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Author Topic: Lamb carcass grades  (Read 4288 times)

Ladygrey

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Basingstoke
Lamb carcass grades
« on: March 15, 2014, 10:19:51 am »
Hi there  :wave:

I recently sent away a group of last years lambs (and 1 ram), I sell them direct to the abattoir

I made a mistake last year and the charollais cross shetland lambs that I thought were ready to go in sept-october were still here as I was waiting for the silly ryeland cross lambs to pick up some weight so they could all go together and I ran out of time to drop them off.

Because I waited so long and ran out of good grazing for the lambs they all ended up loosing some condition after christmas and I could feel their spines before they went.

I got the grades back today and the lambs were all O3L, this means poorish conformation but an ok fat class! tbh I was expecting a worse grade

So back in october when I though they were ready (couldnt feel spine) would have they been too fat?
If they were too fat then how would have I prevented this as they were just on poor/tall grass grazing and nothing else

also would loosing weight have affected their conformation grades?

Dead cold weight was 21-23kilos, it doesnt say liveweight, I know I left them too long as they were pretty hefty

This year after weaning I am going to split lambs into weight groups to try and manage it better and make sure they dont get too big.

Voss Electric Fence

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2014, 11:33:18 am »
Generally lambs put on and lose numbers with feed / lack of feed, the letters are the conformation and that's more to do with breeding.

However, I would have expected a Charollais x Shetland to be R at least - O is rather poor, the sort of thing you'd expect for pure primitive or something like a pure Swaledale.

I have been told that you can drop a conformation class by not feeding just a little cake (1/2lb per head per day for a commercial type) once autumn kicks in.  And it's a very fine lamb indeed that can make the Holy Grail E2 or E3L (top grade) with no cake at all on our poor northern England hill land. ;)

If you had deadweight in excess of 21kgs and graded O3L then these lambs were simply too old - grown too large in the frame.  At that size, then yes you'd have been in the 'heavy lamb' (less money) bracket had they not been quite lean. 

Top money is for anything E, U or R 2 or 3L and not more than 21kgs deadweight. 

So yes, the art of producing finished lambs is to get them away at the optimum deadweight / grade.  That differs according to breeding and feeding and takes some experience to get right.  With your very different types of lambs then yes, to achieve top dollar you will need to make sure each goes at the optimum time for that type. 

It's a hard job with only a few sheep; we 'draw' lambs from each batch about once a month, sometimes once every 3 weeks, throughout the summer.  All kinds of factors make lambs with similar breeding and feeding finish at different times.  Gender, whether entire or castrated, whether it was a single, twin or triplet, how much milk and what quality the mother had, whether or not it ever got wormy or flukey, had lungworm, orf, or any of the other myriad of infections and diseases there are around on any farm...  Whether it was ever lame and reticent to move about therefore...

So don't beat yourself up if you can't get similar lambs to finish at the same grade at the same time!  None of us can, it's just that a larger farm with enough numbers can keep finding collections of 20 to send away every week, or even two or three times a week, for a couple of months!


Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Ladygrey

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Basingstoke
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2014, 12:16:29 pm »
Thankyou Sally :)

What I dont understand is that they have given me the same grade for each lamb even though they were very different  :thinking: :thinking:

My charollais cross lambs were very wide and chunky with lots of coverage, ryeland cross lambs very poorly shaped with no coverage but they have given the same grade, I would have expected the ryeland cross's to have a really poor grade but the others to have a better grade.

I have a feeling I have been given an average grade for some reason, although I dont know why they would do this  :thinking:

I have attached a photo of a charollais cross shetland lamb just before he went (middle lamb in photo)

The charollais cross's got to 40ish kilo at 6 months of age last year, they should have gone then I suppose, this year I will have maybe 30ish lambs from my ewes so I can group them off better :)

Yes I think they had just started growing too much frame as they were too old, so this has affected grade, I was suprised at the fat class though as I thought they were too thin


SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2014, 08:46:21 pm »
It's really hard to tell from pics of live lambs covered in fleece - you have to get your hands on them.  (Which I know you have - but I can't! :) )

Eblex do a great display and demonstration of lamb grading, including having a layered model that really feels like handling a live lamb so you can get the feel of the various fat gradings.  They attend a lot of the agricultural shows and North Sheep / Scot Sheep / South Sheep etc.  I always go along whenever I get the chance and I always learn something new.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Ladygrey

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Basingstoke
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2014, 07:57:46 am »
Thankyou Sally  :wave: thats a great idea, will try and spot an Eblex stand at the next show I go to


shygirl

  • Joined May 2013
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2014, 08:19:46 am »
this is a great thread.
I found it fascinating to examine my pig carcusses after slaughter, teaches you a lot about rearing them.
how many years have you sent lambs away ladygrey?

undergruntled

  • Joined Feb 2014
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2014, 08:34:02 am »
Whew, thank goodness we aren't planning to sell our lambs!  So far we've only raised cades and the first ones, oxford crosses were so massive they wobbled when they ran and you could sit on them!  :innocent:  We did worry rather a lot about them and fed them mix as well as the grass - they didn't need it but we did have some huge lamb chops - I refust to buy the ones the supermarket sell as they are ridiculoulsy tiny and sooooo expensive.  For us at least, we want them as big as possible!

shygirl

  • Joined May 2013
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2014, 08:44:33 am »
correct me if im wrong as im no sheep expert but I presume conformation means how wellshaped and meaty its legs are, as well as back length etc (or is that more a pig thing?) and letting them grow to lanky would affect this?
which breeds are best for top marks? is it the texel types with the big buttocks?
welldone anyway LG for doing what you are doing.  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Ladygrey

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Basingstoke
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2014, 08:58:52 am »
I have only sent away lambs for 2 years, but maybe 3 times within the 2 years.

Yes conformation is muscle etc so thats why I was confused as to why a charollaid cross lamb that had a big wide backside was given the same grade as a really awful shape ryeland cross lamb...

Yeah texel, charollais, charmoise etc types with lots of muscle make the best grades I suppose

I am going to try and start creating a more uniform flock so that my lambs are slightly more similar from next year, considering putting everything to the charmoise hill ram so they all have nice bums  :thumbsup:

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Lamb carcass grades
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2014, 09:05:05 am »
Yes, conformation is about shape and meat, the numbers are about fat depth.  You can read more in the various very excellent Eblex publications - the ones about carcases are here

In the leaflet 'Understanding lambs and carcases', it states
Quote
To assess conformation feel the animal at the shoulder and loin. To
assess fat level, feel the animal at the dock, loin, rib, and breast.

That document has pics of cut-throughs of carcases in several of the grades, which I think are pretty enlightening. :)

As ever with Eblex, I've just learned something - because my primitives will be very poor conformation compared to our commercial lambs, I need to stop assessing the condition of my funny little sheep by feeling their spine along their backs and start to assess it by feeling the tail.  Compared to our commercial sheep, the primitives will always feel underweight if I feel the spine, but the tailbones should give me a true indication of the fat cover. ;)


And yes, the top grades, U and especially E, require that double-muscled very rounded convex backside that you typically get with Texel and Beltex types.  We also get top grades with our Charollais X lambs, and they always weigh heavier than a similar-sized *tex* lamb.  (Tastes fantastic too :yum:)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

 

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