By Farmers Weekly staff

ATTEMPTS to establish around 20 livestock marketing groups in Wales have been branded as ludicrous.

Melfyn Ellis, co-director of Cwmni Cig Arfon, the Caernarfon-based meat company, told this weeks Welsh Sheep Strategy conference at Aberystwyth that low returns were encouraging calls for the formation of marketing groups.

While his company welcomes the chance to do business with co-operating producers who were committed to supplying specific numbers of high-quality stock, a large number of ill-disciplined competing groups would be less than worthless.

As a member of the Welsh Food Strategy red meat working committee he backs efforts to form a single large livestock co-operative that could work in partnership with the abattoir sector.

Farmers and abattoirs are the weakest links in the food chain. Mr Ellis urged producers to focus more on carcass specifications, uniformity and continuity of supply to retain and increase lambs share of the meat market.

“Consumers and the retailers who supply them expect abattoirs to provide the lean tender lamb they want,” said Mr Ellis.

“But in Wales only 31% of lambs slaughtered match MLCs target specification. In the early part of this season we have seen too many over-fat lambs, and some that were too plain because they were marketed 2 to 3 weeks too soon.”

Lambs must be selected when they reached the right weight and level of finish for the breed or cross concerned.

Mr Ellis suggested that uniformity would be improved if far fewer breeds were used. One published list covered 87 and there was an infinite number of crosses.

“Why do we need so many breeds, and why do we have to chop and change as much as we do? We need to think about the type of sheep the market wants and aim for more uniformity and consistency.”