Increased carcass weights of nearly 1kg a lamb, together with better grades and quicker finishing lambs are the early results from the Integrated Lamb Supply Chain for Future Lamb Markets project.

Project co-ordinator Lesley Stubbings says more than 500 high index progeny and 1000 control lambs have now been slaughtered and analysis of these carcasses shows there are significant differences in many of the flocks.

Lambs sired by high index sires have so far been shown to have both higher carcass weights and reduced fat cover compared with control lambs from the trial, she explains.

Trial participant Pearce Hughes of Llandegla, Wrexham, reckons some of his high index sired lambs are worth up to 5 more a lamb than control group lambs, largely due to improvements in carcass fat classification and conformation.

“With grade premiums of 8p/kg on U grades and 15p/kg on E grades, as well as E, U, R, 2 and 3L lambs gaining a 1 bonus and 3H lambs receiving a 5p penalty deduction, the benefits soon add up.

“On top of that we produced more lambs up to the target weight of 21kg without them going overfat.

Among the control group lambs we expect to have about 8-10% of ewe lambs grading as 3H, but there are none among the high index sired lambs.”

And with about 200 ewes going to high indexed tups this autumn Mr Hughes is more convinced than ever of the benefits high index tups can bring.

“Quicker finishing lambs which grade better and weigh better can’t be argued with,” he adds.

The next step for the trial is the full economic realisation (FER) study, which will assess the retail value of the main retail cuts, says Ms Stubbings.

“Both high index and control lambs will be butchered into the main retail cuts and the value of these cuts compared.”

Ms Stubbings believes this work will enable abattoirs to improve payment systems, as they should be able to fully reward quality as defined by customer needs.

“The industry’s future is dependent on farmers being paid prices which directly reflect the value their lambs have on shop shelves.”

jonathan.long@rbi.co.uk