Producers warned of over-fat lambs loss

LAMB producers are being advised to avoid over-finishing in order to appeal to a broader market and maximise their returns.

Lambs in the snow in County Durham
Lambs in the snow in County Durham

LAMB producers are being advised to avoid over-finishing in order to appeal to a broader market and maximise their returns. Eblex said autumn and winter-slaughtered lambs have a tendency to be over-fat for buyers’ requirements.

However, the bad weather this year looks likely to reduce the total number of lamb slaughterings by more than 4% or 550,000 head compared to 2011. In September alone, the overall UK lamb slaughterings number dropped by 11%.

Steve Powdrill, Eblex national selection specialist, said: “It has been a poor year. Lambs have not finished and slaughterings are well behind where we would expect them to be.

“In these circumstances the tendency is for producers to over-finish their stock. However, they have to look at their costs of production doing this to determine whether or not it is actually generating a healthy return for their business.”

He said that a carry-over of lambs into the new year could create challenging trading conditions.

“The key action for producers is to look at the markets carefully now and select stock appropriately to hit the broadest market sector and subsequently achieve the best returns,” said Mr Powdrill.

“Batch lambs according to size and finish levels and sell when ready in a timely and orderly way.

“If we look at the hogget trade earlier this year, lambs at 42kgs were making 215p per kg liveweight in the spring, grossing at £90.30.

“Lambs taken on to heavier weights, with fewer market outlets, were discounted. For example, the average for a 47kgs lamb in mid-March was 20p less and those hoggets that were taken to over 52kgs saw the average slip a further 20p, averaging 175p per kg grossing or £91 per head.

“This is a trend that is likely to continue. With current high feed costs and tight winter forage supplies, which is more important – pence per kg or pounds per head?”

He pointed out that mainstream weight ranges and classification targets cover 80% of the marketplace. Although there is a market for those falling outside this, it is not so valuable.

“Not only are there penalties at the abattoir but fat can take almost four times more energy than flesh to lay down so it will have cost the farmer to put that fat on,” said Mr Powdrill.

“In specification product is vital if we want to retain and grow our lamb market with consumers.”


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