17 July 1998

Roots cheap choice

FINISHING lambs indoors on cereal waste may increase returns for producers faced with poor store lamb prices, but finishing on root crops remains the cheapest option.

So says Norfolk-based Signet consultant James Garner, who suggests last winters poor finished lamb prices may suppress store prices this year. "Many store buyers had their fingers burnt and will be shying away this year."

Mr Garner suggests store prices could be down £12-£15 a head on last years average of £42 a head. But the combination of low cereal and protein prices could help store producers regain margins by finishing stock on-farm. Sugar beet tops, brassicas and stubble turnips will provide the cheapest finishing feeds, he says.

Where barley screenings are available, mix with soya bean meal at a ratio of 8:2, barley:soya, to provide a finishing ratio at about £77/t before vitamin and mineral costs, he says. Feed should be introduced gradually over four weeks and will achieve a feed conversion ratio of about 7:1.

"Do your sums carefully. Do not expect finished prices to rise above the market price. If stores sell for £27 a head it pays to finish on-farm, but if store prices rise to £32 a head sell them on," he adds. &#42