It is important to achieve maximum value for every lamb produced and presented for sale or slaughter.
Any reduction in quantity or quality of the end product will have financial implications. In selecting lambs for slaughter, first identify your market. The two main markets that most lambs in Ireland go for is the factory-type lamb with a carcass weight of 19 to 21kg; and butcher-type lambs with a live weight of around 48 to 50kg.
Fat cover should be assessed on each lamb as carcass that is over-fat or contaminated with faecal material will be trimmed, and the parts of the carcase that are infected with parasites or other diseases will be discarded.
With this in mind, farmers must demonstrate careful management of the flock on the farm, ensuring sheep and lambs are healthy, free of disease and meet the desired conformation and weights as the market demands.
Kill out percent is highest in lambs between 10 and 13 weeks old pre-weaning, and reduces as lambs get older post weaning.
Factory lamb kill out will vary depending on age of lamb, sex of lamb, time of year you're drafting and if lambs are meal fed or not.
Weigh lambs when fleeces are dry, and if weighing lambs in the evening, you must take into account that lambs will have fuller bellies after the day's grazing.
Ideally you should monitor the liveweight of lambs and correlate to factory kill-out percent; this will give you a good idea as to how your lambs are killing out.
Abscesses in lamb carcasses are unsightly and result in as much as 1kg of the carcase having to be removed. This devalues the carcase and can be avoided if subcutaneous injections are administered in areas where the skin is loose - mainly on the side of the neck or behind the shoulder.
It is also important to obey the withdrawal period for dosing, which can be anywhere between seven and 14 days, depending on the product.
Handle stock carefully to prevent carcase damage;. do not grab lambs' wool on their back, and control dogs.
The value of hides and skins can vary, but greater demand is being seen from some overseas markets.
It is therefore important not to damage hides and allow producers benefit from the increase in demand.
Damage can occur to hides by use of badly designed facilities, barbed wire and ectoparasites such as sheep scab or faecal contamination. The clean livestock policy is now implemented for both cattle and sheep and sets out the standards for acceptable and unacceptable levels of cleanliness
The key skill for any livestock producer is knowing when their animal is ready for sale or slaughter, the optimum level of finish. By doing this, farmers avoid costly overfeeding and penalties on over-fat carcass.
Develop good stockmanship skills such as body-condition scoring, dosing, treating lameness, etcetera, as they along with good grassland management ensure the animals are thriving and will grade well.
As discussed, carcases can be devalued in many ways, so request feedback from the abattoir or market and react accordingly.
If you are constantly speaking to the buyers of your livestock, you will understand exactly what the market is looking for.