Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Jenne Bram­mer

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.

Pic­ture: Steve Fer­rier

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.

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