Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency

Looking At The 2016 Lamb and Sheep Market Calendar

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With the number of animals processed in Ontario growing by 2.8% year over year to August 2015, the Ontario lamb and sheep market continues to experience a steady market demand.  The economic factors affecting Ontario lamb prices are usually beyond a producer’s control, but by studying the lamb holiday markets, producers do have an opportunity to prepare their product for an optimal weight range and time to improve the price they receive.   

The producer run Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency (OSMA) embraces an open market policy allowing producers to have free choice in how they market live sheep, lambs or wool.  In support of this, the OSMA website provides online Ontario public auction market volume and price history by live market weight class.  Weekly updates are provided each Wednesday for the proceeding 7 day period, and a phone in market message service exists.  We recommend that producers, whether new or experienced, invest time at the local auction market or at district meetings to gain knowledge of current market buyers and preferences.  The markets are always changing!      

Some market items to consider:

1.       Islamic holidays follow the Islam lunar based calendar and change each year.  This calendar has twelve months with each new month beginning at sunset on the day the crescent moon appears.  As the calendar is based on lunar activity, the 12-month rotation occurs in about 354 days. The months drift backwards through the seasons and occur 11 days earlier every year according to the Western (Julian) calendar.

2.       Processor market inventory build-up: a 2 to 3 week period of demand buildup is normal as processors prepare fresh supply for holiday sales.  Id al Adha (Eid) will experience a sustained live sheep sale demand up to the day of the festival (and past if the holiday is near a following weekend).  Meat processors and retailers ideally wish to hold fresh meat for no more than 7 days.

3.       Certain holidays may influence ethnic processing plant activity during the holiday period.  Ethnic plant staff will celebrate holiday festivals with family and plant activity may be reduced.  Auction market demand can be lower from ethnic processors in the days leading immediately into certain holidays and when they occur.


4.       Statutory Canadian holidays will impact both auction market and processing plant activities.  There will be a lower desire to hold livestock during a holiday, and this may often lead to lower auction market participation and buyer demand.  Each statutory holiday should be reviewed closely to assess potential impact on buyers/ processors and the auction markets.  Auctions post sale changes occurring due to statutory holidays.

5.       On Farm Sales:  Selling live lambs from your farm can present an advantage in that you can maximize your price potential without incurring yardage, trucking or other fees.  However there can be disadvantages that require extra time, an understanding of cultural and language differences when negotiating with customers, and often management of difficult customer demands to conduct an on-farm slaughter.  This presents a loss of producer privacy and it can introduce on-farm family stress.  For this reason, many producers avoid on farm sales and prefer to sell through agents, auction markets or direct to processors.  It is illegal to slaughter a lamb on the farm for purpose of a sale.  Lamb meat may only be sold if the lamb has been processed in a federal or provincial inspected slaughter plant.  When selling lambs for slaughter, you need to sell a live lamb and let the buyer process the lamb, or facilitate the slaughter of the lamb at a licenced slaughterhouse.  You cannot help the buyer process the lamb, however you have a responsibility to ensure that a lamb is handled and killed in a humane manner. 

Check the OSMA website for a full list of current Ontario auction markets and processors handling sheep and lambs. You may also find advertisements from buyers or processors on our website or in the quarterly Sheep News magazine.    

2016 Year


Consumption Preferences

Market Processor Needs

Public Auction Market Impact



Leg of lamb, stews and curries are in favour with the colder weather

Steady demand for heavier lambs/sheep with some Orthodox Christmas demand.

Lower market volumes generally.



Leg of lamb, stews and curries are in favour with the colder weather

Lower demand.

Lower market volumes and demand generally.




Easter holiday inventory buildup. 

Growth in supply following winter, with Easter demand increase.

March 27





1 day


A peak sale period in year.

Roast lamb is a main festive meal for European (Italian, Portuguese, and Greek) heritages.


Healthy young lambs.
(under 50 lbs live weight; ideally milk fed and fat)


Easter lambs should be freshly weaned (milk fed) and not older than 3 months of age.   

Numbers of lambs under 65 lb begin to increase in three weeks before Easter, and peaks during the week before Easter. Numbers of 65-79lb lambs will increase during this time as well.

Higher market demand in 2-3 week period preceding holiday.


Hint: check local auction schedules for ‘special’ Easter sale dates!

April 23 -
April 30

8 days

Traditionally must be processed under Kosher laws.

Healthy finished lambs.  (up to 64 lbs live weight; ideally milk fed and fat)

Steady market.  A limited influence.



Start of barbeque season which Is more frequently featuring Ontario lamb. 

Moderate demand.  Processors see an increase in barbequing lamb demand from May to August.  This will push some demand from May through late July.

Commonly higher supply and slightly higher but still moderate demand.  Later month leads into Ramadan commencement.

June 6 to
July 6

Ramadan (Islam)

1 month

(daylight fasting)

Some celebrations will occur prior to start of Ramadan. 

Weaned market lambs

(60 – 80 lbs live weight)

A moderate market factor for week leading into Ramadan.

July 7 - 9

Eid al-Fitr

(Islam) Festival of Fast Breaking

Celebrations occur during the fast break period which will feature lamb products.

Weaned market lambs

(60 – 80 lbs live weight)

Lower demand for heavy lambs.

A moderate market factor for week leading into end of Ramadan.



Ending to barbeque season, leads into Eid holiday period.

Lower demand for heavy lambs.  Lower consumer demand with end of summer barbeque season and lead-up to Eid.

Lower early demand for light and heavy lambs, will increase in 2-3 week period before Eid. 

September 13

Id al Adha (Festival of Sacrifice, Eid)


1 day


A peak sale period in year.

Eid, the festival of sacrifice, is one of the most important observances in the Islamic faith.


(This may be referred to as Qurbani, though this more correctly refers to the actual act of animal processing.)

Weaned market lambs

(60 – 80 lbs live weight); however old crop lambs are also in demand.


Lambs should be under a year of age and be unblemished. Blemishes may include open wounds, torn ears or other physical unsoundness.  Wethers and lambs with docked tails may not be acceptable.

High market demand in period leading up to holiday.  Peak demand is in week preceding holiday.


Note: There is a high activity level of private holiday sales sought by families for this important celebration period. 



October 2nd – 4th

Rosh Hashanah

Jewish New Year

Lamb is a tradition or symbol of a new beginning. 

Forequarters from weaned market lambs

(60 – 109 lbs live weight)

Steady market.  A limited influencer.


October 10



Not yet a tradition but lamb is a turkey alternative.

Steady demand with slow year over year consumer demand increase.

Steady market.  A limited influencer.





Lower but steady demand during transition from Thanksgiving into Christmas period.

Lower market volumes and demand.

December  25 –

January 1


(Festival of Rededication)

(Jewish) 8 days

Traditionally must be processed according to   Kosher law.

Healthy heavy lambs.
(up to 100 lbs live weight)

Usually occurs with Christian Christmas which leads to high demand.

December 25

 Christmas Day to New Year



A peak sale period in year.

Lamb is a feature at Christmas parties (lamb-pops, spiedini, roasts).

Leg of lamb, stews and curries are food staples.

Lambs should be freshly weaned (milk fed) and not older than 3 months of age.  Out-of-season breeding is required to produce the favoured type of lamb for this market.

Cull sheep are popular for stew and curry.

Higher market demand in 2-3 week period preceding holiday.



 2017 Religious and Ethnic Holidays Calendar