Avoid over finishing of lamb to maximise returns

Avoid over finishing of lamb to maximise returns

Lamb producers are being urged by EBLEX to target the market and select stock for slaughter carefully to appeal to the broadest market and maximise returns.

EBLEX said autumn and winter-slaughtered lambs have a tendency to be over-fat, so avoiding over finishing is key.

AHDB Market Intelligence/EBLEX forecasts for the sheep sector highlight that, following the further disruption to the finishing of lambs in 2012, the final slaughter figure for the year is likely to be more than 4% lower than 2011 – a decline of around 550,000 head.

The effects of the poor weather earlier in the season have been reflected in lower lamb throughputs at GB abattoirs. Overall UK lamb slaughterings in September were down 11 % on the year, while throughputs in the GB were 13% lower.

Steve Powdrill, EBLEX national selection specialist, said: “It’s 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.

“There is going to be a carry over of lambs into the new year which 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. 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?

“Whilst mainstream weight ranges and classification targets cover 80% of the marketplace and while there is a market for lambs that fall outside these, it comes at a price. 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. In specification product is vital if we want to retain and grow our lamb market with consumers.”

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