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HomeFarming NewsDo your maths before buying store lambs
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Do your maths before buying store lambs

With store lamb sales commencing throughout the region during August, the number of lambs passing through the NI sale rings has gradually increased, with a firm trade being reported throughout NI for good quality lambs, writes the LMC (Livestock and Meat Commission).

The average live weight lamb price inNI during the week ending August 27th, 2022, was 441.2p/kg, while in the corresponding week in 2021, the average live weight lamb price in NI was 454.3p/kg. This decrease by 13.1p/kg accounts for a 2.9% decline in the liveweight price year on year.

Buying store lambs

With sales of store lambs expected to remain strong over the coming weeks, it is important that buyers consider the cost of taking these animals through to slaughter.

If grass supplies are limited, which they have been in recent weeks following the dry period, then producers should opt for short-keep store lamb.

Alternatively, where there are more plentiful grass supplies, purchasing lighter-weight store lambs may be a viable option, with resources available to accommodate a longer time to slaughter.

Provided the lambs purchased are of good quality, store lambs on good quality grazing can be expected to gain 180-200g per day during September.

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As the year progresses, the performance of lambs at grass will ease back to 150- 170g/day moving into October and down to 100g/day in late October and November.

However, with supplementary feeding and adequate management, including fluke and worm management, which is particularly important in the event of a wet autumn, optimum gains can be easily achieved.

It is important to take growth rates and lamb type into account when purchasing store lambs.

Oroducers should consider supplementing lambs with meal where applicable to maintain performance and allow them to meet finishing targets.


When calculating a finishing budget, producers should also remember to consider miscellaneous costs such as mortality, veterinary and transport costs.

Buyers should try to purchase store lambs to suit their finishing system by focusing on the weight, price and quality of lambs on offer.

Where possible, store lambs should be bought in even batches as this increases the likelihood these animals will come to slaughter weights together, which, in addition to reducing transport and labour costs as mentioned, a larger batch of animals will also allow the producer to negotiate a better price with the meat plant.

Meeting market specifications at the point of slaughter will help maximise returns from finishing store lambs.

The current specification from the major processors is for R grading lambs or better with a fat score of 2 or 3 and a carcase weight of 21kg.

Processors also have a strong preference for lambs with FQ status with bonuses available in some plants, while other plants will not handle non-assured lambs.

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