Brothers Stephen and Robert Lowry run a 150-strong spring calving suckler herd at Cullion on the outskirts of Derry City.
They also buy in a selection of weanling Aberdeen Angus bullocks and heifers on a regular basis.
“All told, we finish 800 cattle every year,” said Stephen.
“All the animals are managed to meet the conditions of the Aberdeen Angus Quality Beef Scheme, which is run by the Foyle Food Group.”
All the cows in the Lowry suckler herd are crossed with Aberdeen Angus bulls.
“Taking the Angus route has meant that we have a premium animal to sell at all times,” added Robert.“Angus cattle also finish earlier and they are very easy to manage.”
Underpinning the entire beef business operated by Stephen and Robert has been a total commitment to the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS), which is managed by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).
“We were one of the first farmers committing to the scheme 25 years ago,” said Robert.
“Initially, it didn’t offer that much back to the farmer in terms of an improved price. However, today FQAS accreditation is a must for every beef finisher in Northern Ireland, given the price differential that now exists regarding cattle that are eligible for the scheme.
“No one looks forward to a farm inspection. However, the FQAS requirement to have a farm inspection take place every 18 months ensures that we are on top of any issues that might crop up from a cross-compliance point of view.”
LMC’s farm quality assurance manager Daryl McLaughlin was a recent visitor to the Lowry farm. He pointed out that FQAS has succeeded in giving consumers total confidence in the quality, traceability and heritage of the beef they are buying.
“And it continues to resonate at farm level. The number of producers participating in the scheme grows with every week that passes,” he added.
“At an industry level the biggest benefit delivered by FQAS has been its role in allowing local red meat processors secure new export markets and this continues to be the case. The recent opening of the Philippines’ market is a case in point.”
Both Stephen and Robert Lowry are also very conscious of the fact that Brexit is looming.
“We both feel strongly that FQAS represents the benchmark which imported beef must attain, once the UK leaves the European Union,” said Stephen.
“The UK will remain our main market and it’s vitally important that local farmers have a level playing field when it comes to dealing with beef imports. FQAS provides strong assurance in this regard. ”
For further information contact LMC on (o28) 9263 3000