Sheep carcase quality decline reflects weather conditions

Sheep carcase quality decline reflects weather conditions

British lamb carcase quality decreased slightly in 2012 , with 57.5% of lambs meeting the target ‘R3L or Better’ classification required by the main markets, according to the latest figures released by EBLEX from a sample of 133,400 lambs slaughtered in British abattoirs last year.

The decline represents a modest drop of 0.9% from the 58.4% of animals meeting the target in 2011, according to Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) data from classifications undertaken independently by Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Limited (MLCSL).

Closer analysis of the data shows that new season lamb maintained its performance, matching the 2011 figure of 60.1% of lambs having an overall classification of ‘R3L or better’. This is extremely encouraging considering the wet weather the industry faced in 2012. The effects of the poor weather were, however, evident in a 1.5% increase in leaner lambs from 2011 (75% being classed as ‘3L or Leaner’ in 2012 versus 73.5 % in 2011).

There is greater concern over old season lambs, as the number being slaughtered at fat class 3H or above has increased by 4.5% (29.3% in 2012 versus 24.8% in 2011). While some producers may have been holding on to lambs in order to send a full load and minimise transport costs, evidence suggests that others were delaying sending lambs to slaughter while they waited for market prices to rise.

Lambs in the correct condition for their designated market will maximise returns and benefit from the higher end prices within the SQQ average. Frequent, careful handling of stock is essential to ensure each animal is sent to slaughter once it has reached its full potential and target specification.

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