Sheep farmers urged to add value to products
Published:  28 April, 2016

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has urged producers to be more innovative in adding value to sheepmeat products, due to the volatility of farmgate prices.

In an effort to showcase opportunities for producers, the NSA has announced that a key seminar at NSA Sheep 2016 will be focused on 'adding value by maximising the marketplace'. The event will take place in July at the Three Countries Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire.

Prime lamb, genetics, wool and mutton are all areas that will be addressed during the seminar.

“Mutton is a real lost icon of British cuisine,” said Bob Kennard, NSA Make More of Mutton project manager, and author of ‘Much Ado About Mutton’.

“In the Victorian period it was more popular than beef. It’s great meat and quality mutton carcases can provide a premium for struggling livestock farmers, particularly in the hills. There is a real potential for mutton, but it is not without its challenges. Producing a quality product and finding alternative routes to market is key.

“Farmer-retailers, or going through the artisan butchery or catering sector, mean there is a whole range of potential outlets. The time is right, as a sufficient number of consumers are looking for a quality product with a good story behind it.”

Dr Liz Genever, senior beef and sheep scientist at levy board AHDB Beef & Lamb, said that with the marketplace being so buoyant, producers needed to focus on areas where they can make marginal gains, with genetics being an area of considerable focus.

“It can potentially be less than £100 difference between the purchase of a ram with known superior genetics, which we know can result in improved growth rates in its lambs, compared to a ram that looks well,” said Genever. “These genetically superior rams result in an additional £3 to £5 margin per lamb. If the ram has the longevity to last three or four breeding seasons, you can very quickly make a return on your investment.”

Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said he was looking forward to the seminar in July. “In order for many to survive the turbulent market, new and innovative solutions may be the answer to add value on-farm. The seminar programme at this year’s event is meant to educate and challenge, encouraging farmers to maximise their current system and thrive, despite the challenges facing the industry.”