LAMB DEFINITION IN FOR A SHAKE UP
Australian sheep producers are set to pocket up to $50 million extra when selling young animals for slaughter because of a change to how lamb is defined.
The current definition means that as soon as the animal loses a baby tooth, allowing a permanent tooth to come through, it is classed as hogget rather than lamb and attracts a substantially lower price.
Under the change, which would bring Australia in line with New Zealand, lambs would be classed as young sheep under 12 months of age that do not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear.
Sheep Producers Australia endorsed the chnage to the industry definition after a nine-week public consultation phase.
WA Meat Marketing Cooperative chief executive Coll MacRury said WAMMCO and its producer members had been lobbying for a fairer system of identifying lamb from hogget, virtually since the co-operative was formed in 1999.
Mr MacRury said the anomaly of Australia’s lamb classification system had resulted in significant but unnecessary discounts for many WA producers over many years.
Although the timing of teeth eruption varies, Mr MacRury said it could be as much as seven weeks before the animal reached 12 months old.
The price difference between lamb and hogget could be about $30 to $50 an animal.
Mr MacRury said most of Australia’s 30 million lambs drop in winter and are sold between the following September and April/May, so were well below the age when teeth erupt.
But about one million Australian lambs a year were processed at about one year of age, and had been affected by the outdated classification.
The new definition could therefore potentially yield farmers an extra $30 million to $50 million a year, Mr MacRury said.
SPA president Allan Piggott said Australia’s new definition of lamb would even the playing field against New Zealand in export markets.
It is hoped the change will be written into Australian and State lamb branding regulations by next year.
Under the change of definition, lambs will be classified as young sheep under 12 months of age which do not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear. Pictured is Dandaragan sheep farmer Hugh Roberts.