Producing heavy lambs in the 25-30kg deadweight range may not suit everybody, but it is a valuable niche market and has enabled breeder Alwyn Phillips, Gwynedd, to maximise the value of cull lambs from his Texel flock.
“The advances made in genetics as a result of performance recording have enabled lambs to reach far heavier weights without laying down excessive fat, so there’s no reason not to make the most of the available opportunity.
“The trial undertaken by Welsh Country Foods and ASDA looked at 3000 lambs in the 50-60kg liveweight bracket to assess whether there was an opportunity to produce these lambs commercially,” he explained.
Of the 2896 lambs put through the scheme, only 934 were in the payment specification set down and only 636 classifed as E, U or R for conformation and 2L or 3L for fat class, he said.
“But killing lambs at these heavier weights does represent a real opportunity to reduce slaughter and cutting costs for every 1kg of lamb produced. It costs the same to kill a lamb yielding a 21kg carcass as it does one with a 29kg carcass.”
Mr Phillips told breeders the scheme had also enabled him to increase the accuracy of his performance recording data as he’d been able to keep all lambs until ultrasound scanning at 20 weeks. “This means we’ve gathered information from the entire lamb crop before culling those with phenotypic faults, greatly increasing the range of figures available for producing EBVs, hopefully, increasing the accuracy in the EBVs for the remaining rams.”
But there is no doubt this is still a niche market and overfat lambs which fail to meet specification could stop it before it starts, explained Mr Phillips. “Lambs failing to meet specification both for this scheme and in general need to be penalised far harder. Producers will respond if they see their lambs being downvalued,” he added.