Good growth rates and productivity results in a healthy profit. However, the cost of finishing lambs can sometimes outweigh the financial gain. This means that on some occasions sheep farmers are better off to sell lambs as stores and not finish them on their farm. Find out how to weigh up the pros and cons of selling and rearing stores.
Farm for profit
When tupping season arrives, farmers will ideally have sold the majority of their lambs (at least 70%). If not, the lambs may be taking up resources the pregnant ewes require for a good lamb crop next year.
For example, a store lamb will eat almost as much as a dry ewe on a grass-based system. This is costly and may also utilise grass land available for ewes and therefore interfere with recovery for a ewe that has a low body condition score. In this case, it could make more sense to sell lambs as stores.
The quality of meat from male lambs deteriorates if they are not finished by eight months. Therefore, you need to finish male lambs quickly. If you’re not able to do this yourself, prepare them for short keep. The buyer is then able to sell them whilst they’re still profitable.
To store or to finish?
To help you decide how to manage your lambs, calculate the estimated cost of finishing and plan the least cost system that generates the highest potential returns.
A growing lamb will eat around 4% of their body weight in dry matter per day. So, a 30kg lamb, will eat 1.2kg of dry matter every day. From here, you can determine the budget required to feed a whole group of lambs:
– How many lambs need finishing?
– What is their weight?
– Work out how much the heaviest lamb will eat in kgs per day
– How much does each kg of feed cost?
– Multiply this number by the number of lambs you have to feed
– Work out the number of days in a finishing period
– Multiply the spend on feed per lamb by this amount of days
When costs are calculated on this basis, they stack up rapidly. On top of the feed, there is also the cost of vaccines, medicines and vet fees. Don’t forget general running costs of the farm too, such as labour and machinery, this all needs to be taken into account to determine the margin.
Good preparation for selling stores
If you decide to sell lamb as stores, improve your chances of making the best of the sale:
Group lambs by breed, sex and weight to make it simple for the buyer to select them. Then batch lambs by estimated finishing time:
1. Short keep: Less than 6 weeks
2. Medium keep: 6-12 weeks
3. Long keep: 12+ weeks
Healthy lambs sell better
We already know healthy lambs are more likely to attract a buyer and a good price. This goes for stores too. Keep lambs clean and handle them with care to avoid bruises. Check their general health and look for abnormalities before you present lambs to buyers.
When you’re ready to sell, check store prices and feed supply. This combination of factors affects the sale and you want to be sure there is maximum opportunity to find a happy buyer.
For further information please contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: September 2016.