30 October 1998

Small is beautiful, says producer

SELLING through a small lamb producer group has advantages of cheaper marketing, flexibility and reduced administration.

The Norfolk Lamb Group achieves these benefits with a small membership and no formal ties, says group member David Ring, of Park Farm Partners, Holkham Estate, Wells. He has 850 March lambing Mule ewes put to Suffolk rams. Last season he sold 200 lambs through the group, averaging 18-19kg weight and carcass classification R3L.

A small group means less administration but connections with a major buyer of lambs, says Mr Ring. "Its a new group finding its feet, but it works because of the small numbers involved and good communication between members.

"I expect well sell more through the group next year, but I will still sell some lambs through other outlets to check prices. I recently compared prices of the group with a marketing company. The same draft of lambs made £3/lamb more through the group because of better selection and cheaper marketing costs.

"We dont have to sell through the group, so our lamb buyer is kept on his toes as he knows we can sell to other outlets," he says.

With all ten group members living in close proximity, Mr Ring can take small numbers of lambs to another member when they are fit for slaughter. "This stops us getting penalties by holding some lambs back for another week which are then too heavy when they are sold," he says.

Another group member, Nick Emmett, of Whitehouse Farm, Oxburgh, used to sell lambs in the live market.

He has 550 March lambing Mule and Mule x Charollais ewes put to Charollais and Suffolk rams. Some of the lambs are finished off grass in summer, the rest off beet tops and stubble turnips, averaging 19kg and carcass grade R3L.

"I was happy with the lambs I sold through the group last year and I like the feedback. Before I sold liveweight so I appreciate seeing how Ive been paid and how lambs have classified."