CAFRE’s Nigel Gould outlines what farmers can do that still have store lambs on-farm.
With positive market reports for store lamb prices, you need to decide where whether you should sell lambs still on your farm or finish them.
Completing a budget is a useful exercise as it considers the cost of finishing lambs and the expected price received.
When completing a budget, it is often difficult to predict the price. Studying market trends over recent years will help you decide on an appropriate price.
Keeping lighter lambs
You may choose to store lighter lambs over the winter to take advantage of the price rise, which normally occurs when supplies become tight.
However, be careful that grass supplies are not reduced to the extent that affects the main ewe flock. If surplus grass is available, finishing off grass may be a viable option.
Lambs can gain 80-130 g per day on grass. Performance, however, is very much linked to lamb type, sward quality, parasite control and the absence of prolonged periods of wet weather.
Concentrates can be offered to reduce the time to slaughter but will incur a higher cost.
Finish heavier lambs
Another option is to finish the heavier lambs on-farm and sell the lighter ones as stores.
Ideally, group lambs by weight and avoid feeding high levels of concentrates to light lambs. This will reduce the problem of lambs becoming over fat at lower carcass weights. This is more of a problem with ewe lambs.
Intensive finishing indoors
An alternative to outdoor finishing is intensive finishing indoors on a high concentrate diet. Performance is higher, and the feed conversion ratio can be 7.0-8.0 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 eat 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 due to the risk of urinary calculi in ram and wether lambs.