Yield not weight is best for lamb markets
20th Mar 09, 10:57am
Farmers need to resist the temptation to grow lambs out to heavier weights, despite strong product prices, because they are not what the market wants reports Country-wide. While in the past two years there have not been the same penalties for heavy lambs, Alliance Group livestock manager Murray Behrent says the animal of choice for the market has a carcaseweight of 17.5kg-19.5kg. These carcases give a better consistency of product and produce a 1.8-2kg leg, which is the perfect size for the European market. Behrent says as processors they can happily handle lambs from 14.5kg upwards, and can also sell between 10-12% of lambs being at heavier weights of 19.5-23kg, but they need the majority of the lambs coming through at 17.5-19.5kg. Once processors send a signal to farmers that they will pay you good money for 23kg lambs, farmers will respond by pushing lambs up to that weight. "So what happens? "You take the tonnage of meat from 14.5-19.5 up to 22kg, you crash the market that can handle those lambs and then you have got between 17.5-19.5, which is where you best market is and there are no lambs to supply." So Alliance is paying around $3-$4 less for a 22kg lambs than for a 19.5kg lamb. Yield grading takes away what Behrent describes as the "subjectiveness" of grading and offers greater consistency. From a processor's point of view, higher yielding carcases make for greater efficiencies in the boning room and ensures customers are getting a consistent end product. There can be huge differences in the carcase yields of lambs of the same weight and in one example Behrent gave, there was a $13 difference between the value of two 17.5kg carcases just on saleable meat yield. Last year they paid an average premium for qualifying lambs of $2.65. This season, they are offering about $4 to farmers who committed lambs to the company the previous year. "Those that committed last year will be rewarded in year two. Those that want to commit this year will get year one premiums; next year they will get year two." The yield quality grading system is also putting pressure on ram breeders, as it will become more critical for farmers to select the right bloodlines to increase their revenue. Behrent says "Grass growth certainly has a big bearing on the conformation and muscling of the lambs, no doubt about it."