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Forget sheep be park-keepers, says MAFF man

24 March 1999
Forget sheep — be park-keepers, says MAFF man

A LEADING government advisor has said that hill-farmers should cut down on sheep production and take up park-keeping instead because “hill flocks are causing problems with meat quality” …more…


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Forget sheep be park-keepers, says MAFF man

24 March 1999
Forget sheep — be park-keepers, says MAFF man

By James Garner in Scarborough

A LEADING government advisor has said that hill-farmers should cut down on sheep production and take up park-keeping instead because “hill flocks are causing problems with meat quality.”

Mike Roper, a meat trade advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture, said that hill farmers should become environmental managers rather than integral parts of the sheep breeding industry.

Mr Roper told delegates at the British Society of Animal Science conference at Scarborough that “genes from hill flocks were causing problems with meat quality.

“It may be that the most appropriate production for hill sheep would be managing the environment,” he said.

“A partial de-stratification would see hill lambs as a by-product of hill environment management, and not part of efficient lamb production.”

Mr Roper stopped short of saying that MAFF would let hill farmers become non-breeding custodians of moorlands.

But he did say that producers could no longer expect to be subsidised to produce copious amounts of lamb.

Policy ewe-turn

Taxpayers have “some say in this area as hill sheep production is heavily subsidised,” said Mr Roper.

Declining subsidies and requirements to provide taxpayers with greater value for money would see a reduction in hill sheep stocking rates, he added.

“From hill-sheep production, only 20-40% of lambs achieve market spec, with Swaledales struggling to achieve 20%,” he said.

The outlook for the whole sheep industry has never been so challenging, said Mr Roper.

But there is still scope for more efficient lamb production in upland and lowland areas, by producing more quality lamb from fewer ewes.

That would mean reduced stocking rates and less environmental pollution from methane gas.

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