Store lamb markets

A number of mart managers report more interest in the trade this week for store lambs. The best demand remains for lowland lambs, but there are hopes that demand will filter down to the hill lamb trade where prices for light lambs are under pressure. Teagasc store lamb finishing blueprints discussed here and advice on store lamb finishing detailed here point to positive potential to finish lambs and generate a margin.

The issue for hill lamb producers is the availability of grazing to carry lambs to higher weights before finishing intensively. It is worth producers reviewing the weight of lambs on hand and dividing them in to weight brackets – for example 20-25kg; 25-30kg; 30-35kg and 35kg upwards.

This will provide valuable information in determining the best route to market for such lambs. The Teagasc store lamb finishing calculator, which can be found here, is a good aid to consider the options available.

The short-term market prospects are unfortunately poor for very light lambs, but delaying taking action and failing to put a plan in place can compound issues if grass reserves required for ewes are depleted.

Store lamb presentation

Mart managers report a marked differential in prices paid for store lambs that are optimally presented and those that are poorly presented.

The preference for lowland store lambs for finishing short term off grass is for wether and ewe lambs. Demand for hill lambs is split between ram lambs and wethers, with many finishers operating an intensive finishing system favouring rams.

Advice from mart managers includes batching lambs of the same gender and type and avoiding a significant range in live weight.

Inserting a couple of plainer-quality or lighter lambs in to a batch of better-quality lambs may appear a good option for getting plainer-quality lots sold but managers state that it can also greatly reduce demand, with many buyers steering clear of lambs which are not uniform in type.

The appearance of lambs in terms of the presence of daggings or soiled fleeces can also have a big influence on potential demand.

Grazing agreements

The deterioration in ground conditions and mixed forecast is also raising some early enquiries about short-term grazing agreements to clean off ground. It is still early days yet, with some farmers weighing up options, but still hopeful of a reprieve in weather to extend the grazing season.

If sheep are moving to temporary grazing where livestock are present, then normal rules apply – i.e. a dispatch document is completed and the pink copy of the document is sent to your local Department regional office for recording.

When animals return, the white copy of the document is submitted clearly labelled ‘return from temporary grazing’.

Where sheep are moving to a holding with no livestock, then there is no requirement to notify the Department of the move. This also applies where sheep are being moved to a farm with livestock but sheep are moving to a separate parcel of lands, e.g. an outfarm block, where there are no livestock present.

If credit is sought for the organic nitrogen produced while sheep are grazing to reduce the farm’s stocking rate, then the Department needs to be notified.