New lamb definition on cards

By Country News

Australia may be ushering in a new definition of the term lamb next financial year, with ‘‘substantial progress’’ made in recent months to amend state and federal legislation.

The Federal Government announced its support for the new definition in November last year which will be brought in line with definitions in New Zealand.

Lamb had previously been considered to have grown into the less lucrative ‘‘hogget’’ or mutton as soon as incisor teeth were visible — but in NZ, lamb was still considered lamb after two teeth had popped through.

Sheep Producers Australia acting chief executive officer Stephen Crisp said there had been substantial progress in recent months, following the Federal Government announcing its support for the new definition in November 2018.

‘‘The Australian sheep industry and federal and state governments have been working hard to amend various federal and state legislation and regulations with the new definition,’’ Mr Crisp said.

‘‘All going well, those amendments will be passed in the first half of this year, with the new definition ready to take effect from July 1, 2019.’’

The new definition now sees young sheep under 12 months of age or which do not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear still classified as lambs.

‘‘The current definition: ‘A female, castrate or entire male that has zero permanent incisor teeth’ means producers have no warning light about when a lamb stops being a lamb — the moment a permanent incisor erupts, that lamb is downgraded to hogget,’’ Mr Crisp said.

‘‘Producers will have less than a month from the time of eruption to when permanent incisors are in wear, but at least they will have a signal and time to adjust to that signal.’’

The process for checking whether lambs comply with the new definition will be via a visual inspection — the same process used to verify lambs against the current definition.

The change to the definition was first announced by Sheep Producers Australia in March 2018, following extensive consultation with producers and other industry stakeholders.

The change has been endorsed by the Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards Committee. Members include the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australian Meat Industry Council, Sheep Producers Australia, Cattle Council of Australia, Australian Lot Feeders’ Association, Australian Pork Ltd, Australian supermarkets and independent retailers.