What is FQAS certification worth?

LMC's Daryl McLaughlin out on-farm with Co Down sheep producer Crosby Cleland earlier this week
LMC's Daryl McLaughlin out on-farm with Co Down sheep producer Crosby Cleland earlier this week

Co Down sheep producer Crosby Cleland has been committed to the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS) since its initial roll-out 25 years ago.

“In strictly financial terms it is worth an additional £1 per head on every finished lamb leaving the farm,” he said.

“So it makes sense at this very fundamental level. But, more than that, the actual inspection process is a major help in ensuring that the farm is also fit for the purposes of cross compliance and will help to widen the farm’s market place.

“Issues picked up at an FQAS inspection can be remedied over a period of subsequent weeks, which then takes the surprise element out of a cross compliance inspection, should one arise.”

Crosby runs a flock of 800 breeding ewes, on the outskirts of Saintfield. The bulk of the flock is made up of pure bred Lleyn bloodlines. Up to this year these have been crossed with Highlander and Belclare rams to produce high quality commercial ewe replacements.

For 2017, Aberfield is being used to help add more up to date genetics to the maternal flock with more lambs and a higher daily live weight gain (DLWG). The main maternal sires used are the New Zealand Suffolk and the Primera, both for their high DLWG genetics.

Crosby is also participating in the current AgriSearch sheep trial, which is co-ordinated by research staff at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). He is also involved in the current Grass Check project, again in association with AFBI, which has been developed specifically for sheep producers.

Daryl McLaughlin, from the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), was a recent visitor to the Cleland farm. He, too, highlighted the benefits of FQAS certification for sheep producers.

“Farmers can be certified for beef, for sheep or both beef and sheep within the NIBL FQAS. Dual FQAS certification for beef and sheep that are maintained on the same farm is easily attainable,” he said.

“The same inspection visit covers both species. I know there are times when beef producers may not have sheep on the farm. However, sheep certification is still attainable for an additional 18 months, provided bespoke handling facilities have been maintained on the farm.

“There is also a requirement to have the flock register and previously used sheep medicines’ book available for inspection. By taking this approach, farmers are giving themselves the optimal level of flexibility, from an FQAS certification perspective.

“The same principle holds in reverse, when cattle may not be part of the farming enterprise for a certain period of time.”

Daryl agrees with the view that the FQAS certification process can be used to make the challenge of cross compliance significantly more manageable.

“This principle holds if both small snags and major problems are identified, courtesy of the FQAS inspection.

“No one likes nasty surprises, when it comes to a cross compliance inspection!”

For further information contact LMC on (o28) 9263 3000.