Since the turn of the year, EBLEX reports that seven per cent fewer lambs were sold through British auction markets compared with year-earlier levels, yet the proportion of animals falling into the two heaviest weight bands - 45.6 kg and over - increased by eight per cent on the previous year.
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, EBLEX said, and 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.
Steve Powdrill, the organisation’s selection specialist, 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.”
The results of a review, commissioned by EBLEX, into maximising carcase value and avoiding too much fat in sheep will be available later this month.