AS A RESULT of single farm payment, sheepmeat production should become more evenly spread throughout the year with the potential for greater profitability because of reduced surpluses.

There will be challenges ahead, but National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley was in an upbeat mood about the future for sheep production, when he addressed the annual Trident-sponsored Sheep Fair, at Skipton mart.

He admitted changes brought about by SFP could put more pressure on hill and upland farm incomes. “But many would discover a financial advantage in reducing stocking density. Lower gross incomes and even lower gross expenditure could bring the possibility of a more profitable business.

“The readjustment of roles between hills, uplands and lowlands might produce a slight increase in overall sheepmeat production. But it could be spread more evenly throughout the year. That would reduce the potential for surpluses – which have an adverse effect on supply and, therefore, price,” he said.

Cheap imports would continue to pose a threat, unless the UK industry could find new ways of dealing with competition from New Zealand, he warned. “It is totally illogical that fellow producers in New Zealand should provide constant pressure to pull prices down, when there is a requirement for their price and ours to meet all the costs and leave a profit.

“We must start to recognise that as well as cost of production, New Zealand sheepmeat also involves transport costs and environmental damage.”

Feeding to make a profit

Breeding sheep for high feed conversion rates and early lambing will become more important under the new SFP regime. Dugdales” Bryn Davies explained that feed conversion ratio is where profits are gained or lost. “The target should be to achieve a 4-5kg a week weight gain, finishing lambs at 42-44kg indoors over a 4-5 week period.”

He also believed that early lambing flocks would come back into fashion. “Early lambing can be profitable. A Continental cross lamb born in January and sold lean at 12-14 weeks old weighing 44kg can give a good margin.”

Economical Incinerators

ON-FARM INCINERATORS can be economical, as well as improving biosecurity on farms, according to one incinerator manufacturer. Haley Shurmer of Worcester-based Waste Spectrum Environmental said machines to deal with fallen sheep, pigs and poultry cost between 5500 and 8500. “A farm with more than 600 ewes could find buying its own incinerator more cost effective than subscribing to the National Fallen Stock Scheme collection service,” said Miss Shurmer.

Some of the company”s customers have also clubbed together with their neighbours to buy a machine they can share. The incinerators, which can be fuelled by red diesel or gas, cost about 1.60/hour to run, she explained. They take an average 90 minutes to dispose of one ewe.