Farmer Focus : Alan Montgomery 10/12/04

AS A BUSY farm with several different enterprises, I have to be selective when choosing which meetings I attend to ensure a life outside of farming. Recently two subjects featured in the must attend category.

Implementation information on the single farm payment is ongoing. Just as when IACS was introduced, we have a new set of criteria to come to grips with. Once a broad overview had been established, one to one sessions proved extremely helpful. Gillian Cheatly from Farmers Union HQ shed details on issues such as set aside, but other matters still have to be resolved.

Will Brussels remove our extensification entitlement resulting from TB restrictions? Should we stack our rented land entitlement on our own land? At least I don’t have to make a decision just yet.

A supply chain awareness programme provided by DARD was probably the most interesting and rewarding off farm event attended in recent times. It comes in three parts, a morning in a slaughter house followed by an afternoon visit to a retail outlet. Two half day sessions follow, the first focusing on supermarket trends and the second covering our product.

This study just happened to coincide with a batch of our lambs slaughtered at Foyle Meats that morning. I was impressed when the owner escorted us straight to the three 4L lambs hanging in a chill.

Later he emphasised in the boning hall how excess cover is the single greatest problem when cutting up lambs. At present more than 90% of factory’s output is sold in retail packs, hence he requires lambs of specific weight and conformation.

Tesco’s store manager appeared a little nervous, but he need not have worried. He was, however, a little embarrassed when listening to Tesco Northern Ireland pledge to stock only NI fresh meat. We discovered several packs in the chill room with a Scottish logo.