Beltex sires beef up profits
summer lambs from an
extreme muscling ram and
Mule ewes can be a
sucessful policy, according
to one North Yorks producer.
Jeremy Hunt reports
BELTEX sired lambs at barely nine-weeks-old, but weighing about 32kg and with big gigots, are the perfect carcass sheep for early summer lightweight trade, according to Martin Brown.
Mr Brown made his first draw for the seasons lightweight export sales in mid-May. Last year his first Beltex cross lambs averaged £45 each. "They are perfect for lightweight export. There is no reason to keep them to heavier weights when you can get this price at this age," he says.
"Not only do they fit the weight spec, but they have the shape and gigots that are usually missing from the sort of young lambs traditionally aimed at the lightweight market."
Mr Brown runs about 700 ewes, with his brother Alan, at Beechwood Farm, Newton-le-Willows, near Bedale. The flock includes North of England Mules, Suffolk-cross, Texel-cross and Beltex-cross ewes.
One-third of all prime lambs produced are now by the Beltex and about 80 Beltex-cross gimmers have been retained and produced an impressive crop of three-quarter-bred lambs this spring.
Although some producers fear lambing problems when using rams with the extreme muscling of the Beltex, Mr Brown is quick to allay any concern. "We lamb a fair number of Mule hoggs and sell them as shearlings. They are all put to Beltex sires and their lambs are fine-boned and, like Belgian Blue calves, the muscling does not start to develop until about three weeks old.
"We do not have any lambing problems. The Beltex as a crossing ram deserves a reputation for easy lambing. We can also keep hoggs fitter through winter carrying a Beltex lamb than we could if tupped with any other breed. Compared with a Suffolk-sired lamb which could weigh up to 9kg, these Beltex lambs are around 4-5kg.
"Hoggs almost spit out Beltex lambs. Even though they are born small they have a tremendous growth rate."
This year 130 ewes were lambed in February and their Beltex-sired lambs will be marketed as soon as special sales for lightweight export lambs are under way.
"Last year we sold our first Beltex-sired lambs at Kirkby Stephen at nine weeks old. They weighed 32kg and made £45. They had been born inside, but were turned out straight afterwards.
"They are almost like suck-lambs; the milk really brings out the gigot and by sale time they are full of bloom and tight skinned."
A proportion of the Beltex-sired lambs from the main March-lambing flock will start to be sold at the lightweight export sales from mid-June weighing up to 35kg.
"When prices start to ease we stop selling. The big advantage of these Beltex lambs is that we can tick them over until Christmas time and then start selling again with no risk of them becoming over-fat."
Beltex-sired rams from a Texel-cross ewe are ready for salke from nine weeks old, says Martin Brown (right), pictured with Alan Brown (left) and David Findlay.
• Easily born.
• Finish in nine weeks.
• Store until Christmas.