10 September 1999


Should you consider finishing

spring-born lambs indoors?

One Berks producer is

hooked on the system after a

successful attempt last year.

Marianne Curtis reports

BRINGING lambs indoors to finish was unplanned at Fishers Farm last year, but it led to happier lambs, less hassle and still left a profit.

Despite regularly growing good crops of stubble turnips on his 240ha (600 acre) farm in Great Shefford, Henry Wilson realised at the end of last November, that wet conditions meant lambs were not finishing.

Eked out turnips

"If wed carried on grazing all 870 lambs on stubble turnips there would have been nothing to feed them on by Christmas, so we housed 261 lambs on Nov 30. This meant we could eke out turnips until mid-January."

The first lambs were drawn about three weeks later (see table), and averaged £24.35 a head. As lambs were sold, those lambs near to finishing were brought inside.

Once indoors, lambs were divided into two groups for management ease. "The finishing system was simple. Hoppers and creep feeders were topped up with lamb finisher pellets every other day."

Lambs ate an average of 39.5kg/head of a 16% protein concentrate during the finishing period, costing £4.13 an animal.

Enough water

"To ensure lambs drank sufficient water – necessary to avoid urinary calculi – troughs were emptied and refilled every day," says Mr Wilson. Each group was given four bales of straw a day, ad-lib rock salt and plenty of clean water.

Any reservations which he had about lamb health on indoor finishing systems were quickly dispelled when only three lambs died, one from acidosis and two from urinary calculi.

Added bonuses were happier and cleaner lambs, says Mr Wilson. "Lambs were much happier than when they were out in the mud." Meeting Meat Hygiene Service standards for lamb cleanliness was also easier.

Low finished lamb prices meant Mr Wilson selected his Mule x Suffolk and Mule x Charollais lambs for slaughter when they were as heavy as possible, to increase returns. "Lambs averaged 18.7kg deadweight which meant drawing at about 40-45kg liveweight."

Prices firmed through the winter and the final group, sold in March, averaged £33.70/head. The overall average was £29.05/head.

There are fewer lambs to finish over winter this year, as many were creep-fed and sold earlier in the season, but Mr Wilson has not planted stubble turnips and will again finish lambs indoors.

"Grazing lambs on stubble turnips means a lot of time and labour moving fences. It also forces you into sowing a spring crop the following year, which gives lower returns than a winter crop."

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