With store lamb prices relatively positive this year to date, the decision needs to be made whether lambs still on the farm should be sold now or kept for finishing, writes CAFRE’s Nigel Gould.
Do a budget, allowing for the cost of bringing them through to finish and the expected value of finished lambs, with the latter often difficult to estimate.
Look at market trends in recent years. Some of you may choose to store lighter lambs over the winter to take advantage of the typical price rise which occurs when lamb supplies become tight.
However, be careful not to reduce grass supplies to an extent which will affect the main ewe flock. If surplus grass is available, which may be the case this year where cattle were housed earlier, finishing off grass may be a viable option.
Lambs can gain 80-130 g per day at grass. However, performance is linked to lamb-type, sward quality, parasite control and the absence of prolonged periods of wet weather.
Creep feed will reduce the time to slaughter, but will incur a higher cost. The other alternative is to house lambs and intensively finish indoors. Performance is increased and feed conversion can be 7-8 kg of concentrate to 1.0 kg of live weight gain, depending on ration quality and lamb-type.
A source of roughage in the diet is important for rumen function. Allow a total dry matter intake of 4%.
Lambs can consume 1.5 kg of concentrate in an ad-lib system and have the potential to gain up to 250 g per day during the finishing period, however, large variation will still occur between lambs.
Avoid feeding ewe minerals to lambs due to the risk of urinary calculi in ram and wether lambs. Also, take into account veterinary costs and mortality.