Starting With The Correct Weight

When you are first starting in the market lamb project, one of the hardest things to do is decide what size show lamb you will need to be competitive at your local show. You should try to select a lamb that will be easy to feed to it’s correct and desired endpoint or finishing weight. 

Know Your Market Lamb Show Dates

Knowing your show dates and ownership deadlines are extremely important. Some shows have nomination or weigh-in dates to prove ownership for a specified number of days before the show.  These dates help you determine the age and what size show lamb (weight) to purchase and at what time of year. Most shows require that lambs retain their milk teeth. Lambs generally hold their milk teeth until they are 12 to 14 months of age. Lambs without baby teeth (yearlings) are ineligible for show.  Many lamb shows also have weight limit requirements that must be met. You will want to know these limits as well.

Average Daily Gain in Show Lambs

Under normal conditions, lambs will gain approximately 1/2 pound per day (average) over the course of the entire feeding period (yes there will be times when they exceed this rate and perform under this weight). So, if you know your purchase date and the number of days that you have before you reach the show or terminal event you can determine what size show lamb or weight you need to start with or purchase.

Calculating What Size Lamb To Select

You have 90 days until your expected terminal show.  The show has a minimum weight limit of 90 lbs and a maximum weight limit of 160 lbs. If the average lamb gains 1/2 pound per day and your feeding period is 90 days then you should expect a lamb to gain approximately 45 pounds over the feeding period.

90 days x 1/2 lb per day = 45 lbs

That means that you should select a lamb that weighs between 55 and 105 lbs to start the project.

Minimum weight = 90 lbs

90 lbs – 45 lbs gained = 45 lbs at start + 10 for assurance = 55 lbs

Maximum weight = 160 lbs

160 lbs – 45 lbs gained = 115 lbs to start – 10 for assurance = 105 lbs

As you gain experience in the project, you will find it is much easier to hold a lamb to reduce its growth slightly and still maintain a show quality appearance. It can be exceptionally hard to put weight on a lamb at the end of a feeding period, especially if your are raising your project in the summer.

Heat, humidity, stress, changes in ration formulation, exercise, internal parasites and hauling to shows can dramatically impact growth and performance so it is best to start with a lamb in the mid point of the acceptable starting range.

Frame Size Matters

Remember, not all lambs can be fed to the same final weight because not all show lambs have the same size of frame. Identify a target terminal weight for each lamb that you are considering for purchase. Large frame lambs may be correctly finished at 150 pounds, while small or moderate frame lambs may be correctly finished at 105 -120 pounds. You must learn to look at and use indicators of frame size (length of head, neck, roundness of body or capacity, cannon bone and overall muscularity) and determine the weight at which a lamb will be correctly finished.

All lambs should have a minimum of .10 inches of external fat over the ribs and most lambs should have no more than .30 unless they are heavy muscled to be finished correctly.

Knowing Your Show Lamb Feed Requirements

If you know the approximate weight of a lamb at the time of purchase and the length of time until a show, you can calculate the feed requirements (light, moderate or heavy) needed to enable that lamb to enter the show at its proper show weight. Most lambs will require between 3-5 lbs of quality Dry Matter per day to gain 1 lb. The amount of crude protein required by lambs will vary throughout their growth cycle. In addition, the breed, growth potential, and projected finishing weight will influence growth potential and crude protein needs. Lambs at the creep-feeding phase need 18% – 20% crude protein, during the growing phase 50 to 90 pounds they need 16% – 18% crude protein and 80 pounds to finish them need 14% – 16% crude protein.

Remember that size does not make a good lamb. There are good little lambs and good big lambs and your management program is the key. However, knowing what size show lamb to start with will make sure you end up hitting your target weight when you get to your show.

Good luck!

Now that you know what size show lamb you are looking to purchase, be sure to read our 10 Essentials To Get Your Show Lamb Project Off To A Great Start or download our latest sheep ebook or tip sheet located at the top of our homepage.