Why you should consider the costs when buying store lambs

Strong numbers of store lambs passing through the Northern Ireland sheep marts in recent weeks and there’s been firm demand for the lambs on offer, the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) has said.

Therefore, it said, it is important that buyers have considered the economics of taking these store lambs through to slaughter.

Store lambs on good quality grazing can be expected to gain 180-200g/day during early September provided that the lambs purchased are of good quality, according to the LMC.

The performance of lambs at grass will ease back as the year progresses to 150-170g/day, this it said is as you move into October and down to 100g/day in late October and November.

Producers should take these growth rates into consideration when buying store lambs and consider supplementing lambs with meal to maintain performance and allow them to meet finishing targets, it said.

The LMC said that reports have indicated that some beef farmers are opting to purchase store lambs as an alternative to competing for store cattle this year which has maintained the steady demand for store lambs.

Given the changeable weather conditions in recent weeks some producers may opt to house cattle earlier which will lead to surplus grass covers which will provide suitable grazing for store lambs, it said.

It advises producers to consider the weight, price and quality of the lambs on offer in the marts and try to buy store lambs that suit their finishing system.

If grass supplies are limited then producers should opt for short keep store lambs, the LMC said and in cases where there is more plentiful grass supplies longer keep store lambs may be a viable option.

Where possible store lambs should be purchased in even batches as this should mean they all come fit for slaughter at a similar time, it advises.

The LMC said that producers should also remember to factor in miscellaneous costs such as mortality, veterinary and transport costs when calculating a finishing budget.

Meeting market specifications at point of slaughter will help maximise returns from finishing store lambs, it said.

The current specification from the major processors is for R grading lambs or better with a fat score of two or three and a carcase weight of 21kg, it said.

Processors also have a strong preference for lambs with FQ status, according to the LMC,  with bonuses available in some plants while other plants will not handle non assured lambs.