Integral to the profitability of sheep raising is breeding and selling off of unproductive animals, this is even more critical when dealing with rams and males, – simply put they consume more than they could ever bring in and they are by their nature aggressive and counterproductive to a peaceful flock.
We find this practice the most disagreeable aspect of raising sheep, the unpleasant and often ugly business of selling of animals that you have raised. The uglier truth to this practice is that unless it is done the rest of the flock will suffer or be unsustainable, that these less productive animals will cripple the ability to care for the more productive animals. This practice is not especially profitable in itself, young male lambs rarely can be sold for more than $150 and adult males or rams long surpass their “profit-cost” point before you sell them (the calculation of feed consumed versus sale price); the earlier you do it the better, though any calculation will show that you will usually lose money.
We breed animals primarily for females (ewes) and features that enhance the profitability, nice colors for our wool sales and where possible ewes with nice horns; Another universal byproduct of all sheep, regardless of gender, is they produce manure, which is a cornerstone of our business. Generally, males and rams only value is when they have good features or attractive wool coat, the last feature, a nice rack of horns take time to develop and you do not know until well beyond their profitability whether nice horns will develop. Generally, we sell males and rams that show lesser features as early as possible, keeping potential breeders and animals with nice features longer, to see if they develop. Their maintenance cost is offset by the manure and wool they produce in the first year or two. Sometimes a nice ram can draw a reasonable price or a good trade, but rarely, – most buyers buy the animal for meat and they are typically very cost conscious (cheap).
Perhaps the most important reason for selling excess males is the hostility they possess, typically four to six young rams are manageable, but they must be separated early from the flock. They will fight among one another for the most trivial of reasons and the differences between young male rams and young male teenagers are almost indecipherable. They are irrational, thoughtless and often violent. It is not all that uncommon to find they have hurt one another, gouges from horns or cracked horns, even deaths occur all too frequently. Adult rams are also a hazard to young lambs, it is best to keep the numbers within the flock to a minimum. Like humans all sheep have their own personalities, some are far more calm and patient, some far more aggressive than others, – the fighting sorts this out between the males, but we try to keep a watchful eye on overly aggressive rams because they offer more problems than they are worth. Especially when you collect manure or sheer them, they can and will ram you and injuries do occur.
In the end this is the ugly part of this business, depending upon your pasture (ability to free graze) this may be less of a profit issue, but either way rams and males are too unpredictable and dangerous to keep too many of them. It is always a good idea not to get too attached to a young male lamb because odds are excellent you will have to sell him.