A higher price for finished lambs and lower mortality means top-third sheep flocks in Less Favoured Areas achieve an extra 6.5% - or £6 per ewe - in lamb output, according to the latest stocktake data from sector levy board Eblex.
“The top-third flocks achieve a 12p per kilogram higher price for finished lambs, mainly because they are able to finish them faster,” senior analyst Carol Davis explained.
“Prices fall as the numbers of lambs presented for sale increases through the autumn, so having their main crop of lambs finished ten days earlier is helping the top-third flocks achieve a better price.”
The top-third flocks also have lower feed and forage costs, said Mrs Davis.
Eblex stocktake data for LFA flocks 2012-13
£ per kg liveweight of lambs sold
Age of finished lambs sold
“Top-third flocks are spending £16.22 a ewe, which is £3.32 a ewe less than average, so they are not feeding extra to grow lambs quicker, but they are managing their forage better,” she added.
“In addition, twice as many top-third flocks use Estimated Breeding Values to select rams, 31% compared with 17% of average performing flocks, spending £990 per ram, compared with £616 on average. Eblex research shows using rams with high EBVs for growth and carcase weight will lead to a shorter finishing period.”
Other factors which contribute to the extra income are selling two more lambs per 100 ewes put to the ram and a small effect from an additional 0.1 kilogram in lamb carcase weight.
“Both average and top-third flocks produce 152 lambs born alive per 100 ewes put to the ram,” Mrs Davis added.
“The top flocks are able to sell 144 lambs compared with 142 on average, because they lose two fewer lambs in the first 48 hours of life, despite having lower labour costs.”
“Optimum birthweights, avoiding mis-mothering and making sure lambs have adequate colostrum, all help minimise losses of newborn lambs. Feeding ewes according to their litter size in late pregnancy will help ensure lambs are not born under or overweight.”