Farmers warned of ‘dirty lamb’ risk from grazing forage crops

Farmers need to ensure that their lambs, when presented for slaughter, are clean after grazing forage crops, Irish Country Meats’ Dermot O’Sullivan has said.

O’Sullivan spoke at a recent ICSA organised farm walk on the farm of Mervyn and George Sunderland, where he highlighted the importance of a clean carcass.

“It [the Clean Livestock Policy] is going to become an issue, both farmers and processors are going to have to work together to produce a cleaner lamb,” he said.

Some lambs tend to get dirty on the belly and flank whilst grazing forage crops, he said, and this could potentially pose problems when it comes to slaughtering these animals.

This warning comes as the number of farmers using forage crops as part of their lamb finishing systems looks set to increase this year.

Many farmers have taken the opportunity to integrate catch crops grown under GLAS into their sheep enterprises, thus increasing the risk of sending ‘dirty’ lambs for slaughter.

However, O’Sullivan added that housing lambs, that are grazing forage crops, for a night before slaughter can help to reduce the likelihood of these lambs being too dirty to slaughter.

On a more positive note, the ICM representative said that lambs slaughtered off forage crops tend to produce leaner carcasses and higher kill out percentages.

He also added that lamb carcass weights have been increasing in recent weeks and farmers need to be mindful of this to avoid carcasses passing the factories 22.5kg carcass cut off limit.

Clean Livestock Policy – How are sheep categorised?

The Department of Agriculture has introduced a Clean Livestock Policy for sheep going to slaughter, similar to the one it has already for cattle.

The three-category system will require food business operators at slaughtering establishments to categorise sheep as either satisfactory, acceptable or unacceptable.

Category (A) Satisfactory

These are sheep with a clean dry fleece that can be slaughtered, without an unacceptable risk of contaminating the meat during the slaughter process, by using the standard hygienic dressing procedures routinely employed by the plant.

Category (B) Acceptable

Sheep in this category are classified as having a moderate soiling of fleece that can only be slaughtered, without an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during the slaughter process, by putting in place additional interventions including extra defined dressing controls.

Category (C) Unacceptable

These are sheep with a heavily contaminated fleece unfit for slaughter.

These sheep must not be presented for slaughter in this condition and it is the responsibility of the FBO to take the required remedial action.