Eblex warns sheep producers against over-fat lambs

Following a good summer last year and with a late Easter approaching, Eblex has warned sheep producers not to let lambs get over-fat.

With fewer lambs on the farm expected and ample feed supplies, there is a temptation for producers to hold on to lambs longer, to add extra weight.

From the start of the year until 1 February, 7% fewer lambs were sold through GB auction markets compared with the year before. However, the proportion of animals falling into the two heaviest weight bands (45.6kg and over) increased by 8% on the previous year.

Eblex is concerned that holding on to lambs longer could lead to the problem, already experienced in 2012, of large 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, so 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 and, 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.”

Eblex is looking into how to avoid the inefficiencies of over-fat sheep and a briefing summarising the results will be issued later this month.

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