
  • Wider range of options and genetics available in one location
  • Ability to physically examine and compare animals
  • Consigners usually bring their best to sell
  • Seller usually available on site to answer questions
  • Animals sell quickly by sale order
  • On-site veterinarian for transport certificates
  • Most forms of payment typically accepted
  • Mingling with other animals at sale increases biosecurity risks
  • Additional stress for animal (transport to sale; sale itself)
  • Competitive pricing
  • Consecutive bidding means you can’t go back and bid on an earlier animal if you get outbid later in the sale
Online Auctions
  • Potentially wider range of options and genetics
  • Consigners usually offer their best to sell
  • Simultaneous bidding allows you to bid on other animals if outbid on first choice
  • Length of sale allows time to plan bidding
  • Competitive pricing
  • Electronic payment usually preferred
  • Unable to handle or visually inspect animal
  • Seller may be difficult to reach for questions
Combination Auction – online auction with animals available in one location for inspection
  • Wider range of options and genetics
  • Ability to physically examine and compare animals
  • Consigners usually offer their best to sell
  • Simultaneous bidding allows you to bid on other animals if outbid on first choice
  • Length of sale allows time to plan bidding
  • Sellers usually available onsite to answer questions
  • On-site veterinarian available to provide transport certificates for animals located on-site
  • Mingling with other animals at sale increases biosecurity risks
  • Additional stress for animal (transport to sale; sale itself)
  • Competitive pricing
  • If buyer not in attendance or animal not on-site, must arrange transport
  • Acceptable forms of payment vary by sale

Regardless of where you choose to purchase sheep, keep in mind the basics. First identify your goals for your flock and farm, and develop a plan to reach those goals. Set a budget (and stick to it). Identify what specific traits you want to improve and/or downplay. Do your research – talk to the breeders, understand how their sheep are managed and their goals for their flock. Study individual animals offered for sale and remember there is no perfect animal.

Are You Charging Enough for Your Hay?

Andrew Holden, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Ashtabula County

With hay inventories at all-time lows, are you charging a competitive rate? What is a fair price to charge for hay? Are you still making a profit on your hay sales with rising input cost? Those making hay should consider the recent market changes, long-term trends, and personal enterprise cost to make sure their hay is priced fairly and competitively.

Let’s take a look at some of the hay numbers, both nationally and at the state level, as well as some tools to help hay producers fully reconcile their input cost.

National Hay Inventory
Last December the USDA reported that hay inventories in the United States were at approximately 71.9 million tons. This was a decrease of 7 million tons from the year before, roughly a 9% difference. This follows the trend over the last 20 years of decreasing hay stocks and has put us at the lowest hay inventory in over 70 years. The low inventory is likely to Continue reading

How Much Should You Charge? Pricing Your Meat Cuts

Brian F. Moyer, Education Program Associate, Business and Community Vitality, Penn State University Extension
(Previously published online: PennState Extension – December 22, 2022)

Pricing meat for direct-to-consumer sales.

It doesn’t matter if you are selling halves, quarters, or single cuts, you need to know your cost of production first. What are your costs of raising that animal from day one until the day of slaughter? In any business endeavor, keeping good records is essential to knowing if you are going to be profitable or not. Once you know your cost of production, there are some tools you can use to help you determine what price you may want to attach to your fine, farm-fresh product.

Mike Debach of the Leona Meat Plant in Troy, Pennsylvania, has a nifty process you can use thatwill help you figure out your costs after processing so you can determine your retail price. For this example, understand that the cost of production will vary depending on Continue reading

In Defense of Animal Agriculture

Dr. Francis Fluharty, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at The University of Georgia and Ohio State University Professor Emeritus

When I read online media stories that blame animal agriculture for being a large part of the environmental problems we have, it troubles me that people are so far removed from agriculture and food production that they don’t realize how connected to nature farmers are. I’m thankful for animal agriculture, from the producers who raise the livestock, to the grain farmers who grow grains and other crops whose byproducts we feed to livestock and companion animals, to the companies who produce, and distribute byproducts, to the feed companies who formulate products so that animals receive the proper nutrition, to the companies and people involved in delivering high-quality animal-based products to consumers around the world. I have often considered speaking up in defense of animal agriculture, because globally protein-energy malnutrition is the largest cause of human deaths; and in 2020, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 149 million children under the age of five were too short for their age, and another 45 million were too thin for their height.  In fact, 45% of deaths of children under five years of age are attributed to undernutrition (

The agricultural system in the United States is Continue reading

Thinking About Selling Home-based or Farm-raised Foods? See This!

The Ohio State University, Department of Extension

A recent USDA survey identified 7,107 farms in Ohio with direct food sales—the third highest state in the nation.  That might be why OSU’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program receives more legal inquiries about food sales than any other area of law.  “We are constantly surprised by the interest producers have in selling meat, produce, jams, baked goods, and similar foods directly to consumers and retailers,” said Peggy Kirk Hall, the program’s director.  To address the questions of those who want to directly market farm-raised and home-based food products to consumers, OSU Extension will host a webinar series this winter.

The “Starting a Food Business” webinar series will bring OSU’s expertise in food safety, law, product development, economics, and marketing together to help explain what a producer needs to know when planning to sell home-based and farm-raised foods.  Food businesses are challenging for many reasons, according to OSU Extension Educator Emily Marrison.

“We often see people who Continue reading

American Lamb Pricing Calculator

American Lamb Resource Center
(Previously published online: American Lamb Resource Center – Pricing Calculator)

Recently, I’ve had several conversations with lamb producers that are interested in adding value to their flock. As an example, to better connect them with their clientele, shepherds have investigated selling whole or half lamb carcasses or individual cuts. As this business venture continues to gain traction, I always encourage producers to investigate all marketing opportunities to ensure that they are getting the most out of their labors. The most common question I get when discussing this topic is: “How should I price my lamb”? Unfortunately, I can’t be the one to answer that as each operation is different in terms of overhead expenditures and operating costs. However, there is a tool available to help you in getting a fair price for your efforts. Thanks to the American Lamb Board, shepherds have a pricing calculator that can be used to set a fair market price for your meat products produced. This pricing tool also takes into consideration the live market value of your lamb to ensure that you added efforts of securing a harvest slot, storing meat, advertising, and etc. out weighs the value you would receive on the open market, thus allowing for added value of your end product.

For those interested in using this tool, please see the text provided below from the American Lamb Board. Question upon how to use this tool or how to interpret the results, let me know – I would be more than happy to help!

Pricing lamb – whether from simple or complex cutting instructions – can be a challenge. Tracking lamb produced over time at busy local lockers can also be a challenge. This Direct Marketing Lamb Business Management Tool (DMLBMT) is intended to help the direct marketer monitor productions and price product.

This DMLBMT is comprised of various components:

  • Yield Collection Template (which can also serve as an order sheet for your processor)

  • Yield Tracking Template

  • Cost/Margin/Markup Worksheet

  • Pricing/Cutout Calculator

The following will offer a chronological explanation of how to use the various components of this tool, which will require Mircosoft Excel. Downloads for both the Pricing Calculator Instructions and Pricing Calculator Excel fie can be found at