Over half of all GB lambs now meeting target market criteria

Meeting the market spec can maximise returns for farmers, Hybu Cig Cymru says
Meeting the market spec can maximise returns for farmers, Hybu Cig Cymru says

Over half of all lambs are now meeting the target market criteria despite current cost challenges, but there remains room for more production efficiencies that can boost farm returns.

This is according to Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales’s (HCC), which collected information at British abattoirs showing that 58% of lambs processed achieved the target grades in 2023.

Typically, abattoirs will state a base price for the day and bonuses or penalties will be applied depending on the carcase classification.

It is therefore in the farmer's interest to know the target areas within the classification grid that achieve a base price, and which grades attract a premium.

Glesni Phillips, who is the levy board's analysis executive, said these statistics framed a landscape of considerable production challenges.

Reports indicated fewer lambs were on the ground and adverse weather conditions continued to affect finishing times, she noted.

“Elevated farm input costs also influenced producers' decisions when purchasing feed, further impacting finishing times. This meant a higher proportion classified as leaner compared to previous years," she explained.

"These lambs may have been rushed forward to market in order to manage input costs and may well have achieved a better return if finishing was delayed.”

HCC's report provides insight into the distribution of finished lamb carcasses across the industry-wide EUROP classification grid, which classifies lamb and beef carcass conformation and fat content.

Most abattoirs grade their carcasses on the EUROP payment grid, which was introduced in the 1970s so that a uniform classifying system could be used throughout Europe.

It also meant that producers could be rewarded for supplying their animals with the carcass classification that the market demanded.

Ms Phillips explained that, under the system, the carcass is assessed for conformation and fat. Conformation is determined by a visual appraisal of shape and there are five main classes: E-U-R-O-P, where E equals excellent across to P equaling poor.

She added: "There are also five main classes of fat ranging from 1 (very lean) to 5 (excessively fat), with classes 3 and 4 being sub-divided into L (leaner) and H (fatter).

"The new data shows the proportion of sheep carcasses achieving the base price - that’s the R2 and R3L grades - stood at over 40 per cent, similar to the previous year's levels.”