Like it or not lamb producers have no control over the price per kilo they are paid for their finished product on any given day of the year.
However when it comes to delivering the ideal lamb carcass in terms of weight and fat cover the ball is firmly in the producer’s court.
Getting your drafting right is central to maximising the value of your lamb output particularly now after lamb prices have slipped so dramatically in recent weeks.
Regular weighing of lambs and handling for fat cover is an essential part of the sheep farmers’ routine.
There is a very limited market for very heavy lambs and allowing lambs to go overweight makes no economic sense.
So what is the ideal drafting weight? Kill out rates for lambs vary with age, breed, sex, diet offered.
Lambs pre-weaning at 10-to-14 weeks of age can kill out 48-50% but by late summer after weaning you would expect kill out to be down to 45%.
Meal fed lambs generally will kill out 1-2% better than lambs on a grass only diet. For lambs going direct to slaughter the target is a 21kg carcass at this time of year (the maximum weight you are being paid on).
A well-fleshed lamb of 45kg or 46kg live weight should hit the target around this time. Keeping a note of your live-weights pre-slaughter is very useful in calculating kill out percentage after you receive your returns from the factory.
You should use this information to decide on your target liveweight for drafting and select within a 4-5kg weight range while always ensuring lambs are handling well. Always present clean lambs for sale.
Dirty animals should be dagged or crutched. Transport lambs in a clean dry vehicle while fasting them for one hour prior to loading will help avoid lambs getting dirty in transit.
Avoid rough handling of lambs such as dragging them by the wool. Incorrect handling pre slaughter can cause bruises to the carcass which may need to be trimmed resulting in a loss of carcass weight.
Over the coming weeks ewe lambs suitable for replacements will begin to appear at the marts and presentation is all important here.
A pen of clean even-sized ewe lambs all of the one breed will always turn heads at the mart. Including an inferior quality lamb can spoil a nice bunch and will ultimately devalue your pen of lambs.
At weaning time many lambs will be receiving a worm drench (ideally) on the basis of a representative pre-drench faecal sample to determine worm burden).
It is also a time where steps to prevent blowfly strike are being taken using either dipping or a pour on product. It is important to be aware of and adhere to withdrawal periods when using any of these products.
In the case of some dips and pour on products lambs cannot be slaughtered for six weeks post treatment. All lambs approaching slaughter weights must be weighed and clearly marked prior to dosing, dipping or
applying pour on.
These animals should not be treated or alternatively use the product with the shortest possible withdrawal period.
By Damian Costello, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit.