24 May 2002

Room for some optimism

PRICES for new season lamb, although far from exciting, are looking healthier than a year ago. And with traditional sheep sales set to make a comeback this summer, breeders also have room to be optimistic.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that stock sales through traditional outlets account for a declining proportion of farm income. Increasing numbers of producers are seeking alternative sources and we feature two in this Update.

Farmers markets are seen as the way forward by one of these farms. Although such a venture requires much time and energy, this is being rewarded by mark-ups of 100%, compared with selling lambs at auction or deadweight.

Capitalising on environmental payments is the objective of the second farm. The flockmaster admits he would find it difficult to survive without them. An expert interviewed in this Update believes its worth doing sums to see whether such an option could benefit your unit.

One event which could help with planning the future strategy of your sheep business is Sheep 2002 on Jul 31. After last year, its great to see shows and events return.

Less positive is news that France is threatening to implement legislation contradicting EU rules which requires spinal cords to be removed from lambs over six months old. Industry leaders are concerned about the implications of such a measure for British lamb production and are urging producers to lobby their MEPs.

Market round-up 3

French spinal cord ban 4

Wool marketing 6

Are Cheviots the answer? 8

MLC Flockplan results 10

Lambing later 12

Farmers markets success 14

Focus on ESA schemes 16

Drenching gun know-how 18

Edited by Marianne Curtis