As we edge closer to the lambing season, farmers across the country will be looking to draft the last of this year’s crop of lambs.

In recent weeks, the number of lambs on offer at marts has declined and the increase in base quotes for spring lambs indicates that supplies are getting tighter every week.

Therefore, it is important to draft lambs at the correct weight in order to achieve a good price and to meet specifications that satisfy consumer demand.

In general, all markets require lambs that are: within a weight specification; have good conformation; and are not over-fat. Farmers should draft R and U-grade lambs that weigh between 44kg and 55kg, with good flesh cover.

Handling and regularly weighing lambs is a good way of identifying which animals should be drafted for slaughter. According to Teagasc, lambs that are killed in late autumn and early winter will kill out (KO) at between 43% and 45%.

Listed below are some notes farmers should keep in mind when drafting lambs:

These include:

  • Meal-fed lambs will KO at between 1% and 2% higher than grass-fed-only lambs;
  • Single lambs will reach slaughter weight faster than twin-born lambs;
  • Heavy lambs have a higher KO than lean lambs;
  • Lambs with long and loose fleece will have a lower KO.

Clean Livestock Policy

In order for farmers to achieve the best price possible for their lambs, it is important to keep in mind the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) regulations implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Factories are warning that “vets are becoming active over dirty sheep”. Therefore, farmers should only present clean sheep for slaughter.

The CLP for sheep was introduced in 2016 and it’s a three-category system. Under the policy, sheep are classified as being satisfactory (Category A), acceptable (Category B) or unacceptable (Category C).

To help reduce the risk of sheep falling into the latter category – Category C – the department offers farmers the following advice.

  • Implement a control programme to reduce scouring;
  • In straw-bedded sheds, use adequate straw and replenish regularly;
  • Poor transport conditions may result in animals becoming contaminated and failing to achieve the required cleanliness specifications. Vehicles should be roofed (where possible) and well ventilated;
  • Ensure that the vehicle is clean; dry; and disinfected before loading;
  • Only clean sheep should be sent to the slaughter plant.