Farmer Focus: Extra 25 days adds £4.17 to lamb value

Winter has been very wet down here. We have been moving break fences more regularly than we usually do to minimise mess so our landlords will have us back (thank you Ralph and Nigel).

Fat lambs have now been on stubble turnips and we have been pulling lambs as we go. The weigher has been telling me growth rates are hovering at an average of 180g/day, which, considering the cold and wet weather, has been very agreeable.

See also: Performance recording helps lift lamb cheque by £9k/year

We talked last month about using the autodrafter and pulling off animals at a set liveweight. Average carcass weight to date (just over halfway) has been 19.44kg, with nothing really super fat.

My spreadsheet is also telling us that we are now £4.17 a head better off than if we had sent them at 18kg R3L.

Of course, there is a cost in keeping the animals the extra time to put on that weight, but even when they are only putting on 180g/day it is still only another 4-5kg of liveweight they have to put on, so another 25-29 days on the farm.

Killing-out percentage this year has been all over the shop, so it’s difficult to model the full picture accurately.

However, with the availability of forage during the winter, in our case the answer is pretty clear and it goes more in our favour when considering the fact that prices tend to rise after Christmas.

Sheep handling system disappoints

Our aluminium sheep-handling system has been disappointing. At only 14 months old it has had two sets of suspension chains, replacement mud guards, replacement bottom rails, bent gates and many rivets have popped off.

I admit we are heavy users, but our family have used these systems for 18 years and nothing like this has happened before. 

Ewe lambs are looking well. We are running about 450 this year to the tup and they are on a cover crop of fodder radish and vetch.

I should think we only have a couple of weeks to eek out before they have to go under solar panels with some silage.

Rob and Jo Hodgkins run 1,500 ewes across 485ha of grass and have 566ha of arable in Hertfordshire, producing lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys. Subsidy-free farming means sheep must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.