Carcass contest in doubt
By Rebecca Austin
THE FUTURE of the Royal Shows national lamb carcass competition is in the balance.
Only four exhibitors entered the contest this year. As a result the Meat and Livestock Commission, National Sheep Association and the RASE will rethink how the competition should be run. With the MLC reconsidering its input into the event, there is concern it will be dropped from the schedule.
The championship was taken by R R & M Lawrence, Upper Farm, Nuneaton, Warwicks. Their eight March-born Texel x Texel cross lambs averaged 20kg dw. Half classified E3L and the rest U2. They sold for 208p/kg to 213p/kg dw. Runner up was F T Bedell & Son, Bishops Castle, Salop, with Texel x Rouge/Welsh halfbreds.
The competition demanded eight uniform carcasses accompanied by authenticated variable production costs for the 1993/94 sheep year. Variable costs for the champions were recorded at 46p/kg carcass.
"The carcass competition is a superb vehicle for demonstrating the message we want to put forward and this years carcasses are superb," said MLC beef strategy manager David Croston. "There is no doubt a competition of this sort has a place at the Royal Show and that it needs to focus on market needs, which are classification and costs of production. But it is obvious by the lack of entries the competition is not attractive to commercial sheep producers, so we need to rethink its format."
NSA chief executive John Thorley said carcass competitions were important because they showed what the industry was about.
"If support for the competition has reduced to a point where people arent prepared to enter, I suggest it has more to do with the design of the competition," he said. "It is time to go back to the drawing board to look at how to generate interest."
RASE sheep unit head Dick Jones had a starker message for producers. "I am disappointed commercial producers dont support us more – they are missing an opportunity. Texel breeders are taking part but other so-called popular terminal sire breeds dont seem to want to support a commercial competition."
Flockmasters at the show had their own reasons for not supporting the event.
Lionel Organ, who runs 800 ewes, including 250 Charollais, near Cheltenham, Glos, said he didnt want to turn the Charollais breed into a brown Texel, which in his view was more suited to the demands of carcass competitions. "The industry wants long sheep with fast weight gain. There is no price premium for well conformed lambs, so no incentive to aim for that," he said.
Other producers agreed with Mrs Helyer from Salisbury, Wilts, who pointed out that it required at least 100 lambs to pick out eight uniform ones. Still more said they were ineligible for the competition because they did not have ADAS or MLC costings.
A number of producers also felt they lived too far from Stoneleigh, so lambs would not travel well and weights could be distorted. *
Winners of the national lamb carcass competition, Richard and Margaret Lawrence, of Upper farm Nuneaton, Warwicks.Their Texel x Texel cross lambs averaged 20kg dw. The low number of entrants for this years competition prompted concern for its future but NSA chief executive, John Thorley said carcass competitions were important because they showed what the industry was about.