Warning about Over-fat Lambs06 February 2014
UK - Following the good weather conditions of last summer, EBLEX has warned sheep producers against letting lambs get over fat.
Since the turn of the year (up to 1 February), seven per cent fewer lambs were sold through GB auction markets compared with year-earlier levels.
However, the proportion of animals falling into the two heaviest weight bands (45.6 kilograms and over) increased by eight per cent on the previous year, although it should be noted that last year’s conditions meant lambs were particularly slow to finish.
With ample feed supplies available, the expectation that there are fewer lambs still on farm and the later Easter, there is potentially an incentive for producers to hold on to lambs for longer, meaning that they add extra weight. The concern is that this could lead to a recurrence of the same issue the industry experienced in early 2012, with significant numbers of over-fat lambs coming to market.
EBLEX selection specialist Steve Powdrill said: “Heavier lambs are less in demand from processors and often attract a significantly lower price per kilogram, particularly if they are over-fat. Added to that, the proportion of fat that a lamb puts down increases as the animal ages, and adding fat is more costly than adding lean tissue, therefore producers should not necessarily assume that holding on to lambs will help them get the best returns.
“The key message to producers is to handle lambs regularly, rather than making marketing decisions based purely on weight, and focus on ensuring that lambs meet target specification.
“It’s essential that producers know what the processors require, as such I would advise that they attend one of EBLEX’s Live to Dead marketing days, available for free through the Better Returns Programme.”
A recent review commissioned by EBLEX has looked at how to maximise carcase value and avoid the inefficiencies of too much fat in sheep. A briefing summarising the results of this review will be issued later this month.
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