After years of NFU and industry campaigning, Defra has confirmed plans to use a fixed cut-off date of 30 June to age lambs instead of checking teeth, in a move that could potentially save producers and the supply chain an estimated £24 million.
The new cut-off date will be implemented in time for June 2019 and will provide a much simpler and more accurate way for farmers, market operators and abattoir operators to determine whether a lamb is over 12 months old, and whether the carcass needs to be split to remove the spinal cord.
NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay said: “The NFU and other industry organisations, including those representing the devolved nations, have long been urging government to implement a simpler and more accurate system of ageing lambs.
“We welcome the news of a cut-off date as it will mean no mouthing of sheep and no splitting of carcasses – which can unnecessarily devalue carcasses by as much as 40% – before the 30 June.
“This change will enable the industry to cease dentition checks entirely, providing a far more precise way to age lambs at the time of slaughter and potentially adding millions of pounds of value to the industry.”
The NFU has campaigned over many years and has recently worked with the National Sheep Association to provide evidence to the government supporting a June cut-off date.