Dry summer of 2018 helps to cut number of overfat lambs

More than two-thirds of Welsh lamb carcasses hit market spec last year, with a shortage of forage helping to reduce numbers of overfat animals.

The latest lamb carcass classification figures from Welsh abattoirs show more farmers are producing meat to the required specification, with reductions in the number of overfat animals coming forward.

The statistics show 68.1% of all lambs from Welsh abattoirs hit the sought-after 2 or 3L fat grades, up from 64.5% the previous year.

See also: Video: Guide to selecting lambs for slaughter 

In terms of conformation, 40.2% fell into the highest E or U classes (up from 37.9% in 2017) with only 11.2% classified in the lower O or P ranges.

Glesni Phillips, data analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), said there was a range of factors behind the positive results.

“The prevalence of carcasses with less fat coverage could be partly due to producers presenting their lambs earlier following the dry summer weather of 2018 and limited availability of forage,” she said.

“However, the figures on both fat and conformation also show Welsh farmers are focusing on what the modern consumer requires and adapting their practices accordingly.”


The trend for selling animals leaner in 2018 was also seen in England.

According to AHDB’s Kim Matthews, head of animal breeding and product quality, the data indicates 71.2% of lambs slaughtered in England during 2018 hit the target fat class of 2 or 3L, up from 67.8% in 2017.

This was probably as high early prices for lamb drove earlier sales, which was followed by a period of low rainfall and therefore lower feed availability, which also made producers more likely to sell earlier and leaner, he said.

However, in terms of confirmation, 76.2% of the sample met target conformation of E, U or R, which was worse than in 2017 (85.4%).

The level of lambs meeting both targets at the same time (EUR AND 2/3L) was very similar at 56.2% in 2018, compared with 56.7% in 2017.

For further guidance on the importance of meeting specification, see AHDB’S Understanding lambs and carcasses for better returns (PDF).