Sheep 2012: Don’t keep lambs too long, producers warned

Sheep producers are being warned against keeping lambs too long and sending them to market too fat, said industry figures at Sheep 2012.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, livestock auctioneer Michael Thomas from McCartneys said the wet weather, rising feed costs and producers holding out for a potential autumn price boom similar to last year, could lead to a “glut of lambs in September”.

And the wet weather in June had already held back lambs, resulting in less new season lambs being slaughtered than this time last year, he added.

This concern was echoed by Rizvan Khalid from wholesale and Halal lamb exporters Euro Quality Lambs Ltd, who said the company was already being sent more over fat lambs.

“Due to a drop in prices and the wet weather, we have noticed there are a lot of people holding their lambs back and that’s damaging from a marketing perspective because we don’t want fat lambs because that will effect the quality,” he added.

“Our main markets export markets are France, Germany and Belgium; there is a lot of anxiety out there and as a result, consumption is dropping. But the UK sheep industry is in a good place because the demand for our product is massive, but what’s holding it back is the issues around the high price of the product.”

And according to EBLEX national selection specialist Steve Powdrill, producers holding lambs back were in danger of alienating consumers away from choosing lamb which is already a more expensive meat product.

“Lambs need cooking twice – once in the field and once in the oven – and producers are doing their own industry an injustice if there is too much fat coming through,” he said.

“This wet weather is not the best for growing them. We have to be careful that lambs don’t slip backwards, so supplementary feed where needed and with the expenses of that, make sure you move them when they are ready.”

Producers should be aiming for 18-21kg deadweight (38-43kg liveweight), and aiming to market them “fit not fat” – based on handling and not just weight, he added.

For more on this topic

VIDEO selecting lambs for slaughter from an EBLEX live to dead day

For more on the NSA Sheep 2012 event go to our Sheep 2012 page