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Store Vs Finishing Lambs

Lamb in meadow

Store vs Finishing Lambs

When it comes to this time of year, many are faced with the decision to either finish lambs or sell them as stores.

Most of the costs involved are between birth and weaning, however post weaning, there should be careful consideration given to the chosen market route whether as stores or finished lambs, to maximise financial returns.


Since Brexit, lamb prices have remained strong which has mainly been attributed to the fall in the strength of the pound. Whilst writing this the first store lamb prices have been strong, however the first true store sales are to follow shortly. We have seen a 4% fall in GB consumption of lamb for the first quarter, compared to the same time last year, with the French lamb market also weak.


After weaning, it is important to look at the diet of lambs and not to make any sudden changes. It can take up to three weeks for the rumen to adapt to a new feed, so care is needed to prevent a weaning check, and it may be time to think about a transition period if lambs are going to be weaned onto different diets. During this time it is important to keep on top of parasites in recently weaned lambs and faecal egg count kits should be used as part of the management strategy, as understanding the worm burden will help to finish lambs quicker and maintain your profitability.


After weaning, ideally, lambs should be batched according to weight so they can be fed for the target market. If selling as stores, lambs grouped according to weight, sex and finish are more likely to make more money. It is important to watch the markets and sales in the area to decide when to sell, together with food available on farm. If you are deciding to sell lambs as stores or not, it is important to ensure ewes take priority and have unrestricted grazing to ensure they are on a rising plane of nutrition. If there is limited grazing then it may be more effective to sell lambs as stores.


Knowing how much food is available and how much you will need to keep lambs, regardless of the crop, the planning of feed allocation remains the key. A growing lamb will eat around 4% of bodyweight as dry matter (DM) per day, this can then allow you to budget your feed, whether grassland or forage crops. If using grass, careful management is important to ensure quality and quantity is maintained for the autumn months. Aim to keep grass supplies leafy and vegetative, by managing the sward height 4-6 cm range to maximise quality and intake. Forage crops are excellent options for finishing lambs through the autumn and winter months, with stubble turnips/forage rape being very cost effective, and you can see growth rates of around 270g/day, with 5-6 tonnes of DM/ha. It is also very important to get your silage analysed, as this will tell you Dry Matter (energy and protein) you have available and an indication on how much silage they will eat, and allow you to forward budget your forage and help towards a cheaper more efficient feeding plan. However lambs will not perform on poor quality silage (below 10MJ ME/kg DM), and will need to be balanced with supplementation of concentrates. Whereas good silage will support 1kg/lamb growth per week.


Feeding concentrates to finishing lambs can be financially rewarding, as quick finishing store lambs (36-42kg on an ab-lib system – 1.25kg/ head/day) can equal growth of 275g/day, seeing results in 21 days and a good return on margin. Mole Valley Farmers have two 16% rations – Prime Lamb (a good food for the semi-intensive system), and Fast Lamb (ideal for ab-lib high performance with high starch levels).


So when deciding whether to sell lambs as stores or finish them, look at how much food is available on the farm. A partial budget is one way to compare margins and help in making those important decisions.


For more information, speak to our Red Meat Team for advice or call your local contact Lachie Maclachlan 07917 097751 or the FeedLine 01278 444829.


Source Details

 628 Mole Valley Farmers Newsletters

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