11 September 1998

Lamb finishers urged to carry on marketing

By James Garner

LAMB finishers should continue to market lambs despite low prices and this weeks news.

Reacting to SEAC comments linking BSE with sheep, NSA chief executive John Thorley advises: "Theres no new evidence suggesting a link between BSE and sheep and we urge producers to market lambs as normal. Our feeling is this will blow over quickly because there is no new evidence to report."

This view is echoed by MLC sheep strategy manager David Croston, who says sheep producers should continue to sell lambs.

Lesley Green, sheep economist at the MLC, says the price has fallen quickly this year, will settle at a low level and is unlikely to recover in the near future.

"The skin trade to Russia, which was worth on average £6/lamb, has been lost. This helped abattoirs cover the cost of SRM regulations which must be absorbed somewhere.

"The best advice for sheep producers with lambs ready to market is to finish them to avoid penalties for overweight or fat lambs."

Northants-based sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings points out that many producers with lambs at grass are already concentrate feeding because of poor performance.

"With poor grass finishing conditions lambs will develop a large frame but no finish. Consider your options; feeding concentrate ensures some lambs will finish and those that dont will be better quality stores," she says.

"Weigh and handle lambs, then split them into three weight groups and manage accordingly.

"Begin trough feeding barley. Start at low levels and build up to 0.25 kg after seven to 10 days. For big lambs on reasonable grazing this might be enough to finish them.

"Keep feeding the same amount as you draw lambs to help those a little behind the others to finish.

"Small lambs have suffered numerous challenges this year and feeding a higher protein diet – 14-16% – will keep them growing until stubble turnips or other alternative forage becomes available.

"Spring lambing flocks must ensure ewes have grazing priority now. Where there is competition for grass with ewes, bring lambs indoors and concentrate feed." s

Peter Cappon, Signet sheep specialist in central Scotland, argues that some hill producers will have little choice but to sell stores despite prices being well down on last year.

"Where buildings are available, consider finishing lambs inside. At least this leaves a more marketable product," he suggests.

Linda Mitchell, SAC sheep specialist, warns producers considering housing to expect low feed conversion rates for lambs which have never had concentrates before.

"Introduce concentrate at least two weeks prior to housing to allow lambs to adjust to feed and minimise growth checks," she says. &#42

LAMBADVICE

&#8226 Market lambs as normal.

&#8226 Feed concentrates where grass is poor.

&#8226 Seek ration advice for cheapest feed.