Farm Ireland

Monday 23 October 2017

Early lamb producers urged to secure prices

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farmers considering producing early season lambs next spring should look to secure a contract price from their processor first, IFA sheep committee chairman, James Murphy, maintained.

Speaking at a marketing forum at last Saturday's Sheep 2012 in Teagasc, Athenry, Mr Murphy said farmers needed a guaranteed return from early season lamb.

He said it was ludicrous to expect flock owners to feed lambs through the spring if there wasn't a decent return for their efforts.

Mr Murphy said the lamb price crash in May had damaged confidence and wiped out profit for early lamb producers.

Declan Fennell of Bord Bia said the price drop was due in part to a 25pc increase in the number of hoggets killed this spring.

He said that 65,000 additional hoggets had come on the market through the spring, coinciding with the new season production.

Pressed by farmers to explain the May price collapse, Jonathan Forbes of Kepak pointed out that early in the year the company had offered €5.60/kg for hoggets and failed to get them. He said once the demand eased and prices came back then a flood of hoggets had come on the market.

However, Mr Murphy said the May-type carnage was totally avoidable.

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"The sheep sector, including farmers, factories and retailers, has to find a better way of making the changeover from hoggets to new season lamb," Mr Murphy said.

"Crashing the price will never work. The drive to get new season lamb prices down to hogget prices was unnecessary this spring and did a lot of damage. As an industry we need to have the confidence and trust to work with one another."

Differences were also expressed on the merits of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme.

A number of farmers said there wasn't a sufficient return in terms of price for the effort required to meet the requirements of the scheme.

However, both Mr Fennell and Mr Forbes said the scheme was a "must have" and was essential to secure access to high end markets.

Speaking at the opening of Sheep 2012, the Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Shane McEntee, thanked the organisers including Teagasc, UCD, the Department of Agriculture, the Agricultural Trust, Bord Bia, the meat processors and Sheep Ireland for their efforts in staging the event. The organisers estimated that up to 8,000 farmers attended on Saturday.

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