The bottom line: if prices remain below €5/kg we will make no money this year

Declan Dunne, Roscommon Mart, helps Matty Walsh load up his newly bought load.Photo: Brian Farrell
Declan Dunne, Roscommon Mart, helps Matty Walsh load up his newly bought load.Photo: Brian Farrell
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John Large

John Large

All lambs are now weaned and divided into three main groups. Lambs that are over 38kg are in one group - these should finish over the next month and they are mostly wether lambs.

We have the ewe-lambs picked off and they will be shorn in late August. We have another group of lambs that are lighter, about 32kg - these will be kept on grass for the next two months and then finished off on a mix of rape and Red-Start. We don't have many lambs sold yet. Due to grass being too strong, we are finding it hard to keep quality right with growth very good.

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The price being offered by the factories would not encourage you to feed meal which would push up sale numbers quickly.

I cannot understand how there can be a difference of 25c between the different factory quotes on the same day. We are now gone well below €5/kg and at these low prices sheep farming is unsustainable.

When you look at the Teagasc National Farm Survey figures for 2018, sheep farming income took a hit of 21pc as a result of extreme weather experienced last year.

The main factors in reduced sheep farm income in 2018 was increased production costs as purchased concentrate costs increased by almost one third.

This was the largest increase across drystock systems and more than twice that of our cattle-rearing counterparts.

And the fact that mid-season lambing coincided with most of the difficult weather was a real issue in increased feeding costs and higher lamb losses.

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Fertiliser costs also increased as farmers tried to gather silage late in the year. Most of us are still paying for last year's high costs.

This year, grass has grown a lot better with kinder weather at lambing leading to less meal having to be fed to ewes - none on my farm.

Winter feed

You would think that this should lead to more money left for the farmer - far from it. If prices stay well below €5 a kilo, we will make no money this year.

Back on the farm, we will continue to lamb ewes and keep costs down with the majority of feed coming from grass.

By making high quality silage for winter feed we will keep down the amount of meal fed to ewes before lambing.

Renting grass to keep ewes out longer last year, meant that most of the twin bearing ewes only came into the shed in early February.

Growing forage crops after corn on tillage farms is a cheap way of feeding dry ewe lambs in their first winter and for finishing the last of the lambs.

By using these methods we hope to keep our costs down and be able to continue to make a living from a fragmented farm that is not really suited to becoming another dairy farm.

Indo Farming

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