Lamb price eye-opener for Bill Davey: June column

Bill Davey – a former Lincolnshire farmer – emigrated to New Zealand six years ago. He grows a range of crops including wheat, barley and vining peas and fattens store lambs on 487ha (1200 acres) of the Canterbury Plains on South Island.

A big thank you to all who made us so welcome when Lynda and I returned to the UK last month.

It was great to catch up with old friends and see England at such a beautiful time of year. Unfortunately commitments back here meant our trip was brief but most enjoyable.

Dragged kicking and screaming into M&S for a little retail therapy I eventually managed to escape, taking refuge in the food hall where French-trimmed rack of New Zealand lamb was £28/kg.

A complete 20kg carcass of our own lamb sold to a meat company here this week made £32. If only we could put lambs into a silo and store them.

It’s no secret that meat companies take full advantage of the fact that when stock reach their prime they have to go, forcing farmers to become price takers, not price makers.

As for the supermarkets – don’t get me started.

At long last we have managed to acquire a water right to irrigate our 520-acre, currently dry, land block, and a green light has been given to a scheme which has been gathering dust on my desk for four years.

I am assured that the two new Valley Lateral irrigators, each 580m long, will be up and running by mid October, critical given the likely incidence of high transpiration.

Old fences must be removed and existing stock water races diverted to accommodate the new irrigators. But finding a fencing contractor is almost impossible at the moment due to the sheer number of dairy conversions taking place, and September is the earliest we might see one.

Electricity supply, road crossings for mainline pipe installation, GPS surveying and deliveries also all take time to arrange, so I know I shall have to keep the pressure on to meet the deadline.

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