Know your market
Many smallholders do not know the true market value of their animals, with the result that newcomers are often overcharged. This leads to disappointment further down the line, when the purchasers themselves have surplus stock to sell, and wonder why they cannot obtain prices anywhere near what they paid for the initial breeding stock. The bottom line price for any animal is what it is worth for slaughter, and value may be added to that on the basis of pedigree information, breeding potential etc. Market prices – for both live and deadweight sales – are published weekly in the farming press, and are available online, so, whether you’re buying or selling, it’s worth keeping an eye on current trends. It’s also a good idea to visit your local livestock market from time to time, just to get an idea of what different types of animal are worth. Have a go at guessing the weights of a few pens of lambs and estimating what price they’ll make, then see how far off the mark you were when the auctioneer comes round to sell them. Do the same with breeding stock and with other species such as pigs and cattle. You may not wish to buy or sell any animals of your own through a livestock market, but the knowledge and experience you’ll gain will be invaluable.