ANALYSIS - A new vision for British lamb production with greater efficiencies along the supply chain has been proposed by the three major sheep meat market promotion bodies in the UK.
Launched at the Sheep Event 2014 in Malvern by the National Sheep Association, National Farmers’ Union and the English Beef and Lamb Executive. The Vision for British Lamb Production calls for a greater uptake of tools throughout the supply chain to measure efficiency and identify areas that require focus.
The sector organisations said that the tools to make the efficiencies already exist but there needs to be greater partnership within the sector to make better use of these tools.
By working in partnership the organisations said the sector could make better use of the latest science and research in feeding, breeding and management and help farmers to collaborate to reduce costs.
The partnership can also help the farmers produce products to meet market requirements and it called for a uniform specification for dressing and weighing carcases in processing plants.
The groups said there should also be more transparency in weighing of liveweight lambs, giving a fairer comparison on a nationwide basis.
They called for a standard method to give a fair price across the industry.
The new vision programme also calls for a better understanding and dissemination of the markets and different specifications to help improve on-farm selection and better carcase grading in the abattoirs.
“Producers need to understand that very plain, over-finished and over-weight lambs all contribute to reducing farm gate prices,” the document states.
“More could also be done to ensure lambs sent to auction markets are directed to the appropriate ring to be sold as stores or finished, as store lambs sold through the finished ring reduce the SQQ.”
The new vision also calls for more feedback from the abattoirs and an improved price reporting mechanism.
The Vision document looks forward to a sector with great prospects driven by global demand for a high value and high quality free range product.
Charles Sercombe, the NFU Livestock Board chairman said: “We need to make the industry competitive in the world field.
“Prospects are driven by growing global demand for meat, but we have to produce more from less.”
He added that sheep have a role to play because they are a means of producing meat from places where other products cannot be produced.
He said that farmers have to add value to their businesses by looking at areas such as better grass and better genetics.
However, he added that when the farmer managed to make better margins through better management, they will not want to see those improved margins passed up the supply chain.
NSA CEO Phil Stocker said that the sector had to attempt to halt the fall in consumption that had seen consumption reduce from 7.5kg per person per year to just 1.9kg.
Across the EU consumption has fallen over the last 20 year, Mr Stocker said.
However in the UK the industry is a large employer with 33,000 directly employed in the sheep sector and another 111,000 in connected industries.
He said it is worth $466 million to the UK economy and the UK is the 4th largest producer in the word.
This heritage, Mr Stocker said, needs action to preserve it and to make it grow.