September 22, 2008

Store Lamb Finishing Over Winter Must Be Planned ; Farming

By Sam Wood

STORE lamb finishing over the coming winter should be carefully planned to minimise the level of late spring slaughterings.

That, says the English Beef and Lamb Executive (Eblex), will lead to greater stability in the market following a study of lamb returns over the past two contrasting seasons.

One of the main factors contributing to the particularly poor prices seen in 2007 was a glut of old season lambs held through to April and May.

Total slaughterings - some 15% up on the 2002-2006 average in these months - were accompanied by market prices a good 12% down on the same period at around 250p/kg deadweight.

In marked contrast, 2008 spring slaughterings far more in line with the long-term average contributed to less downward pressure on the market, helping prices climb to an historic peak of just under 400p/kg deadweight in late May.

Eblex sheep scientist Dr Liz Genever said: "While the level of late spring marketings was not the only reason for the very much better returns of 2008, it clearly played a valuable part in the supply/demand balance."

With this experience Eblex says producers should plan their finishing to ensure they get store lambs away earlier again next year.

Dr Genever added: "It invariably pays to market lambs when they are ready rather than holding on to them too long, especially with poorer prices almost always paid for heavy lambs and the far greater year-on-year price variations generally seen in the late spring.

"The value of spreading the finishing period by buying different types and weights of stock should not be underestimated either, both in maintaining income flow and in minimising the risk from short- term market fluctuations."

As well as budgeting production in advance to establish the break- even selling price required with a reasonable estimate of cost per day on farm, Eblex advises producers to:

Source lambs of the correct weight for the specific system to finish to planned targets;

Follow a clear health plan, keeping mortality rates down to 2%.

Weigh all lambs on arrival, group them by weight and degree of finish, and re-weigh a proportion every two weeks to monitor progress.

Make the best use of home-grown forage crops or arable by- products, introducing concentrates carefully as forage supplies decline and before lamb growth rates suffer.

Select clean lambs carefully for slaughter to meet key market requirements - E, U or R carcasses of fat class 2-3L at 17-21 kg for the UK and 12-19 kg for export.

Specific Action for Profit fact sheets setting out key management guidelines and performance standards for short, medium and long keep store lambs are available free of charge to English levy payers.

To obtain a fact sheet go to


EBLEX has launched a new technical manual called Improve Beef Housing for Better Returns.

The booklet has been published as part of the Beef Better Returns Progra mme.

"It is all too easy to take stockyards and buildings for granted," says Eblex regional development manager (South West) Dr Phil Hadley. "In fact, they are an important part of the whole beef production system and influence profitability.

"Well planned housing will make stockmanship easier, encourage optimum livestock production, and play a very important part in ensuring good disease control."

Stock housing represents a significant investment on a farm. The manual will offer useful tips before construction starts.

It highlights the essential elements that need consideration, such as floor and air space, lighting and handling facilities.

It also shows how rethinking and making simple, inexpensive changes to key areas such as the ventilation, can make a significant difference to the performance of the animals that have to live within them.

English beef producers can obtain a free copy of Improve Beef Housing for Better Returns' by telephoning the BRP office on 0870 241 8829 or emailing [email protected]

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.