10 September 1999

INSIDE JOB CAN BE EXPENSIVE BUT…

FINISHING lambs indoors can be expensive. But with store prices at rock bottom it may be worth considering, especially if the finished market picks up through winter, says independent sheep consultant, Lesley Stubbings.

"Producers having to sell stores cheaply may benefit from spending a bit of money on feed to make a little bit more money later."

One of the benefits of indoor finishing is that it is controllable and can be costed easily and accurately. But lambs must be suitable for the system and it shouldnt just be used for small, poorly performing lambs, she warns.

Gut damage

"Often producers use this system for worm-riddled tail-end lambs which have gut damage and will never perform." It is better to select healthy lambs with about 5kg to gain before slaughter, she adds.

Producers can expect to finish these lambs within five or six weeks of housing. But when lambs need to gain 10kg the costs of finishing indoors will be too high, says Ms Stubbings.

"Weigh lambs before housing. Depending on the breed they should weigh about 35kg. Expect gains of 150g a day, with a feed conversion rate of roughly 8:1, meaning each lamb needs about 40kg of hogget nuts to gain 5kg."

Feeding should begin two to three weeks before lambs are housed, otherwise it may be difficult to get them to eat once inside, she advises. "A 16% protein hogget nut is less hassle than home-mixing a ration. But a home-mix of whole cereal, soya and minerals to 15-17.5% protein can be used, but will need a slightly longer introduction to get lambs eating."

Urinary calculi can be a problem, but giving lambs access to rock salt and plenty of clean water can avoid this. Pneumonia may also be a health risk in poorly ventilated buildings and vaccination may be needed, she warns.

Buildings should be airy. When using the same buildings as ewes, remember ewes are housed in January when it is colder, so you may need to let some air in when housing lambs in October or November, she adds. &#42