Marketing lambs: This week’s sheep feature on page 34 discusses the current challenge many farmers are facing in finishing lambs. The tight supply of good-quality lambs is generating higher competition for top-quality fleshed lots. There is a price premium of upwards of €10 evident in many marts for lambs suitable for the butcher or wholesale trade compared with factory returns.

It is worthwhile where such lambs are present to weigh up the most lucrative outlet. Where lambs are being sent to the factory, then it is also worth noting that there may be more scope to secure higher returns for top-quality lots by means of higher prices or carcase weight limits. The two Irish Country Meats plants have officially moved to 22kg carcase weight, but there is also scope in all plants to negotiate above 21.5kg.

The same can be said of top-quality cull ewes. Most plants are only paying in the region of €3/kg to €3.10/kg for ewes, bringing top prices to €125 to €140, depending on carcase weight limits. Heavy, top-quality fleshed ewes in mart sales are trading anywhere from €140 to €180 and higher on occasion.

It is therefore worth grading ewes and marketing sheep appropriately. Where there is a significant variation in the quality, then it is worth batching ewes on size and type to attract the greatest attention.

Ram condition: The focus in many flocks is centred on finishing lambs and addressing ewe condition, with rams frequently forgotten at this stage of the year. Rams will lose upwards of 15% of their body weight during breeding and, as such, it is important that rams are in adequate condition. The optimum is a body condition score of 3.5 to 4, with rams in a fit and not fat or thin state.

Rams should undergo a health check well in advance of breeding to allow ample time for any shortcomings to be addressed. Any signs of infection or lameness need to be dealt with swiftly, as any ailment that causes an elevation in a ram’s body temperature to 104°F (40°C) or higher will likely result in infertility for a period of six to seven weeks.

Dispatch documents: There have been a few questions of late regarding ordering dispatch documents online. This can be carried out via your account. Select ‘animal identification and movements’ followed by ‘sheep-keeper’ and then select ‘dispatch docs’ at the top of the page. Scroll down until you see the link to order booklets.

Dates for your diary: Teagasc is holding two farm walks on farms participating in its BETTER Farm sheep programme. The first takes place on 23 August on the farm of Des Powell, Templederry, Co Tipperary, and will focus on preparation for breeding. The second walk takes place on 24 August on the farm of Paul Boyle, Letterbarrow, Co Donegal, and focuses on store lamb options and preparing for breeding. Both walks take place at 6.30pm.

The Sheep Ireland elite €uro-Star multi-breed ram sale takes place on Saturday 26 August at 11.30am in Tullamore Mart. All rams on offer are genomically tested and Sheep Improvement Scheme-eligible. All rams are also fully DNA parentage verified and are in the top 20% of their breed. The provisional catalogue is available on