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HomeFarming NewsSelecting for slaughter: ‘Do not draft lambs on weight alone’
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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Selecting for slaughter: ‘Do not draft lambs on weight alone’

In this article, CAFRE’s Jack Friar discusses selecting lambs for slaughter.

Keep a close eye on weights and grades of lambs and act accordingly to ensure you maximise farm profits.

Draft lambs for slaughter as soon as they become ‘fit’. The factory specification for carcase weight for spring lambs, in most cases, is between 19 kg and 21 kg.

The kill-out percentage of lambs varies throughout the season. For early spring-born lambs, which are well conformed, creep fed, and drafted straight off the ewe, it is around 50%, whilst later in the season for weaned lambs, it can be as low as 42-44%.

Do not draft lambs on weight alone. Assess fat classes as most factories have a preference for lambs with a fat class of at least 3 to meet the widest range of customer specifications.

Therefore, regularly weigh and handle lambs to avoid drafting lambs that are overweight, have poor conformation, and are overfat or under fleshed.

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Weaning lambs

In a previous article, Friar discussed weaning lambs.

Wean lambs between 12 and 14 weeks of age and off them the quality grass. Therefore, you should earmark lambs born around the start of March for weaning in the next few weeks.

Not weaning at this age can have a negative impact on both lambs and ewes.

Once lambs reach this age, they are consuming large quantities of grass, and by not weaning them, both ewes and lambs will be competing for grass.

Consider weaning lambs at approximately ten weeks for:

  • Hogget ewes;
  • Ewes rearing triplets;
  • Other ewes in poor condition.

After eight to ten weeks, the proportion of milk in the overall diet is minimal, particularly for these lambs.

Having the correct body condition score for the next breeding season starts at weaning. It can take ten to 12 weeks for a ewe to gain one body condition score.

Take faecal egg counts (FEC) of lambs at weaning and drench, if necessary. Leave these lambs on the same grazing for four to five days.

Take ewes away from lambs as this helps the lambs settle before moving as they are going back to surroundings, they are familiar with.

Do not dose and move. This is also a good time to administrate trace element supplements if needed.

Read this article on the dos and don’ts of weaning lambs.

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