14 July 1995

Gauging exact time to draw is dilemma

By Michael Gaisford

FINISHED lamb prices have now fallen well below 100p/kg at most marts, and knowing when to draw lambs has become a dilemma for many producers.

The question is whether to send them today or keep them for an extra week to put on another kilo, hopefully, without too much fat.

At Blackbird Hill Farm, Eydon, Daventry, Northants, John and Barbara Leadbeater, who send about 1000 lambs a year to Banbury, are watching the day-to-day price changes, weighing and handling all lambs as they approach marketing weight of 40kg before deciding how many to send to the weekly Thursday market.

Last week, because of the low price expected, they sent just 30 Charollais x Mules and held back until this week a similar number of leaner but almost market-ready Texel x Mules with a little less finish on them.

"We draw lambs at 40kg every week for the market, handle all of them, decide which to send and do a final sort-out into even looking groups at the market," Mr Leadbeater explained to a party of Australian sheep farmers who visited the farm last week.

He also told them that he was not getting enough for his really top quality three-quarter Texel lambs because once abattoirs saw them, they wanted nothing else, and that, as buyers could not get enough of them, they tended to avoid them.

They told him that in Australia they were facing a similar problem with the new lean Texel crosses they are now producing, but where buyers are still paying more for traditionally produced fatter lambs.

Mr & Mrs Leadbeater farm 50ha (125 acres) at Eydon. On their all-grass holding they run about 580 Mule and Texel/Mule ewes and lambs.

They also keep a small stud of pedigree Texels established five years ago and a few suckler cows. Surplus pedigree rams are sold as shearlings.

This year 1050 lambs were born indoors after a 10-week winter housing period from ewes that were put to the ram on Sep 30, 1994. Indoors the pregnant ewes are fed straw and concentrates. &#42