17 August 2001

Lamb producers are best pressing on with finishing

By Hannah Velten

BASED on market predictions, lowland lamb producers are advised to finish as many stock as possible. But successful management will depend largely on farm feed resources and a lifting of movement restrictions.

Peter Crichton, of Suffolk-based Hill Farm Sheep, says the current finished lamb market price of 170p/kg deadweight is not far off last years figure. "The market should continue to hold up. Demand is reasonably firm because of movement restrictions."

Prospects for store prices are not so good because they depend on changing foot-and-mouth restrictions, adds Mr Crichton. "But store producers should not despair. There is demand for stock in uninfected areas, such as East Anglia, where they can be finished on stubble turnips."

Signets Rob Shields agrees that producers should get lambs off farm as soon as possible. "Although lamb prices are relatively low, there is no guarantee that holding onto them will reap higher prices."

The ability of producers to finish stock will depend greatly on farm feed resources, says independent consultant Lesley Stubbings. Decisions must be made at weaning.

Most March-born lambs should have been weaned. Leaving lambs on ewes any longer may compromise younger ewes condition and thus fertility for next years crop, warns Mr Shields. "Lambs are also more susceptible to worms in pasture, whereas ewes are more resistant. Lambs must be weaned, wormed and moved onto clean pasture as soon as possible."

Weaned lambs should be sorted into three groups based on how near they are to finishing, advises Ms Stubbings. "Based on the number of animals in each group and feed available, decide what market each group is intended for."

Lambs intended for store or replacement markets can be kept on the lowest quality grazing but not too tightly, or they will go backwards. "There are many backward store lambs already in flocks due to movement restrictions and the wet season. These animals need to be built up to ensure they meet market deadlines."

Mr Shields suggests putting store lambs onto pasture where cattle have been.

Good quality stubble turnips can also provide fodder for late finishing or store lambs and the current weather is ideal to establish a crop, says Signets Oxon-based Peter Fairbank. "However, lambs on roots must be vaccinated against clostridial diseases.

"The alternative of intensively finishing lambs on concentrates indoors must be considered based on the cost of producing 1kg of weight gain in relation to expected finishing prices," he adds.

With current prices, Mr Crichton believes it is uneconomical to add any concentrate feed to finishing diets. "Try and keep lambs moving to new pasture or stubbles and keep drawing them."

Devon-based Mr Shields believes this year has been a good grass growing season and silage aftermaths will be available for another month. "By late August there will probably be a need to feed 0.12-0.24kg/head/day of whole grain to help later finishers." &#42

LAMBFINISHING

&#8226 Option depends on resources.

&#8226 Uneconomic to feed concentrates.

&#8226 Keep up worming treatments.