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Stackyard News Mar 06

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Annual Quality Hat-trick for English Lambs

For the third year in a row the quality of well over half the lambs slaughtered and classified in English abattoirs has met the preferred target market specification, according to the latest carcase classification results from the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX), with new season lambs performing particularly well.

photo courtesy of

beltex lambs

MLC classification reports compiled from a representative sample of lambs slaughtered in English abattoirs in 2005 reveal 56% of all carcases and fully 58% of new season lambs classifying ‘R3L or better’ to deliver the market’s preferred combination of conformation and leanness.

Over 80% of both English new and old season lambs classified ‘R or better’ for conformation in the year, the main difference between the quality of the two groups being the level of finish achieved.  While 72% of new season lambs classified ‘3L or better’ for fatness, only around 68% of old season lambs finished in the target fat classes, almost certainly as a result of being retained too long.

On a national scale, the 56% of English lambs meeting the target market specification remains noticeably higher than the 53% for Great Britain as a whole. Also, across GB a particularly disappointing 47% of old season lambs classified ‘R3L or better’ as against 53% in England.

At the average 20.1 kg recorded in the MLC Classification Survey, the carcases of lambs slaughtered in English abattoirs also continued to be heavier than the average of 18.9 kg recorded across Great Britain, the weight increasing slightly over the year.

English Lamb Carcase Performance 2005 (MLC)


3L or Leaner

R or Better

R3L or Better*

All Lambs




New Season Lambs




Old Season Lambs




* Both leaner and better conformation 

With the typical price difference between an R2 and R4H carcase amounting to over £7.00 for the average 20.1 kg lamb carcase in 2005, many English producers continue to have plenty of scope to improve market returns.  A 15% increase in the number of lambs classified R2 from R4H, for instance, is estimated to increase the total annual value of the English lamb crop by around £1.6 million.

The EBLEX Better Returns Programme (BRP) and its unique Lamb Action for Profit resource available at provide practical breeding, feeding, management and selection for slaughter guidance for producers keen to take full advantage of the many improvement opportunities available. Copies of these materials are also available by calling 0870 241 8829.

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