Prospects for the British sheep industry remain bleak unless a
better price is achieved for prime lambs.
It is estimated that the UK has lost around 10 million breeding
females, or about one third of the national flock, over the last
ten years as a result of persistently low profits.
And if the recent forecast from HSBC, that a typical 180 hectare
upland farm in the North England with 750 breeding ewes and 50
suckler cows is likely to lose £16,533 in 2008 , even if
SFP and ELS payments are counted as income, proves correct, it
is unlikely that many of those sheep farmers still in business
can survive unless more money is earned from the prime lamb market.
This is why a group of concerned Scottish and English breeders
met recently at Carlisle and put forward a suggestion that would
give farmers more control over the sale of prime lambs while at
the same time increasing the proportion of lambs hitting market
Their view is that current deadweight and liveweight methods of
selling prime lambs are quite obviously not working because they
are unable to deliver a livelihood to farmers.
So they would like these replaced with a system which cover production
costs and leave a net margin.
The Discussion Group argues that if participating farmers have
more control over prime lamb supplies then they will also have
more control of the price, and more of them are likely to stay
in business. Farmers do know their production costs and do know
where the price needs to be when subsidy payments become less.
It accepts that this would require radical change to current selling
It also hopes that if a revised marketing system was adopted nationwide
it would not only lift prime lamb prices to realistic levels but
would also encourage more farmers to breed and finish better quality
lambs and create more work for auction companies which would also
be able to continue to stage the important store lamb and breeding
sheep auction sales.
Archie MacGregor from Allanfauld is one of the “Carlisle
Discussion Group”. He farms 1,300 ewes and 100 suckler cows
and is a director of a Mart. Around 90 per cent of his farm income
is achieved through auction sales and 60 per cent of this is from
“However I am worried that the current live prime lamb sale
system is failing at many marts and I would like to see an alternative
that ensures a better price for vendors and secures a place for
auction companies in future sales”, he said.
“None of the ideas the Discussion Group has put forward
are set in stone and I would like to see more debate so the industry
itself can determine the best way to make sure prime lambs are
sold at realistic prices and more farmers can look forward to a
less harrowing future. Every member of the discussion group wants
to see a viable and strong auction mart sector which all consider
is essential when selling farmer to farmer in the store and breeding
He is supported by Fenwick Jackson of Kersheugh near Jedburgh
who would like to see more flexibility in price determination and
is also keen that the failure of almost 40 per cent of prime lambs
to meet the customers required specification is very quickly improved
The group has had a meeting with representatives of the LAA and
Carlisle Discussion Group members are:
Malcolm Corbett, Dykehead, Rochester, Northumberland.
Inglewood Edge, Dalston, Cumbria.
J. Fenwick Jackson, Kersheugh, Jedburgh
Archie MacGregor, Allanfauld
Alistair Mackintosh, Muncaster, Cumbria.
Hans Pörksen, Gallowshill,
Malcolm Stewart, Brotherstone, Melrose.
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