Tips for selling sheep and goats through public livestock auctions

According to a 2001 NAHMS study, 56.8 percent of sheep operators sell their lambs through auction markets/sale barns. This percentage is probably higher in the Eastern U.S., where direct sales to packers and feeders are less common. For example, a 2003 study showed that 73.5 percent of West Virginia sheep producers market their lambs through livestock auctions. The percentages of goats sold at livestock auctions is probably similar, though a higher percentage of goats may be slaughtered on-farm.

There are many advantages to marketing livestock through a public livestock auction, sale barn, or stockyard. It is convenient and easy. There are usually regular weekly sales. Sometimes, there are special graded sales or sales that cator to the increased demand for sheep and goats prior to various religious holidays.

When you sell at a stockyard, you get prompt payment and you are protected by the Packers and Stockyards Act. Public auctions are an ideal place for "price discovery." Price discovery is the process of determining the price level of a commodity based on supply and demand factors. Price discovery is public. It needs to occur somewhere and is often what many direct sales are based upon

A passle of goatsThere are also disadvanges for this marketing option. You do not know what price you are going to receive before-hand. You are subject to wide fluctuations in the market. You have little control over price. This is why farmers are often called "price-takers." Sales commisions can be high, especially if you are selling light weight lambs or kids.

Depending upon the location of the auction, shrink and transportation costs could be substantial. This marketing option can be very stressful to the livestock. Sale barns are usually not the best place to purchase breeding stock, due to the potential disease risks.

Here are some tips for maximizing your returns when taking sheep and/or goats to a livestock auction/stockyard:

Dr. Robert "Bob" Herr is a frequent speaker at sheep and goat meetings. Bob operates Nix Besser Livestock Company in Narvon, Pennsylvania. He is a livestock dealer and order buyer of sheep and goats at the New Holland Sales Stables. He also raises sheep and meat goats. Most of the suggestions in this article are from Bob's talks to producer groups.

Copyright © 2006.

Resources/Additional Reading
Ethnic Holiday Calendar 2006-2010
Goat and Lamb Holidays
National Resource on Sheep and Goat Marketing -
Producing and Selling Sheep and Goats to the Ethnic/Religious Meat Markets
Meat Goat Marketing in Greater New York City
Ethnic goat marketing made simple
USDA Livestock & Grain Market News Portal
Marketing Lambs and Slaughter Goats Through Livestock Market Auctions
Marketing Goats at New Holland
Comparing Marketing Options [Excel Spreadsheet]

Created or last updated by Susan Schoenian on 21-Dec-2009 .