Keep on finishing your lambs MLC advice

By FW reporters

DESPITE low cull prices and poor store and finished lamb prospects, breeding flocks must take priority for feed stocks, and advice is to continue to finish lambs.

MLC sheep economist Lesley Green says whole-carcass exports to France, due to begin in mid-October, may boost cull prices. Overall, cull and finished lamb prices should stabilise, she adds.

However, independent sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings says the meat markets current malaise means prospects arent that good. “Producers with cull ewes on-farm are suffering, as are hill producers who rely on good ewe prices.

“Put the breeding flock first – dont risk next years profits by restricting feed availability.”

ADAS northern sheep specialist John Russell warns against holding on to cull ewes. “Many farms dont lend themselves to nursing along older ewes. Theres a temptation to get them back in lamb, but higher mortality will result.”

To reduce cost, cull ewes can be held on bare pasture, suggests Signets Robin Thomson, particularly where better grazing is needed for breeding ewes: “Cull prices should pick up in the next six weeks. Where grazing is tight, stock at 30 ewes/acre. However, some hill farms should save all grazing for breeding ewes to ensure good conception rates.”

Where producers want to fill ewe quota, culls dont need to be tupped to qualify for ewe premium, adds Mr Russell. This years payment is forecast to be £18.16/head on lowland units and £23.31/head for LFA areas.

However, lamb prices are unlikely to turnaround in winter, warns Ms Stubbings. “Dont just ignore lambs – keep them growing on and get them off-farm rather than delaying in the hope of a better price.”

Mr Thomson advises stocking fit ewes tighter to free up grazing for near-finished lambs.

Ms Stubbings advises pushing lambs with plenty of frame to finish on a cereal ration. “Smaller lambs, which will run to fat on a cereal diet, should go onto a cheap green feed such as stubble turnips to grow on before finishing.”

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 2-8 October, 1998

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