Sheep at market©Sharon Critchlow

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging farmers to market old season lambs quickly to avoid losing cash.

Transmissible Spongiform Ecephalopathy (TSE) rules require carcasses of hoggs older than one year to be split and and spinal cord removed. This can lose producers up to £25 a head, says the association.

For TSE purposes, lambs are deemed 12 months old when their first permamnent teeth erupt.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said producers needed to watch body condition carefully so lambs did not go overweight or out of spec, or to make sure they were being fed to finish well in advance of teeth coming up.   

If lambs got too big this would lead to abattoir inefficiency – wastage and increased costs would get passed down the chain, he warned.

The TSE regulations are under review and the NSA is working with the NFU and others to encourage changes to UK carcass splitting implementation.

Rather than a teeth-based assessment, NSA wants to see the end of June following the season of birth used as the cut-off date.