There’s a new definition of ‘lamb’. Here’s why it has been changed, and how it will affect you.
Why do we need a new definition?
Australia’s current definition of a lamb is ‘a female, castrate or entire male that has no permanent incisor teeth’ – which gives producers no warning about when a lamb stops being a lamb. As soon as a permanent incisor comes through, your lamb has been downgraded to hogget. Sheep producers have been unfairly disadvantaged in the market because of this. In response to consultations with producers and others in the industry, Sheep Producers Australia announced in March 2018 that there would be a coming change in our definition.
What is the new definition?
The new definition should be applied this month (July 2019) and will change the definition of a lamb to ‘an ovine animal that is under 12 months of age OR does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear’. This means that a lamb will now be able to cut one or both of its permanent central incisor teeth, as long as they are not in wear.
The process of checking lambs will still be a visual inspection of the animal’s teeth. The permanent incisor is considered ‘in wear’ if it touches the upper pad when the sheep’s mouth is closed, or it is above the height of the lamb’s milk teeth either side of the permanent incisors.
So how does this benefit me?
No more lambs magically turning into hoggets overnight.
The new definition gives producers greater certainty and a definitive physical sign to start moving their lambs into the market. From the time of eruption, there is generally less than a month before the incisors are in wear. Producers can be confident of finishing off lambs to a better quality without fearing they’ll miss the lamb specification.
The new definition will also bring us in line with New Zealand – our biggest lamb competitor – who already use this definition, and give us a level playing field.
What about eating quality?
Eating quality has been at the centre of this decision about the change. Research has shown that there is no noticeable difference to consumers in regards to lamb under the new current definition. Some older animals may squeeze in under the new definition compared to the old, but the age of a lamb can only be extended by less than a month.
If customers desire young lambs, they can request a category that already exists in the AUS-MEAT language that accounts for lambs without permanent incisors – YOUNG LAMB (YL).