According to Martin Brown, BELTEX sired lambs, which are only nine weeks old but weigh about 32kg and have large gigots, are the ideal carcass sheep for the early summer lightweight trade.
In mid-May, Mr Brown made his first lightweight export sales draw of the season. His first Beltex cross lambs sold for an average of £45 each last year. “They’re ideal for export because they’re so light.” When you can get this price at this age, there’s no need to keep them to heavy weights,” he says.
“Not only do they meet the weight specifications, but they also have the form and gigots that are commonly lacking in young lambs intended for the lightweight market.”
Mr Brown and his brother Alan run about 700 ewes at Beechwood Farm, Newton-le-Willows, near Bedale. North of England Mules, Suffolk-cross, Texel-cross, and Beltex-cross ewes make up the flock.
The Beltex now produces one-third of all prime lambs, and about 80 Beltex-cross gimmers have been retained, resulting in an impressive crop of three-quarter-bred lambs this season.
While some producers are worried about lambing problems when using Beltex rams due to their intense muscling, Mr Brown is swift to dismiss any concerns. “We shear a lot of Mule hoggs and sell their shearlings.” They are all bred to Beltex sires, and their lambs are fine-boned, with muscling that does not show until about three weeks of age, similar to Belgian Blue calves.
“We haven’t had any issues with lambing.” As a crossing ram, the Beltex has a reputation for being easy to lamb. We can also keep hoggs fitter through the winter by tupping them with a Beltex lamb than we do with any other breed. These Beltex lambs weigh about 4-5kg, compared to a Suffolk-sired lamb that can weigh up to 9kg.
“Beltex lambs were almost spat out by hogs. They have a remarkable growth rate despite being born little.”
130 ewes were lambed in February this year, and their Beltex-sired lambs will be sold as soon as special sales for lightweight export lambs launch.
“At nine weeks old, we sold our first Beltex-sired lambs at Kirkby Stephen last year.” They weighed 32 kilograms and carried in £45. They had been born inside, but were instantly released.
“They’re more like suck-lambs; the milk brings out the gigot, and they’re full of bloom and tight skinned by selling time.”
From mid-June onwards, a percentage of the Beltex-sired lambs from the largest March-lambing flock will be sold at the lightweight export sales, weighing up to 35kg.
“We stop selling when rates start to fall.” The big advantage of these Beltex lambs is that we can keep them until Christmas and then sell them again without having to worry about them being too fat.”