Light lamb scheme moves closer to lift-off
The viability of developing a market for light lamb off the hills in the west of Ireland is being explored by the INHFA and Kepak.
The INHFA has confirmed that trials have already taken place this summer to finish lambs within a specified weight range and at a given fat cover.
"The INHFA along with Kepak and Bord Bia began trials towards the end of July where light lambs between 9kg and 15kg would be supplied to Kepak Athleague with a guaranteed fat score of two or better," explained Brendan Joyce of the INHFA.
"We brought a number of farmers to Kepak's factory in Athleague where those lamb1s were assessed before and after slaughter in an education process so as to ensure that any issue around the quality could be addressed."
"Since then between 50 and 100 lambs per week were supplied to the standard set down.
"Those lambs have been offered to various markets where feedback is collated.
"That information is now informing the focus and direction of the continuing trial in order to develop a sustainable market into the future."
Mr Joyce claimed that the feedback from both processors and the markets was that potential outlets existed for light hill lamb if the specification in terms of fat cover can be met.
Factories that had tried to supply the market in the past found that under-fleshed light lambs were a recurring problem, and this proved a significant barrier to developing the trade.
However, Mr Joyce maintained that hill lamb had not been promoted in the past in a "meaningful and determined fashion".
"Various groups had tried to develop niche markets for the light lamb but very often found their outlets sought to increase the carcass weights to 14-15kgs," he said.
"This forced many hill lamb producers to sell their lambs as stores, often at rock bottom prices."
Meanwhile, Teagasc Athenry has ongoing trials on the feeding requirements to bring different categories of light lambs to French carcass weights.
That work is now being being expanded this year to include finishing lambs on meal at lighter weights.
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