Quality the key if we're to secure top prices
Another year gone, and looking back it was a very good one in terms of sheep prices and production. The price rise was badly needed and really only got us up to where we need to stay, €100 for mid-season lamb.
How we got this price increase was possibly due more to a lack of supply rather than an increase in demand. So we must continue to produce quality lamb, and market this as a grass-based product that will help us hold onto our share of the market and maybe even grow the demand for lamb.
We must also push out quality assurance schemes and be prepared to put our name behind the product. I have seen my name in butcher shops as the producer of their lamb and even last week heard my name used in an advertisement on our local radio station.
All these small things are important to the consumer but, to me, consistency in quality -- the same weight every week -- is what I, the farmer, can control by weighing the lambs regularly and selling as soon as they become fit.
Last year's production was greatly improved by a better spring, which gave us a higher lamb survival rate. With more grass at turnout, there was no requirement to feed meal to ewes. This kept our meal usage down by about 10t.
A very good summer for grass growth kept lambs growing well, then we had a good burst of growth in September, which gave plenty of grass for the last lambs and ewes at tubing time. One could not really ask for a better year to produce lamb from grass.
Now we should also give some credit to ourselves as farmers for being able to manage this grass and get the best results from it.