Maximise the marketplace to survive turbulent times, says NSA

NSA Big Debate panel.

NSA Big Debate panel.

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Volatility of farm gate prices is the new reality for UK sheep farmers – and is prompting some producers to be more innovative in attempts to add value to sheep meat and other products.

To highlight potential options in this area, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has announced that a key seminar at NSA Sheep 2016, held this July at the Three Countries Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire, will be ‘Adding value by maximising the marketplace’.

The seminar will consider prime lamb, genetics, wool and mutton, with four speakers chosen to highlight the benefits of each argument.

Bob Kennard, NSA Make More of Mutton Project Manager and author of ‘Much Ado About Mutton’, is keen to promote the undervalued meat as a viable option at the seminar.

He says: “Mutton is a real lost icon of British cuisine. 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 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, means 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, AHDB Beef & Lamb Senior Beef and Sheep Scientist, will be speaking on the RamCompare project and the value of genetics to improve flock performance and maximise margins.

She says: “At a time when the marketplace isn’t as buoyant, people need to focus on areas where they can make marginal gains, and genetics is an area that should be of real 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. 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.”

Also speaking will be Ian Buchannan from the British Wool Marketing Board on the value of wool, and John Richard, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, on the value of prime lamb.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, is looking forward to the discussion.

He says: “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.”