Be careful when drafting lambs, as kill out percentage plummets

Farmers have been urged to be careful when drafting lambs, as kill out percentages have plummeted in recent weeks.

Procurement managers have commented that some lambs are killing out at 40% and, in many cases, this is resulting in a lamb carcass weighing less than 17kg when chilled.

The fall in kill out percentage occurs as the lamb’s gut size increases due to the larger proportion of grazed grass being present in the diet.

In instances where lambs have not been supplemented with concentrates, lamb buyers have warned farmers to be vigilant and to select lambs that are heavy enough to produce a 18-21.5kg carcass.

To counteract the problem of light lambs, some processors have introduced a lower price for lambs producing carcasses of less than 15kg. One factory will pay farmers a price of 400c/kg for such lambs this week.

What are factories offering?

For the most part, factories are starting negotiations with farmers at 490-500c/kg for spring lambs this week. This quoted price excludes Quality Assurance (QA) Scheme bonuses.

Kildare Chilling is currently offering a price of 500c/kg + 10c/kg QA this week, the two Irish Country Meats plants are working off a base price of 490c/kg + 10c/kg QA and Kepak Athleague is starting negotiations with farmers at a base price of 500c/kg + 5c/kg QA.

Meanwhile, ewe prices have remained largely unchanged from last week and most buyers are offering 265-270c/kg to secure supplies.

Spring lamb supplies tumble

There was a noticeable reduction in the number of spring lambs slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat plants during the week ending August 13.

In total, some 41,879 spring lambs were slaughtered during the second week of August; that’s a reduction of 6,101 head or 12.7% compared to week earlier levels.

In addition, there was also a considerable reduction in cast (ewe and ram) and hogget slaughterings. These throughputs declined by 11.5% and 45.6% respectively.

However, it must be noted that the kill lines in the majority of plants only operated for four days due to the bank holiday, which lead to the total weekly figure declining by 12.6% or 7,530 head compared to the quantities witnessed during the week ending August 6.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending August 13):
  • Hoggets: 118 head (-99 head or -45.6%);
  • Spring lambs: 41,879 head (-6,101 head or -12.7%);
  • Ewes and rams: 10,239 head (-1,329 head or -11.5%);
  • Total: 52,236 head (-7,530 head or -12.6%).

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the British sheep trade remained steady last week as little change was recorded in demand. However, it says, export fluctuations are helping the export trade.

As a result, the SQQ (Standard Quality Quotation) live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of around 463c/kg (dead weight) last week.

Moving to France, Bord Bia says, the trade remains quiet due to the slowdown in the market arising from the holiday season.

Poor weather in the north of the country is also having an impact on trade. However, it is hoped that the trade will see some improvement through the Muslim festival of Eid.