Insert sponges now for December-January lambing
One of the drawbacks of smaller flocks is the difficulty of assembling decent numbers of lambs at the one draft to make it worthwhile going to a mart or meat plant.
My first draw this year ranged from 19kg to 26.6kg carcass weight within a bunch of 10 lambs. As per usual, the meat factory paid for nothing above 22kg. This meant a ceiling price of €107.80/lamb -- or just under €107/lamb after the deductions of 50c for the Department of Agriculture vets, 25c for Bord Bia and 12c for the IFA.
If I had got organised and sold the lambs three weeks earlier, I reckon they would have returned more money for less carcass. Then, the price was €5.70/kg and even a 20kg carcass would have netted just over €113.
The other alternative was to sell the lambs in a mart and hope that some butchers would take a fancy to them.
Other farmers tell me of butchers, both locally and as far away as Cork and Kerry, who are looking for lambs of 48-50kg liveweight. Speaking to one of these butchers who seeks out carcases of about 25kg (for which he pays the full price up to the full weight), he explained how his customers want the bigger loin chops that come from the heavier carcass.
Also, he is able to split the heavier legs to two, which are easier to sell than the one-bit joint. The butcher did add that the heavier lambs must be good quality and not over-fat, and not rams with strong testicles.
And yet the exporters and Bord Bia tell us that most customers, and especially French buyers, want lambs as low as 18kg carcass weight.