To ensure lambs meet most of his market’s needs, Richard Whittington handles lambs weekly to assess whether they are ready for slaughter and ensure they are finished as quickly and effectively as possible.
“There’s no optimum weight to send lambs, it all comes down to when they are ready. We don’t wait for a date in the diary – when a lamb is finished, it’s finished.
“The aim is to get as many as we can and finish as quickly as we can – it ultimately all comes down to cost.”
Mr Whittington, who farms at Rail View Farm, Papplewick, buys lambs for finishing on an intensive feeding system, with between 1,000 and 2,000 lambs on farm at one time.
About 85% of the lambs he finishes are for the export market, and consequently they require lean lambs.
“Over the years, the market has changed. We used to like big, fat lambs, but now the requirement is completely different. As a result, we need to move with the market and grade stock to what is wanted.
“I’ve got a small market for fat lambs, so if I’ve got a particularly big lamb, I will draught these individuals out for this market. However, if they’ve got to this weight there’s a cost of getting them heavier, so it’s better to pick them up earlier.”
The importance of assessing conformation rather than being completely reliant on weights also becomes apparent when looking at smaller lambs. “Some farmers may say a lamb weighing 35kg is too light, but if it has got fat on its back then it is ready to go.
“There’s nothing worse than a small, fat lamb. When a lamb is small, but ready conformation wise, then it should be finished.
“The main thing is to be aware of what the market wants and think before you finish, rather than finish lambs and then find a market.”
Mr Whittington is adopting best practice, says Mr Powdrill. “Of the lambs he selects, 85-90% are in specification of the marker he is supplying.”