9 March 2001

Delays raise finished lamb costs

ALTHOUGH movement of finished lambs for slaughter is possible in foot-and-mouth free areas, marketing delays mean significant numbers of these lambs will remain on holdings.

Producers licensed to send lambs for slaughter should send those closest to finishing first, advises MLC sheep scientist Jenny Anderson. "Other lambs can be held back slightly, losing half a condition score over two weeks and a whole score over four weeks, but will recover condition easily when required."

Concentrate-fed lambs will cost about £1 a head a week to maintain condition, but when they exceed optimum classification grade by one fat class will be worth 10p/kg less, she warns. "This loss increases to 20p-50p/kg when lambs are allowed to become very fat."

Avoid over-fat lambs by regular handling and adjusting rations accordingly, she says. "When lambs are already fat, a reduction of one MLC fat class a month can be achieved without carcass weight loss on a diet of straw and 100g a day of mineralised soya. Make any diet changes gradual and ensure lambs are receiving enough minerals and clean water."

Creep-fed Easter lambs close to finishing can be held back by increasing forage levels. "Otherwise cut back creep feeding for younger lambs, letting them rely on their mothers milk, but keep an eye out for mastitis." &#42