Free from the shackles of the obligatory Sheep Annual Premium
retention period, English flocks have much to gain from planning
culling and cull ewe finishing to take advantage of higher seasonal
prices in the first half of the year, suggests the English Beef
and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).
The latest annual auction market analyses showed a noticeable
reduction in the traditional spring peak in cull ewe prices in
2005 as producers no longer had to wait until after mid-May to
sell surplus ewes without endangering their subsidy entitlements.
However, there still remained an average weekly price advantage of £4/head
for ewes marketed in the first six months of the year as against those sold in
the final six months. Reflecting the established seasonality of cull ewe slaughterings,
the peak average weekly price of nearly £39/head achieved in early May
was a good 75% higher than the trough of under £22/head in mid-October.
Under these circumstances, flock returns could be boosted substantially by marketing
ewes in the spring and early summer wherever possible rather than at the peak
of national cullings in the autumn and early winter.
The extent to which appropriate culling and cull finishing policies will prove
worthwhile depends upon good organisation, adequate control of over-wintering
costs and effective marketing.
To maximise the benefits from planned culling and cull finishing, EBLEX advises
- Base decisions on simple forward budgets of likely costs and
- Adhere to strict culling criteria for teeth, body condition,
udders, reproduction and feet;
- Identify barren ewes for early marketing through pregnancy
- Use tags to ensure easy identification of ewes for culling;
- Finish only healthy ewes offering good opportunities to improve
- Make the best use of forage crops and arable by-products;
- Crutch ewes before folding onto forage crops;
- Establish suitable local markets;
- Select well-fleshed ewes for slaughter at fat levels of 2-3L
to meet mutton specifications;
- Present only clean ewes for slaughter; and,
- Prepare even-sized lots for market wherever possible.
Detailed guidance on both culling ewes and finishing cull ewes
is available free of charge to levy payers as part of the interactive
EBLEX Better Returns Lamb Action for Profit resource at www.eblex.org.uk
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