I have been tracking the prices from
Producers Livestock Auction in San Angelo, TX since January 1998. They
update the sheep and goat auction prices every Wednesday evening at the
USDA website. The address is http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/SA_LS320.txt
I enter the data in a spreadsheet every week and maintain several graphs
that make it easier to see trends and compare the data.
Hopefully, Terry got the graph along with the text for my column and it
appears somewhere on this page in a large enough size where you can see
The prices are going to vary between different markets, but the price
trends you see should be universal. The prices I graphed are the highest
prices paid that day for each size range of kid. Keep in mind that there
is a low price also which is usually about $.10/lb lower than the high
price. I didn't include those because the graph is too cluttered with all
four lines on it. Until recently the data was not reported very
consistently as far as weight ranges, one week you would get 30-40 lb kids
and the next it might be 30-50 lb kids, but you can still get some
important information from the graph. I did not include the larger kid
sizes because they trade so infrequently that the graph is meaningless.
The first, and most important thing, you can tell from this graph is that
kid goats have a fairly predictable annual price cycle. Every year prices
peak around Easter, then they steadily decline until they bottom out in
early summer, they stay low throughout the summer, then start to climb
again around October. You should use this information when planning for
your operation so that your kids will be ready for market when prices will
Another encouraging trend has been the general increase in prices for
comparable months every year. For instance, in 1998 the spring peak was
about $.98 per lb. The next year the price peaked at $1.09 per lb. In 2000
the price peak was $1.15 per lb., and finally last year the price spiked
all the way to $1.47 per lb. The low prices have also been better the last
few years. In 1998 the summer months saw prices in the mid $.70 per lb
range, last year the market bottom was a full $.10 per lb better than
that. This shows that the demand for goat meat continues to grow faster
than the supply. If possible you should be increasing the size of your
herd to take advantage of the increasing demand.
The graph also shows that the larger kids generally sell for slightly less
on a per lb basis than the lighter kids. Keep in mind though that larger
kids will bring more per head than the light kids even with the slightly
lower price per lb. You can use this info to make decisions about the size
of kid you wish to sell.
There is another development in the slaughter goat market that you should
be aware of. Every spring I get calls directly from slaughter facilities
wanting to purchase kid goats. The worrisome part about that is that they
want to base the price they pay on the 24 month moving average price for
that size goat. These calls always come in the spring when prices are far
above average for the year, and started last year when prices in general
were far above average.
This would be a great deal for the producer who has managed his production
poorly and has a bunch of kids he needs to sell in August, but again I
don't get these calls in August. The calls come from January until April.
If the packer is interested in paying the average price, all he needs to
do is buy the same quantity of goats weekly throughout the year through
the auction. In the end the packer would then end up paying the average
What this looks like to me is a ploy by the packers to purchase goats in
the spring at a huge discount over what they would pay at the sale barn,
then in the summer when prices are low return to the sale barn to buy
goats at below average prices. You can't blame them for trying. I
recommend that you manage your production so that your kids are ready for
sale when prices are high, and that you demand the full market price for
Last month my column addressed kidding season tips. A few days after I
received my issue a friend brought it to my attention that someone had a
big difference of opinion with my suggestion that producers give serious
consideration to moving their kidding season to late summer (keep in mind
late summer is September), and was airing his difference of opinion along
with his opinions about me personally on one of the internet email groups.
The last part particularly bothered me since I have never met or spoken
with this person. I have since corresponded with him and discussed the
matter, so this is not meant as a criticism of anyone in particular.
Rather I raise the issue to discuss a few things that I feel my readers
I write this column for a national audience, which makes it very difficult
if not impossible to present ideas that are always going to be advisable
for everybody. Conditions are too different on operations located even
across the road from one another, let alone across the country, for every
idea I present to work for everybody. Rather I put the ideas out there
along with some of the pros and cons so that individual producers can
evaluate the ideas and decide if they would improve their operation. There
may be advantages or disadvantages to an idea that I hadn't thought of or
that are peculiar to your locale that would make the idea particularly
good or bad for your operation. I try to make it clear in every column
that there are places and conditions under which the ideas presented will
not work, and that each producer must evaluate whether the ideas will work
in their operation before implementing them.
The person who criticized the kidding in the summer idea did so because he
said fly strike is a problem in his area at that time of year, and
producers would lose a lot of kids. Now I have no idea whether that is the
case or not since I have never been to his operation, let alone been there
at that time of year. He is in a much better position to know that then I
am, and if it will be a significant problem then he shouldn't breed his
does to kid at that time of year. Nor should you if you know that you have
the same problem.
In my particular area flies are a problem also, but not usually at that
time of year. By the end of June conditions on my ranch are too hot and
dry for flies to thrive, and they usually disappear about then. They make
a reappearance in the fall when we start to get some rain and temperatures
cool off, but by then September born kids would be big enough that the
flies wouldn't be much of a problem for them.
If you see something in my column that you know will not work for you
because of conditions that are unique to your operation then please don't
implement the idea. If you know that the reason the idea will not work is
true of every operation in your area of the country and I didn't mention
that potential problem, please send me a note making me aware of the
problem so I can mention it in my next column. That way the correction
will go to the people who saw the idea in the first place. If you put it
out on the internet instead, the number of my readers who are going to see
it is minimal.
Finally, just because one of the ideas in my column won't be the greatest
thing since sliced bread for your operation, doesn't mean that you need to
send out a sarcastic critique of both the idea and me. A simple note
saying, "hey Martin, in my area we have a big problem with fly strike
in late summer so producers in my area would lose a lot of kids if they
moved their kidding season to that time of year" is sufficient.
Again, I don't offer the above as a criticism of anyone in particular, but
rather to let you the reader know that I encourage feedback so I can give
the best advice possible. My contact information is at the bottom of every
column in case you need to respond to something in one of my columns.