Record Prices for Sheep & Lamb

December 28, 2021

The sheep and lamb industry is shaping up to have a record setting year for prices. Feeder lamb prices (Three-Market Average; Colo., Texas and S.D.) have tracked above 2020 levels every week expect for one in March – which was $230 per cwt, the lowest price for the year.

In February, a record price was set for feeder lambs at $342 per cwt and prices are likely to average about $260 for the year. The average feeder lamb price was $192 per cwt in 2020. Slaughter lamb prices rose quickly to start the year and set a record price in early August at $268 per cwt. Since the peak, prices have moved slightly lower but were still above $220 per cwt.

Wholesale lamb values have been phenomenal this year with record levels having been set within the last five months and prices continue to remain elevated. The National Lamb Cutout value (Gross Carcass FOB, Five Day Rolling Average) rose 66 percent ($255) since the start of the year to a record value of $639 per cwt in early August and since that point has averaged $624. In August, the shoulder price (Square Cut, Five Day Rolling Average) jumped to a record price of $609, nearly double the prior year. Leg prices reached a record of $604 per cwt in early October and have averaged about $600 since the peak. The loin and rack both set record price levels in November at $1,074 and $1,461 per cwt, respectively.

Sheep and lamb slaughter is likely to be above 2020 as year-to-date slaughter is tracking about 2 percent higher. Average dressed weights through mid December are about 2.4 percent (1.6 lbs.) lower than a year ago, which has more than offset the higher slaughter numbers resulting in lamb production down marginally (-0.1 percent). Although lamb production levels will likely be near last year, the record setting lamb prices have been driven by exceptional domestic demand. Per capita lamb consumption for 2021 is expected to be over 1.3 pounds per person for the year, which would be the highest level since the early 1990s.

A recent survey of lamb consumers by the American Lamb Board concluded that improved lamb consumption has been linked to the availability of more lamb cuts in grocery stores year-round and not just around holidays.

Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center