Viking Era

What is the market value of sheep?

“Sheep” by lostajy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is the going price for sheep? We can use that information to develop some very rough approximations of prices during the Viking age.

My conclusion at the end of this post:

  • $150 – looks to be about the best estimate for a productive ewe
  • $200 – price for a productive ewe, rounded off to a single significant digit and giving more weight to the more analytically focused articles found.

Follow along as this city boy sorts out prices for sheep. I learned a lot along the way.

11/1/17 (article written in 2002) – Countryside Daily – Raising Sheep: Buying and Caring for Your First Flock – This was the most helpful of a number of articles I read. It is focused on someone who wants to start raising sheep on a small acreage or someone wanting to become a part-time farmer. The focus on a small flock makes for a good comparison to ancient days when farmers would not be running hundreds of animals that would be raising what could be tended to by a family.

Article gives background on how to get started, including where to get animals and what to look for when starting a herd.

Here are some rough estimates of prices as of 2002:

  • $200 – $250 – a younger ewe (female) in the ideal age of two years up to four years.
  • Higher than $200-250 range – a bred ewe, (for us city boys that means female which has a higher price because you will quickly have yield from the ewe, specifically a new lamb)
  • Less than the $200 – $250 range – an older ewe, aged five years and higher – lower price because there are less productive years left
  • $75-$150 – lambs
  • $100-$150 – ram (lots of options exist, including borrowing ram for a friendly neighbor, renting a ram, buying one and selling them after the breeding season)

Here is some technical breakout, which of course is new info for me:

  • Lambs – less than one year
  • Yearlings – one or two years old
  • Ewes – over two years old

Article also gives a very rough overview of feeding, illness management, and prices for wool.

One ewe can yield between 8 and 12 pounds of wool per year. That would have been extremely valuable in the Viking age, since the women would spend much of their time weaving the cloth for the family’s clothes, which would be the primary  source (only source except for luxury imports?) of clothing for the family.

Whitmore Farm – FOR SALE – sheep breeding stock – A few prices listed for animals available for purchase:

  • $175 – unregistered ewe lamb – that means no papers documenting lineage, I think that is an unweaned female, one which will need more time before able to breed
  • $450 – registered ram lamb – a male, probably under a year old, that has papers showing lineage

Sales prices for 11/6/17 – Colby livestock – Sheep Prices Actual sale prices at about 8 locations in midwest. I will list data for multiple head sales, excluding single sales. For lambs, I listed every fourth sale, to calculate an average. Data listed will be the number of animals in each specific sale, the average live weight, the price per hundred pounds, and the price per animal (calculated by me). An average of each category is then calculated.

 

count  weight $/cwt  $price
ewe
2         185      77.00     142.45
4         144      65.00      93.60
5         145      57.00      82.65
24         143      55.00      78.65
2         178      43.00      76.54
average         159      59.40      94.78
 –
exposed ewe (I think that means bred but not sure of pregnancy)
7         108     115.00     124.20
3         133     101.00     134.33
4         135      77.00     103.95
4         104      63.00      65.52
average         120      89.00     107.00
          –
ewe sold by the head, all exposed, all DorperX breed
10         119     140.00     166.60
3         120     140.00     168.00
10         114     131.00     149.34
3         120     120.00     144.00
average         118     132.75     156.99
 –
ram
1         215     145.00     311.75
1         140     140.00     196.00
 –
lambs (under 1 year, every fourth sale listed)
4           50     215.00     107.50
8           65     181.00     117.65
5           49     166.00      81.34
1         145     145.00     210.25
4         115     141.00     162.15
2         168     137.00     230.16
7           89     134.00     119.26
24         121     130.00     157.30
2         108     115.00     124.20
average         101     151.56     145.53

Profitability

Undated article with note it was updated in 1993 – University of California Small-cap farm Program – Sheep: A Small-Scale Agriculture Alternative – Article is focused on small-scale herds.

Startup costs for a 30 ewe flock are estimated to range from $187 per head up to $236. I’m not sure if that includes just the cost of the ewe or also includes other costs.

Time to care for a flock is estimated at two hours per year for one ewe and offspring. That means a flock of 20 or 100 ewes would take 40 or 200 hours of work each year.

Article gives a very rough budget for a flock of 100 ewes and 4 rams:

  • income:
  • $10.10 of wool per ewe
  • $63-$75 per hundredweight (100 pounds) sale price of lambs – typical weight for lambs at sale would be around 110 pounds
  • 129 lambs marketed per year from 100 ewes
  • $106.98 – gross income per year per ewe
  • expenses:
  • $74.45 – $77.03 – variable costs per ewe, including feed and labor
  • $12.77 – fixed costs per ewe
  • $87 – $89 – annual costs per ewe

Possible profits based on that data:

  • $18 – $20 – per ewe
  • $1,800 – $2,000 – for flock of 100 ewes

Article says profitable operations require an average of more than one lamb per ewe each year.

Undated – Sheep 101 – Enterprise budgeting – Spreadsheet gives format to analyze revenue and costs for running a herd of 100 ewes and 3 rams. Lamb production of 160 per year.  Here is the results of this long string of assumptions:

  • for herd – per ewe – factor
  • $27,893 – $279 – revenue, including 140 lams, cull of ewes and ram, wool
  • $16,370 – $164 – variable costs, including feed, health care, sundry
  • $11,523 – $115 – gross margin before capital costs and labor

Data points

These articles provide a few data points:

  • $200 – $250 – a younger ewe (female) in the ideal age of two years up to four years.
  • $175 – unregistered ewe lamb
  • $187 – $236 – start-up costs per ewe
  • $95 -$100 – ewes and exposed ewes, actual sales prices
  • $157 – Dorper ewes, a breed that gains weight fast, actual sales  prices
  • $145 – lambs, actual sales prices

Estimate of price of ewe sheep

I don’t know how to get an overall price that really tells a lot, but will make a guess anyway. I’ll mention my thought process so you can modify my calculations as you wish.

Most reliable estimate seems to be the $200-$250 range. Best point estimate for actual sales are in the range of about $100, but that is likely for culled animals, not ones that are best for starting a productive herd.

  • $150 – looks to be about the best estimate for a productive ewe
  • $200 – price for a productive ewe, rounded off to a single significant digit and giving more weight to the more analytically focused articles found.

Any readers who actually raise sheep willing to offer any data points?

One thought on “What is the market value of sheep?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *